Volunteering frequently asked questions

What will I get out of volunteering?

Hopefully you will get out of volunteering what you hope to get out of it – the staff member who deals with you will ask you why you want to volunteer and what you hope to get out of it – this is so that we can meet your needs as far as possible.
Volunteers often gain skills, knowledge, experience, as well as self confidence, increased motivation and personal satisfaction. Sometimes volunteers make new friends and generally feel they have more social contacts. Often volunteers have fun and almost always find their volunteering rewarding!

How do I apply to volunteer?

The application process will vary according to the type of volunteering you want to do, who it is with and how long term it will be. For example, if you are applying to volunteer with older people – visiting them in their own homes, the selection process will need to be very different than if you are applying to help for one day at a festival. Please see further information in how do I become a volunteer.

What sort of skills and experience do I need to have?

Some roles will require you to already have a certain amount of experience or certain skills. For example, for a specialist role like helping with archiving in the Industrial Museum, it will be important for you to have some knowledge of and skills in archiving.

More often however, we are looking for the right attitude, enthusiasm and personal qualities, for example:

  • Must be honest
  • Must be punctual
  • Must be smart
  • Must be reliable
  • Must be non judgemental
  • Must be able to respect service user’s confidentiality
  • Must be able to make a regular commitment

For other examples of qualities looked for in volunteers please see how do I become a volunteer.

What if I haven’t got the skills which they’re looking for?

If a project needs particular skills or experience or personal qualities which you haven’t got, you will be given feedback on what else you would need. We try to be helpful in giving the feedback – just because you’re not suitable for one project doesn’t mean you won’t be able to volunteer anywhere. We’ll also give you details of where else you might be able to volunteer.

How many hours do I have to do?

The number of hours which you need to do will depend on the project – some may ask you to do set hours as this is when a particular activity runs, for example a sports session from 6pm to 8pm on Monday evenings. In other projects there may be more flexibility about when you volunteer and for how long. The number of hours you do will be discussed with you by the staff member in charge – you will be encouraged to be realistic about the time which you can give and not to over-commit yourself, for example a couple of hours on a fortnightly basis may be fine. However all projects will expect you to be reliable and to turn up to do the hours that you have agreed to do. This applies even if it is a setting where you know that there will be other volunteers and staff. If you can’t make your agreed volunteering session, you need to let someone know.

Will I get paid?

No, you won’t get paid. Organisations are not allowed to ‘pay’ volunteers (even a small fixed rate amount) as this could be seen as a low wage and may cause difficulties if the volunteer is claiming benefits.

However you will be offered out-of-pocket expenses and should be told during your induction process, what expenses you may claim. All projects will reimburse travel expenses (either bus fares or mileage) – some may also pay for refreshments and carers expenses. The Council believes that volunteers should not be out-of-pocket as a result of their volunteering – however there may be limits set on how much you can claim eg for meals.

What happens if I don’t like the role I’ve been asked to do or can’t do it?

If you don’t like the role you have been given or feel that you are struggling with it, please speak with the staff member in charge of the volunteers as soon as possible. It may be that you can be given a different role which you would be more comfortable with or that certain tasks within the role could be removed. Please do ask the staff member about this – we try to be as flexible as possible to ensure that you are enjoying your volunteering and benefiting from it.

Occasionally if the staff member is unable to make changes to the role or offer you another role, you may be directed to another organisation (or another part of the Council).

What happens if my circumstances change and I can’t volunteer any more?

We understand that sometimes your circumstances will change and this will affect your availability - where possible we will try to offer an alternative role which you are able to do, for example if your hours of work change. It is very important that you let the staff member in charge know – please don’t just disappear. Some projects will ask you to complete an ‘End of Placement’ form so we can get feedback on your experience (which may help us improve placements for other volunteers).

Will I be trained?

You will be trained in whatever way is most suitable for your volunteering placement – this can range from brief verbal information at the start of your placement, to a more formal induction in which you are asked to read information and sign to confirm that you have read and understood it, or a group training course (up to 2 days). Once you are placed you may be offered further training which could help you in your role, for example if you are volunteering with older people you may be invited to attend a one-day ‘Working with people with Dementia’ training course.

What if I have an accident?

If you have an accident you must report it to the staff member in charge of volunteers (or the manager of the site where you are volunteering). Accident reporting procedures will be explained to you as part of your induction process. If you are injured (or if the person you are volunteering with is injured) you will be covered by the Council’s insurance policy.

How many weeks or months do I need to volunteer

This will vary according to the project – certain projects ask for a minimum commitment of 12 months (or at least 6 months) – others may not have a minimum requirement.