Volunteering – striking at the heart of life’s key moments – harness it!

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

I love my job. Everyday I speak to new people and get an insight into the unique challenges or opportunities that they are facing. With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching at the beginning of June, I’ve been mulling over the role that volunteering plays for the individual in today’s society, and come to the decision that in these uncertain times it remains a constant force for the good when navigating life’s choppy waters.

Making the decision to volunteer might seem trivial to some – to others, it represents the first hurdle surmounted in choosing a new path in life, one which can signal fresh hope and the possibility of new beginnings. The other day I spoke to a mother whose daughter had had to leave college due to ill health, but was interested in volunteering with animals; following a 10 minute call, where I outlined some options, her relief was palpable. Then there are the calls from widowed pensioners who are interested in befriending opportunities, or the people who have been referred by job centres to gain experience for their CVs. On the flip side, I am frequently contacted by people who work full-time but are interested in fitting a Trusteeship or specialist skilled volunteering role into their busy schedules. All this shows that volunteering can play a key part in everyone’s lives – regardless of their age, life stage or financial situation. And if it goes right, can lead to benefits far beyond anything that money can buy.

I volunteered for several months when I was looking to move from the private to the not-for-profit sector – and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s a low risk strategy to try something new, and can pay dividends if everything falls into place.

Working for the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Centre, I also support charities and community groups that involve volunteers, so am able to see the volunteering experience from both sides. In the monthly advice surgeries and training courses that I run, I frequently hear from Volunteer Co-ordinators and Managers about their internal wranglings with the HR department or management team about how they involve volunteers, and how disruptive this can be to recruiting volunteers. With this in mind, the key message that I would like to impart to charities and community groups as we approach Volunteers’ Week is this: please ensure that you have a well thought out volunteer recruitment process in place with clearly designated responsibilities – don’t leave a potential volunteer hanging, and deal with all enquiries promptly and efficiently – you never know, you may have just stumbled across the one person who can really help to turn your organisation around.

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