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Volunteer Development Scotland Ltd. (also known as Volunteer Scotland).
Charity registered in Scotland SC013740 and a company limited by guarantee, registered in Scotland, No. SC106743. Our registered Office is Jubilee House, Forthside Way, Stirling. FK8 1QZ

Volunteering FAQs

Got a question about volunteering? We’ve answered some of the frequently asked questions from volunteers here:

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. You can volunteer at any time of the week, day or night. While much volunteering takes place in office hours, you can volunteer at evenings and weekends too, again depending on what you want to do. 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. Our opportunity search helps narrow down the opportunities that suit your life.

Yes, of course. You are under no obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if you don’t like it. But it is always worth talking to somebody before stopping. That 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 that 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. 

Yes, you can, but not all organisations will cover your expenses. 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

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

Yes. Claimants of welfare benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance are allowed to volunteer without losing their benefits. However, you must make sure that you are available to meet the conditions of receiving those benefits. We recommend that you tell your volunteer coordinator that you are claiming benefits, especially if there is a chance your situation could change at short notice, for example if you are seeking paid work.

Not usually, no. 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, the information should be available on the organisations' 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 - rather than academic qualifications.

Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications but it's unusual. However, by volunteering you will 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. Some organisations may provide certificates or local awards to recognise the contribution volunteers make. You can read more about this on our Awards and Qualification Section.

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 while others require quite a bit, such as volunteering for Children’s Panels or Citizens Advice Bureau. Other roles such as conservation volunteering, may provide you with training in handling specific tools and health and safety.

If you would like to give time but are unable to turn up in person or have little free time then online volunteering could be the answer. Giving time over the web is convenient and flexible and allows people to get involved who might otherwise be unable to. Online volunteering allows you to complete tasks from home, at work or anywhere! The tasks could be for organisations around the corner, overseas or they may exist only on the internet. The kinds of things you can do include:

  • helping with social media
  • researching on the web
  • tracking relevant legislation
  • giving specialist advice
  • creating databases
  • designing a website or newsletter
  • translating between different languages
  • providing telephone, email mentoring or helpline support
  • moderating a chat room, newsgroup or email discussion group.

You can specifically search for online volunteering opportunities on the website. See also Q9 – Can I volunteer from home?

Yes. It's an increasingly popular way of volunteering and you can search for home based opportunities on our website. 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. For specific information on online volunteering, see Q8 - What about online volunteering?

You can be any age to volunteer - but many opportunities do have age restrictions. That's typically because of the type of opportunity, or because the organisation only has insurance in place for those aged 18 or over. Sometimes organisations do not provide this information in their listing so it’s worth contacting them directly if you are unsure. You could also contact your local volunteer centre/tsi who may have local knowledge about organisations who accept younger volunteers. 

Yes, you can. There are less opportunities for group volunteering but some examples of where it can work is practical conservation, fundraising and events. You can ask organisations whether there are opportunities to volunteer together with family and friends. Find out more about Event Volunteering

Yes, you can, with some limitations. 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. Alternatively, local support organisations work specifically with ex-offenders and they will all be able to advise you about volunteering with a criminal record. Also, see our section on disclosures services for more information.

In some instances, yes. Many local organisations give help to people who need extra support with finding and attending a suitable volunteering opportunity. If you already receive support from an organisation for other aspects of your life, speak to your support worker about your desire to volunteer. Alternatively, your local volunteering support organisation might be able to help. 

You can, but only under certain circumstances. Most residential voluntary work offers a place to stay, meals and other living expenses. Some organisations offer full time non-residential volunteering opportunities that also offer living expenses. However, if an organsation offers any financial reward over and above living expenses, we would not see this as volunteering. There are important reasons for this distinction, including ensuring that people are not underpaid or exploited. More information on this can be found in the Volunteer Charter

If we haven’t covered your question there are a couple of things you can do to get help.