Many organisations would not be able to exist or go about their good work without the help of volunteers, so as a result there are thousands of volunteering opportunities available.
But where do you start if you’ve never volunteered before? Follow our top tips.
Get started as a volunteer
You may have more spare time now you’re retired, but before you commit to volunteering, think about what you want to do, and why you want to volunteer.
Have you skills you can share with others, or is this a chance to learn new ones?
Keeping the finances for a small charity
Would you like to make new friends and socialise with other volunteers with a similar interest?
Perhaps you want to give something back to your local community, or get involved in a worldwide project.
Is there a specific charity or cause close to your heart, or do you just want to help out anyone in any way you can?
And would you be able to commit regularly, say a few hours every week, or is it more likely to be on an ad hoc basis ?
Whatever works for you, there will be groups and organisations who will welcome you as a volunteer. So start now.
How to become a mentor
Look for volunteering opportunities locally
If you’re keen to volunteer locally, contact groups such as the Woman’s Institute or your parish church.
Perhaps there is a ‘be a friend’ initiative set up, where you can visit a neighbour who is housebound and simply enjoy a chat and a cup of tea.
Read your local paper too and look for upcoming events. Parks and gardens need bulb planters at certain times of the year. Councils often appeal for volunteers to help clean up local beaches or rivers.
Local charity shops are also a good starting point. You don’t need to serve customers; instead you could sort out and price stock, specialising in books, for example, or be a driver and collect items from nearby homes.
Visit do-it.org.uk, a website that makes volunteering easy. Pop in your postcode and a list of local opportunities appear. Theatre usher, decorator, mentor – take your pick.
How to volunteer with your dog
Speak to other volunteers
If you know other people who volunteer, ask them about their experiences. You may hear about challenges they face (it can be distressing watching others suffer), but one message rings loud and clear - it’s very rewarding.
For inspiration, read accounts from volunteers or watch a video online. Guide Dogs for the Blind, Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, among others, have ‘meet our volunteers’ sections on their websites.
Dilemma: My widowed friend wants to volunteer abroad
All charities and good causes know the importance of volunteering and many have dedicated pages on their website, explaining the opportunities available, as well as the support volunteers will receive.
It’s worth taking a look at volunteeringmatters.org.uk. Previously known as CSV (Community Service Volunteers), the UK’s volunteering and social action charity has a retired and senior volunteer programme (RSVP) for those aged 50 and above. Local groups drive people to hospital appointments, knit clothes and soft toys for needy children, and manage allotments.
Nine great ways to volunteer online
Give volunteering a try
Volunteering is a gift that only costs you time, but it makes such a difference to other people’s lives.
Not everyone can commit regularly, but even if you get involved once a year to hand out refreshments at a charity fun run, or you bake cakes at home to raise money for a world crisis, it all helps.
All you need to do is ask if you can volunteer. The answer is guaranteed to be yes!