How to become a volunteer

Everything you need to know about volunteering

Melanie Wright – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Melanie Wright | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning freelance financial journalist

It’s official – helping others makes you happier, and it might even make you live longer too. A study from the University of Exeter found that volunteers have a 22% lower mortality rate than those who don’t volunteer, and they have higher self-esteem and happiness levels as well.

Now living longer and feeling good about yourself are two pretty good reasons to become a volunteer, but there are lots of other benefits too. Not only can you make a big difference to causes which need support, but you may also gain new skills or experience, as well as meeting people and making new friends. Here’s how to get involved.

Getting started

Many of us want to give something back to the world, whether that means helping out in our local community, working for a charity or fundraising for good causes.

But before you sign up as a volunteer there are several things you need to consider:

  • How much time can you afford to commit? Can you only spare an hour or two a week, or do you have a day or two available? Think about timings too – do you, for example, only have evenings free, or can you volunteer time at weekends or during weekdays?
  • What skills can you offer? Do you have any particular skills which might be useful? For example, do you have leadership experience, musical ability or IT skills?  
  • Will volunteering cost you anything? Think about whether their might be any costs involved as a volunteer. For example, will you have to pay any travel or parking expenses?

Make sure you’re clear on exactly what you can provide before you offer your services as a volunteer, so that everyone knows where they stand from the outset.

Where to volunteer

Volunteering can involve a huge range of activities. For example, charity shops are often looking for staff to man tills or sort donations, whilst charities which support older people regularly seek volunteers to visit people who might feel isolated or lonely.

If you know what you’d like to do, or which causes you’d like to support, you can contact charities directly to ask how you can help them. 

Alternatively, you can search for different volunteering opportunities at do-it. All you need to do is put in your postcode and it will come up with all the volunteering opportunities in your local area. Or you can do an advanced search and look for the organisation you’d like to volunteer for, or the sort of role you’d like to have. 

The site has around a million opportunities to choose from, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.

You can also search for volunteering opportunities at Volunteering England, Volunteer Scotland or Volunteering Wales.

Young volunteers

There’s generally no upper age limit it you want to become a volunteer, but if you’re aged under 16, you might not be able to help at some organisations because their insurance might not cover you unless you’re older.

However, if you’re aged 15 to 17, you can sign up for the National Citizen Service scheme, a government voluntary social development programme. The scheme involves teenagers doing a range of activities which help them develop confidence and then working in teams to deliver a community project of their choice.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.