Normally we say it’s a ‘win-win’ – but not when you’re talking about volunteering!
We spoke to Chris Bulmer, the Co-ordinator of the Volunteer Centre in Leeds, based at 2 Great George Street, to ask him why people volunteer, what sort of things people can do and what potential volunteers should think about.
Firstly I asked him what his role was at the Volunteer Centre and what service it offered:
“My role is the Volunteer Centre Co-ordinator, involved with the day to day running of the centre. It is an open drop in service for individuals to come in and register their interest in volunteering. We ask them to fill in a registration form expressing their interests, their availability, the reasons why they want to volunteer and our role is to match them up with volunteer vacancies and the organisations that are out the there wanting to recruit volunteers. We are part of Voluntary Action Leeds who supports other voluntary organisations in their running, governance, networking and volunteer recruitment.”
What is the voluntary sector like in Leeds?
“I would say the Leeds scene is much, much bigger than in other places. In my opinion it’s much more diverse in terms of the types of organisations and also the numbers of people coming forward who want to volunteer. There is a high demand on our service, and at any time we have around 500 volunteering opportunites listed.”
A diverse and large voluntary sector is our experience too, which is great for the city. Why do you find people volunteer?
“We find people’s motivations are very varied, and it ranges from people wanting to gain skills, experience or training that might be career or job related. It might be young people wanting to get skills to enter the first job. It might be somebody already in employment wanting to change focus and change career. It might be just purely free time that someone has available and they just what to do something useful. I think it’s really useful for a lot of people as a social thing to do in terms of getting them out and about. It’s been proven that it’s very beneficial, as it improves people physical and mental health. More recently, it has been recession related – people recently made unemployed are coming to us for help. It can sometimes be difficult to fill that gap of finding them something that they can only do for a short period of time while they’re job hunting.”
So what kind of things can people do?
“Probably the highest number of opportunities within the adult social care sector is working with older people. There are opportunities for befriending, on transport schemes, at lunch clubs, but there are also loads of opportunities at disability groups, particularly adults with learning and physical disabilities. There’s also various mental health befriending schemes. The charities we work with say that a lot of things just couldn’t happen without the use of volunteers.”
What do people need to think about, if they are considering volunteering?
“We see people at the stage when they’re first wanting to volunteer, so we tell them it’s about having some idea about what they want to do, and being realistic about what their time commitment is. They should think about what they will get from the role, because it’s a two-way thing – what can they offer the organisation and what the organisation can contribute towards them in terms of support or training. So I think the hardest thing can be sometimes finding the right thing for the right person!”
Which is why it’s great to have somewhere like the volunteer centre to find those opportunities.
“Yes, here we have all the vacancies right across Leeds in a database so when they come to us we’re able to do a search with them. We’d look at the database and use their information to find matches. If they want to do it online they can look at a national volunteer website http://www.do-it.org.uk which allows them to put in their postcode, their interests, and their availability and apply through that process. It’s always worth approaching an organisation directly and asking them too.
There’s lots of different options out there. People shouldn’t worry too much around formal skills or qualifications, if they are thinking of volunteering. A lot of the roles are just around someone’s desire to help a person or a cause. People skills and life experience are massive essentials to a lot of organisations – just someone being there.”
Thank you Chris, it’s good to know that volunteering helps everyone – the organisations, the people that charity helps, and the volunteers themselves. It’s a win-win-win! For more information, look at the Volunteer Centre’s website here, or the national volunteering website here.