How to: Find volunteer work

Enjoy helping others, and looking to improve your skills? You should try volunteering…

Volunteering is a broad field, with a range of opportunities to suit all skill-sets, schedules, and situations. So whether you’re looking to add value to your CV, you’re interested in working abroad, or you just want to give back to your community, there’s a voluntary programme out there for you.

To make sure your help is headed in the right direction, here are our top tips on how to find volunteer work:


Choose a cause you’re passionate about

First things first: you need to pick the type of organisation you want to work for.

You could help protect the environment, work with animals, or support disadvantaged groups of people like the homeless, disabled, elderly, or children in need, for example.

Alternatively, you could get involved with your community, and assist with local initiatives and cultural events, such as arts, music, or sports.

There might even be a range of causes that you didn’t know existed, so always do your research and see what’s out there before you settle on one idea. But choosing a cause you care about will go a long way in making your voluntary position a success.


Recognise your skills

Making a list of your skills is a great way to decide what volunteering route you should take. Not only will it help you figure out what you’d be good at, it’ll also give you a comprehensive list of your key strengths to reference in an application.

For example, if you’re great at working with people, consider a mentoring or companionship role, and if you’re an excellent organiser, think about a position in charity fundraising and events.

Whatever it is you excel in, it’s vital to pick an opportunity that allows you to help in a way that suits your own individual assets and attributes.

But remember: no matter what you specialise in, all voluntary roles will require commitment, determination, and hard work – so make sure these skills are also foregrounded in any application you make.


Work around your availability

The type of volunteering you’ll be able to do will be based on the amount of time you’ve got to spare.

For example, if you’re only free for a few weeks, you might be better off pursuing a short-term local opportunity. But, if you’re looking to work throughout an entire summer, you could organise longer (or multiple) volunteering placements – which may also include volunteering abroad.

And even if your time is limited, it doesn’t mean you can’t get involved.

Most local organisations will offer flexible volunteer work, and will allow you to take on part-time, evening, and night volunteering opportunities. It all comes down to tailoring your search to your individual schedule, and looking for the projects that fit in with your schedule.


Get in touch

Some organisations might not advertise voluntary programmes, but this doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. Proactive tactics (like getting in touch with an employer directly) could actually persuade an organisation to give you a chance to volunteer – even if they aren’t offering a formal position.

If the positions you’re interested in are being advertised, you should still get in touch to find out more. That way, you’ll know exactly what the role entails, and there should be no surprises if your application is eventually successful.

Good questions to find out more about voluntary roles include:

  • How long does your programme last?
  • What will my working hours be?
  • Will my expenses be paid?
  • What support and training will be provided?

Bottom line: if you have any doubts, always ask.


Upload your CV

Uploading your CV to a job board that offers voluntary programmes could actually help you widen your search.

Although you should combine this method with active job hunting techniques, making yourself openly available to employers could mean you’re pursued for roles that aren’t formally advertised.

Providing you make what you’re looking for clear in your CV, select the right sector, and make your CV visible to recruiters, you could be offered your perfect voluntary programme without even applying for it.


Treat it like a job search

Although volunteering is slightly different to a paid position, it’s still a highly competitive field, so it’s important to put an equal amount of effort in when searching and applying for roles.

To ensure you’re getting the most suited results, make use of the filters, use the right keywords, and be sector specific. Additionally, there’ll usually be an option to narrow your results within the charity sector (e.g. choose to find jobs in events, fundraising etc.), which will allow you to tailor your search.

And when applying for voluntary work, always make an effort to quantify your relevant skills and experience – and most importantly, emphasise your eagerness to help your chosen cause and ultimately make a positive difference.

Remember: suitability is key, but it won’t be an automatic yes. If you put the right amount of effort in, you’ll find a voluntary position that suits all parties.


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