It’s often said that if you want to work for a not-for-profit organisation, you have to ‘do your time’ with volunteer work. This isn’t necessarily true – there are plenty of routes to the NFP job of your dreams and not all of them involve doing volunteer work. However, there are also a lot of excellent reasons to pursue volunteer work, whether you have a yen for the more professional side of the sector. There are many people who would like to get a volunteer charity position but refrain because they believe they lack the time, resource or skills to be of use. This is simply not true – everyone has something to offer the voluntary sector, no matter what their circumstances, all you have to do is find your niche. Here are four possible avenues of engagement:
- Baby, you can drive my car: Transportation
Not for profit organisations differ enormously in their needs, work and approaches but one resource that is always welcome is a handy set of wheels. Whether it’s providing the wherewithal for Meals On Wheels, manning a transportation van of donations or simply providing other transport-free volunteers to where you’re all needed, the ability to drive is always welcomed in the volunteer sector. Some organisations will even reimburse you for your travel expenses, so you don’t even have to worry about your travel costs.
- Wielding a ladle and a baking tin: Catering
I don’t care who you are – everyone’s got to eat. Catering is something that anyone can engage with, and on almost every level. Of course when you consider the question of catering and the voluntary sector, the first thought in a lot of people’s mind is soup kitchen. Certainly if you’re the kind of person who has mealtimes free and is handy with a can opener, a not-for-profit kitchen can be a good place to start. Certainly this sort of enterprise is oversubscribed at Christmas time when those who are alone during the festive period but volunteers are required all year round. If you’re less able to make a commitment then there are other ways to help out. For instance if you have a young family, baking is a really easy entry-level way into volunteer work. This is where fairy cakes come into their own: small, delicious, a single batch makes many saleable portions and their batter recipe is as simple as can be: flour, eggs, sugar and butter., maybe a dash of vanilla extract if you’re feeling fancy and then sprinkles and icing sugar to taste. Philanthropy never tasted so good.
- Chip & Pin Paradise: Retail
Working in a charity shop can be really rewarding and is ideal for people who have a set but limited amount of time to donate and a love of the social and convivial environment of a thrift store. This role involves a lot of interaction with the public so the more outgoing of volunteers will have a ball. Equally, there is a demand for volunteers who have specialist interests, particularly when it comes to the market value of stock. So if you’re a fashion fetishists who would recognise and know how to proceed if they came across a vintage Ossie Clarke, or a book specialist who can clock an important first edition at ten paces, then your skills would be especially valuable to a charity shop.
- A Poet With A Spreadsheet: Admin
Administrative duties are the great secret requirement of a lot of not-for-profit organisations. A lot of charities will employ people to take care of the bulk of their administrative load, but it is usually the case that they cannot afford to pay enough people to comfortably deal with the workload that a charitable organisation usually produces. If you have the time and inclination, spending a few hours doing anything from drafting letters to licking envelopes will usually be heartily appreciated. Equally, if you have tech, coding or social media skills, these are often deeply appreciated by organisations stretched too thinly to properly engage and market themselves to an online audience. Again, sharing your digital skill set is an idea way to engage with the voluntary sector in a meaningful, useful fashion without giving up an excessive amount of free time.
So there you have it – four easy ways to get involved with the charity of your choice. Remember, everybody’s got something to offer and you’ll find it one of the most worthwhile ways to spend your time. Good luck!
Nerissa Troper writes about voluntary recruitment and how to make a difference.