How to find volunteering opportunities
Last updated 8th August 2022
6 min read
Volunteering is a great way to stay active and keep busy while giving back to your local community. Some of the common volunteering opportunities that people choose include helping out at a non-profit organisation, charity shop volunteering and providing support in education.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the benefits of volunteering, how to volunteer in your local community, and what to consider when deciding which volunteering opportunities are right for you.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is a type of unpaid activity where a person gives their time to help others. This often takes the form of serving the community, or working with a charity. Volunteering roles tend to involve:
- helping those in need
- fundraising for good causes
- improving the local environment
- providing opportunities for the underprivileged
Volunteers choose to give their time freely rather than being paid, as they would be in a regular job. And they do so without being legally required, as with court-mandated community service. The reasons why a person may choose to become a volunteer, and the types of organisations they wish to support, can often be very personal.
Why do people volunteer?
People volunteer for a variety of different reasons. From looking for something to occupy their time to wanting to support a cause that’s close to their heart, there are almost endless reasons to give back.
Many people choose to volunteer in their local community, to do some good in their own neighbourhood. But there are lots of opportunities to offer support further afield, including helping people in need in other countries. This type of volunteering isn’t right for everyone, but it’s well worth considering if you’re able to travel and looking to make a difference.
The benefits of volunteering
As well as being a great opportunity to help others, volunteering offers lots of mental and physical rewards to the volunteer.
Here are just a few of the ways that volunteering can help to improve your own life.
Meet new people
Many of us will experience loneliness in later life, which can make us feel isolated and unhappy. Volunteering can help you to meet people, make new friends and spend time in the company of others. Finding an activity that allows you to be around people is particularly beneficial if you live alone.
Learn new skills
Whether you’re stepping out of your comfort zone or returning to a familiar type of role, there’s always something to learn. Volunteering can help you to gain new skills and improve your communication with people in a variety of circumstances, as well as giving you the opportunity to teach and connect with others.
Broaden your horizons
Some people choose volunteering abroad as a way to help those who are less fortunate. As well as offering vital support in countries that lack ample resources to provide for those in need, volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to travel to new places and experience another culture.
Find a sense of purpose
Once you’ve retired it’s not uncommon to feel a bit directionless, as though there’s nothing left for you to do. Supporting people in need is a great way to add a renewed sense of purpose to your life, helping you to feel energised and boost your self confidence.
Improve your overall wellbeing
Studies have found that helping others helps us to feel good. Sometimes referred to as a ‘helper’s high’, this feeling of satisfaction can actually improve your mental and physical wellbeing, as well as reducing the risk of stress.
What to consider before volunteering
Before committing to a volunteer role, there are some considerations you need to bear in mind to make sure that volunteering is right for you, and to help you decide what sort of organisation you’d like to support. It’s important to ask yourself: Why do you want to be a volunteer?
Volunteering can be very rewarding if you’re giving back to a community you’re passionate about. For example, if you love animals, volunteering at a local animal shelter may be a good fit. If you love film, you could even volunteer at a community-run cinema or theatre.
If there’s a particular cause or charity that’s close to your heart, look for volunteering opportunities that can help you to support them.
Your experience and qualifications might make you particularly suitable for volunteer roles that require a specific skill set. Likewise, if there are any skills that you would like to develop, finding a role that allows you to do this will give you the opportunity to learn while you help others.
When you’re looking for something you’re passionate about, you’re not necessarily tied down to organisations close to home. However, do consider whether the time and costs associated with travelling to your chosen organisation will work for you. If you’re not able to travel far, it makes sense to choose volunteering opportunities in your local community rather than something further afield like volunteering abroad.
Can you only spare a couple of hours every week, or do you have more time on your hands that you’re willing to donate? Thinking about this will help to filter down the many volunteer options available when searching for opportunities. It’s also good to make sure any volunteer activities you undertake fit in with your schedule and won’t become a burden.
Helping others is great, but it’s important to put yourself first and make sure you’re physically and mentally capable of offering support to others. Find an activity that you’re able to handle and commit to without sacrificing your own wellbeing.
For example, someone who lost a loved one to cancer may feel passionate about raising money for a related charity. But it might be mentally difficult for them to be surrounded by reminders, or to support others through similar difficult times.
What volunteering opportunities are out there?
There are volunteering opportunities in pretty much every industry, so whatever you’re interested in, whatever your availability, and whatever skills you have, you’re sure to be able to find something that suits you.
Some of the most popular areas for volunteer work include:
- Mental health
- Animal welfare
- Children and young people
- Care work
- Global poverty
- Disaster relief
- Environmental causes
- Local community projects
How to find local volunteering opportunities
After considering your commitments and interests, it’s time to start looking for volunteering opportunities. People often choose local volunteering opportunities, as this allows them to provide support in their own communities. It also means that it’s much easier to get to and from the organisation you’re supporting.
There are always organisations looking for additional support, and with a little time and research, you’re sure to find something that fits what you’re looking for. We’ve put together some tips for finding volunteer opportunities both online and in person to help make your search easier.
Find volunteering opportunities online
There are so many organisations and volunteer initiatives looking for more people to help out, and a lot of these companies recruit online, making it easy to find something that’s right for you.
As well as paid roles, job boards such as Indeed and Totaljobs also advertise local volunteering opportunities. Simply type “volunteer” in the search bar, enter your postcode then hit the search button, and you’ll be shown lots of great positions that need to be filled. There are also volunteering-specific sites like Get Volunteering and Do IT where you can find and be matched with suitable roles based on your skills and areas of interest.
If there are any local businesses that you’re interested in, visit their website or social media profiles to see if they have any roles available. You can also try emailing the company to ask whether they have any upcoming volunteering opportunities that you might be interested in.
Find local volunteering opportunities in person
If you’re not particularly tech savvy, or if you’d prefer to make a personal connection, visiting or calling local organisations is also a great way to find current volunteer positions. Small businesses, charities and volunteer initiatives often don’t have the time or money to advertise online, so you might be able to find roles that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Here are some of the places you can look for local volunteering opportunities:
- Community centre bulletin board
- Charities and non-for-profit organisations
- Food banks and homeless shelters
- Places of worship
- Schools and nurseries
- Libraries and museums
- Sports clubs
You might also be interested in:
- Coping with loneliness in later life
- How to have a happy retirement
- Retirement hobbies for better mental health
- Looking after mental health: tips from Samaritans