Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

Why Volunteer?

Everyone has different reasons to volunteer.  You might want to “give something back” or help a cause that is close to your heart.  You might want to meet new people and connect with others in your community.  You might want to gain new skills and experience, add interest to your CV and build a reference.   Whatever your reasons, volunteering requires some time commitment but it is a great way to meet new people, do something different and have fun!

Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions by people who are thinking about volunteering.

How much time will I have to give?

This is entirely up to you.  Volunteering can take anything from an hour a month to a few days a week or be a one-time commitment.   It is worth thinking about how much time and how frequently you’d like to volunteer before you start looking for a role.  Even if you work full time or you have a busy lifestyle, you could still find an opportunity that suits.

Will it cost me anything?

Volunteering should not cost you anything.  Most organisations will pay ‘out of pocket’ expenses including reasonable travel costs – you can check this before applying.

I’m interested in volunteering: what do I do from here?

You can browse volunteering opportunities on our website and express an interest immediately by registering online.  However, if you are not sure about the type of role you want to do, or you prefer not to do things online, then you are welcome to contact the VARB team for an informal chat.  Please get in touch on 01737 763156 or volunteer@varb.org.uk.

How long will it be before I can start volunteering?

This depends on the organisation and the role. Some organisations have a formal interview process, others may invite you for an informal chat or a ‘taster session’ to see whether volunteering is right for you.

Some roles have formal procedures to assess the suitability of a volunteer, for example if they are responsible for handling cash or working with vulnerable people. This might include Disclosure and Barring checks or providing references.

I’m interested but I don’t know what type of volunteering to do?

Why not browse our database, selecting from the list of activities and interests to help focus your thoughts.   If there is just too much choice, then please contact VARB by phone or email and we can help you identify roles that would be suitable for you.

If I volunteer will my benefits be affected?

If you volunteer and receive state benefits, in most cases your benefits will not be affected. The NCVO website gives comprehensive advice on what counts as volunteering and what the rules are if you receive benefits.

If you are receiving benefits, you should talk to Jobcentre Plus or your benefits agency before you start volunteering. You can volunteer as many hours as you like while you’re getting benefits as long as you keep to the rules for getting them.

Are there any age restrictions for volunteering?

For many of the volunteer roles we cover you would need to be at least 18 years of age.  However, there are a growing number of organisations that offer volunteering to people aged 16 and over and in some cases even younger.   There are upper age restrictions for a few volunteer roles -for example some driving roles can have an upper limit due to insurance – but there are still plenty of roles for the over 65s.  Many organisations value the skills and experience an older person can bring to the role.

I want to volunteer but have a health concern or disability

There are volunteer roles which offer flexibility if you need it.  This can include irregular or one-off volunteering opportunities, and some which allow you to volunteer from home. Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean you are committed to being available at a given time and place. We would be happy to talk to you about the different roles available and any additional support you may need.

I have a criminal record/police caution. Can I volunteer?

Yes there are roles suitable for ex-offenders but having a criminal record/police caution may limit the type of volunteering you do.  If asked, you will need to declare any unspent criminal convictions.  If the role involves young people or vulnerable adults, you will be asked to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check which will inform the organisation of your criminal record.  NACRO offers further guidance on disclosing your criminal record. Call 0300 123 1999 or email helpline@nacro.org.uk.

Will I be expected to provide references?

It is good practice for all voluntary organisations to request references from potential volunteers.  However, these do not need to be employment related.  They could be character references from your school, a club or someone outside your family who has known you for a few years.

I am not a British National. Can I volunteer in the UK?

There are no restrictions on volunteering for EEA and EU nationals.  Refugees and Asylum seekers are also permitted to volunteer.   The general rule is that non-EU/EEA nationals need a work permit to take up “employment paid or unpaid”, which includes volunteering but there are a range of exceptions to this.  If you have any queries contact the Volunteer Support Team: email: volunteer.support@foryoubyyou.org.uk or call 020 8240 2441/2403.

How can I use the volunteering leave offered by my employer?

Many companies now offer staff volunteering leave.  This can support staff development and build links with local communities.  There are plenty of one-off opportunities such as events and fundraising challenges or, if you have more time, trustee roles offer an opportunity to develop and use your professional skills in a new context.

If you wish to volunteer with your colleagues as a team then VARB can provide a list of one-off team challenges or search our online database selecting “employee volunteering” in the activities box.

Do you have any “one off” roles?

Yes! Voluntary organisations often look for ‘one off’ help especially for fund raising and sporting events.  Try searching our online database, selecting “one off activity/events” in the activities box.

What if I don’t like the role once I have started volunteering?

If you are not enjoying your volunteer role it is always best to talk to the organisation – most organisations do not want to lose volunteers and will try to resolve any issues.  If you prefer, you can talk to VARB and we can try to assist through mediation.  Some organisations ask for a minimum time commitment, mainly when they are investing up-front in significant training for volunteers.   Ultimately, as a volunteer you are always free to walk away from a voluntary role.