Thursday, 24 July 2008


How is volunteering perceived in the UK?

When volunteering is mentioned in the UK, the image that appears in most people's minds tends to look something a bit like this:

Either upper or middle class young people going to developing countries to help out with specific projects. It is true that this is one form of vounteering, and there is a whole industry based on setting up and running these projects for young people. However, this is only a small part of what volunteering is.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is working for free for anyone who is not a member of your friends or family. This includes both informal and formal volunteering. Formal vounteering tends to be with a specific charity, and can involve a form of code of conduct. Informal volunteering includes activities such as helping a neighbour with their computer or helping out at you local church.

What makes a good volunteer?
A good volunteer has the following qualities:
  • the ability to use their own initiative,
  • flexibility,
  • a willingless to help,
  • enthuiasm,
  • the ability to remain professional even when those around them seem to lack it.

What makes a good volunteer placement?
A good volunteer placement would, ideally, have the following:

  • A clear goal,
  • A reliable work supervisor,
  • Clear tasks, but with room for the volunteer to use their own initiative,
  • Having work to do,
  • Not having to chase up work supervisors every weekend,
  • Specific roles for the volunteers.

Who benefits from volunteering, and why?
There are many people who can benefit from volunteering. The organisations that are supported by volunteers are obviously financially supported as work is done by people who don't require financial reimbursement. Equally though, they benefit because they receive help from people who aren't influenced by money. This can be a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because volunteers aren't coming in just because they have to in order to get to paid. They are coming in because they want to. However, this is also a curse because the organisations has to find ways to keep the volunteers enthused in order to encourage them to stay.

Volunteers themselves benefit from volunteering. First and for most, they can game experience more easily than from a job (as getting a job so often depends on having prior experience already, whereas volunteering usually doesn't). A volunteer can also gain confidence and new skills through the work they do. They can also make new friends through volunteering.

Community in general benefits from volunteering because it increases the availability of services that volunteers support.

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