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Frequently Asked Question's About Volunteering
19 January 2017

Below are many FAQs which SLCVO get from people who are thinking about volunteering. Hopefully these will help you. If you have a question which is not below please contact SLCVO - 01478 612921 or volunteerofficer@slcvo.org.uk

Q1 How much time do I need to volunteer?

This is really up to you. You can find volunteering opportunities that only take one hour per month to five days a week or more.

Some roles are for one-off events, some are short term and others might need a six month commitment.

Some organisations ask for a particular commitment from their volunteers, while others are able to take a more flexible approach. Certain roles like befriending require building up trust with someone which is why a certain amount of commitment is required. Think carefully about the amount of commitment you are able to give before choosing your role.

Q2 Can I leave if I don't like it?

Yes, of course.

You are under no real obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if you don’t like it. However, it is always worth talking to somebody about this first. This could be your volunteer co-ordinator (if there is one), supervisor or someone in the organisation who is responsible for you. You can discuss with them why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve your time as a volunteer.

It is also something you may want to talk about with other volunteers in the organisation. You could either do this informally, or if your organisation has a regular meeting for volunteers, you could bring up any issues there. If you feel that something is seriously wrong or someone is treating you badly it is also worth checking whether your organisation has a complaints procedure. Some organisations have ‘volunteer agreements’ that explain expectations on both sides. 

Q3 Do I get my expenses paid?

Yes, you can. It's a good idea for organisations to cover your expenses that arise from volunteering. That might include:

  • Travel to and from your place of volunteering
  • Travel during your volunteering
  • Meals taken whilst volunteering
  • Phone Calls / postage
  • Clothing ( i.e. protective / uniforms)
  • Training

Unfortunately not all organisations do pay expenses. This could be because they don't have enough funds or they don't realise that volunteers should be paid expenses. Information given on the website often gives details about expenses but if it’s not there, ask your chosen organisation about this before you start volunteering. 

Q4 Do I need qualifications?

Usually you don't. Some volunteering opportunities require certain skills such as counselling which may require qualifications but organisations often provide training. If particular qualifications are needed in order to take up the volunteering role, this information should be available on the website.

Often organisations are looking for personal skills, such as being able to get on with a wide variety of people, being reliable and being enthusiastic about a particular interest or cause.

Q5 Can I get a qualification or an award?

Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications but this is unusual. However, you may gain valuable experience, develop your skills and be able to ask the organisation for a reference. You can ask organisations about qualifications or contact your local support organisation as they may know local organisations that offer qualifications. 

There are some awards for volunteering particularly young people, such as Saltire Awards. Some organisations may provide certificates or local awards to recognise the contribution volunteers make.

Q6 Will I get training?

This varies quite a bit depending on the organisation you are volunteering for and the type of role you have chosen. Some of this information will be available on the website of the organisation you are volunteering for but you should be able to get full details from the organisation.

Some volunteering roles require no training where as others require quite a bit such as volunteering for the Children’s Panels or Citizens Advice Bureau. Other roles such as conservation volunteering may provide you with training in handling tools and health and safety.

Q7 Can I volunteer from home?

Yes, there are other ways of joining in without leaving your home. It's an increasingly popular way of volunteering.

Example opportunities are telephone befriending or some people combine their hobby with volunteering such as knitters making blankets and baby clothes to be sold for charity. 

Q8 How old do I have to be to Volunteer?

You can be any age to volunteer but many of the opportunities on the website do have age restrictions. This is due to the type of opportunity, or because the organisation only has insurance in place for those aged 18 or over.

Q9 Can I volunteer with my family or friends?

Yes, you can. There are less opportunities for group volunteering but some examples of where this can work is practical conservation, fundraising and events. You can ask the organisation whether there are opportunities to volunteer with family and friends. To find out more about Event Volunteering look at our website.

Q10 I’ve got a criminal record – can I still volunteer?

Yes, you can. Depending on the nature of your criminal record, you may not be able to take up some volunteering roles but a variety of others would still be open to you. It’s best to discuss this with the organisation you wish to volunteer with.

Q11 I feel I need some extra support to volunteer – is this possible?

Yes. SLCVO can give help to people who need extra support finding a suitable volunteering opportunity.