Find out all about the great new skills and experience you can gain from volunteering and how to go about becoming a volunteer.

What Is Volunteering?


In general terms, volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause, without paying for their time and services.

Are There Any Benefits to Volunteering?

There are many benefits to volunteering, but here are some of the more popular benefits as cited by students:

  • To meet people and make new friends;
  • To improve your CV;
  • To gain new experiences or learn new job skills;
  • To do something enjoyable;
  • To make use of existing skills;
  • To build confidence and take on new responsibilities;
  • To be valued, appreciated and feel useful;
  • To gain a sense of achievement;
  • To put something back;
  • To do something of special or personal interest.

How Can Volunteering Help My Career?

A survey carried out by Timebank showed that among 200 of the UK’s leading businesses:

  • 73% of employers would employ a candidate with volunteering experience over one without;
  • 94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills;
  • 58% say that experience gained in volunteering can actually be more valuable than experience gained through paid employment.

Additionally, volunteering gives you the opportunity to test out new career paths and sectors. If you are already working, volunteering can help you to change your career direction.

How Do I Apply to Volunteer?

Most voluntary organisations have set guidelines about how they want prospective volunteers to apply to their scheme. Some organisations hold open days, where you are able to go along and meet staff and volunteers, but most organisations will expect you to attend a more structured interview and provide references. This information should be given with the advert details.

What if I Don't Like It?

That’s the great thing about volunteering. It provides an opportunity to experience a working environment or situation and if you don’t like it, or find it’s not for you, you can always leave, but remember, you must speak to the organisation that you are volunteering for. Do not just leave without talking to someone. If there is a problem, this could be resolved, but you must discuss this with your supervisor or manager of the scheme.

I Have a Disability, Can I Still Volunteer?

Yes. There are disabled volunteers who take part in numerous roles. If you are worried about volunteering, have specific concerns, or you are unable to find an opportunity, please do contact us.

Where Can I Go For More Information or Help?

For further information about what is involved in volunteering, you can speak to the Volunteer Coordinator here at the University.

If you want to find a volunteering opportunity for yourself check out the Opportunities page and related links there. This is regularly updated with new opportunities as well as fund-raising events or projects you might want to help with.

Applying for volunteering opportunities can be just like applying for a job, involving application forms, CVs and interviews. The Careers Service offers a comprehensive guide to all aspects of job-hunting both on-line and in person.  For further information see also:

  • Looking for work.
  • Career Planning.
  • Job Hunting.

What Do Volunteers Do?

Almost anything. The UoB-inVolved team will try to help you find something to suit your needs, however, very specific requests may take some time to arrange and may also require a commitment from you in terms of time or number of attendances.

To give you an idea, here are some of the volunteering activities that students have got involved in:

  • Supporting young people with disabilities;
  • Mentoring young people within a youth centre;
  • Administration and accounts at the Credit Union;
  • Supporting a fundraising event for a local charity;
  • Helping to build and develop conservation areas;
  • Listening and supporting the public through helplines for national charities such as NSPCC and the Samaritans.

What Skills Do I Need?

That depends on the opportunity you want to apply for. Some roles don’t require any particular skills, whilst for other organisations, it may be more important, for example, training in web design would be needed to help a charity build a new website. Every opportunity that we advertise provides you with the chance to use or develop a wide range of skills.

Will There Be Any Training Involved?

Most voluntary organisations offer their volunteers a training induction before you are able to commence the role. This usually provides information about the organisation and the work/customers that they deal with, as well as further information about the volunteer role. You should also receive information and advice about other issues such as health and safety, expenses and further training and development.

If you do not feel that you have been given adequate preparation for your volunteering role, you should refer this to the Volunteer Manager within the organisation. Some organisations provide their volunteers with lots of training opportunities, and often there is the chance to gain accreditation. Always ask at the interview stage, about the training provided.

How Much Time Do I Have to Give to Volunteering?

The beauty of volunteering is that you can give as much or as little time that you want. A few hours a week, a day, a week or maybe an evening. The fact is, volunteering can fit around your other commitments and responsibilities, whether that is studying, family commitments or both.

It is important to consider that some volunteering opportunities require a much longer-term commitment. You will need to give it some thought and think about how long you wish to be involved. The most important point to remember is that whatever time you give, you should always be reliable.

What If I Have a Criminal Record?

If you decide to undertake to volunteer with a vulnerable group such as children or the elderly, then you may be asked to fill in a criminal record form (often known as a DBS check). Your suitability for a particular volunteer role may need to be assessed, considering the nature of any previous offence and how long ago it was committed.

Can I Volunteer Overseas?

There are a number of issues to think about if you are considering volunteering overseas and a number of questions for YOU to ask before you commit to any particular project:

Project Background and Ethics

  • How was the project identified?  Was it from a local perspective e.g. through a local organisation or through consultation with the local community?
  • Is there a local partner organisation with responsibility for designing and managing the project?
  • Will the project be sustained after volunteers leave or has it been set up as a one-off opportunity that will only have short term benefits?
  • What is the organisation’s philosophy towards development?  Whilst many organisations have deep-rooted, sustainable links with communities and local people, others operate on a commercial basis.

Project Benefits

  • Who will benefit from the project?
  • Will anyone be adversely affected by the project?
  • How will the expectations of the local community be managed?
  • Is there a genuine need for volunteers or has the opportunity been artificially created as an adventure holiday?
  • How can I be sure that the opportunity is not taking away the chance of paid employment for a local person?

The Job

  • Has the volunteer role been clearly defined?
  • What skills are required?
  • Will volunteers be provided with adequate training?
  • Who will I be working with?  Will I be on my own, is there a group of volunteers or does the role involve working alongside local people?


  • Does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office approve of travel to this country?
  • Is the organisation linked to other reputable companies?
  • Does the organisation have reputable travel or government endorsements?
  • How and why was the organisation set up and what sort of organisation is it?  (e.g. Non-Government Organisation (NGO), charity or profit-making company)
  • How long has the organisation been running and how many people does it send overseas?
  • Can I speak with volunteers who have returned from the project to find out about their experiences?

Practical Arrangements

  • What am I getting for my money?
  • What proportion of the cost goes towards administration and marketing and what goes to the local project that is hosting me?
  • What support and training am I provided with, both before and after my period of volunteering?
  • What happens if something goes wrong? (e.g. if I am very ill or have to get home unexpectedly)  Is repatriation included?
  • Does the organisation have contingency plans for a crisis?  Is there an evacuation plan?
  • Will I need my own travel insurance and does the organisation’s insurance cover me for the kind of work that I will be doing?  (What about Health Insurance and cover for my belongings?
  • Is there in-country support for volunteers?  (What are the arrangements for accommodation, meals, local culture, customs and language, as well as support for the job?)



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Help Centre

We have the answers to your questions, find all the advice and support in one place.

Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
Alliance learning
Anderton centre2
QQA Scheme Participant