Q1. How much time do I need to volunteer?
This is completely 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.
Volunteer Scotland’s opportunity search will help narrow down the opportunities that suit your life.
Q2. Can I leave if I don't like it?
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.
Q3. Do I get my expenses paid?
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);
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.
Q4. Can I claim benefits whilst volunteering?
Yes. Claimants of welfare benefits such as Universal Credit, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, and Personal Independence Payment 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. You must declare any change in your circumstance to the Department of Work and Pensions as part of your claimant commitment.
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.
Q5. Do I need qualifications?
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.
Q6. Can I get a qualification or award?
Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications but it’s unusual. You can ask the organisation if they offer qualifications or contact our office and we may be able to help find local organisations that may offer this.
However, by volunteering you will gain valuable experience, develop your skills and be able to ask the organisation for a reference.
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 by viewing our Awards page.
Q7. 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 while others require quite a bit, such as volunteering for Children’s Panels or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Other role’s such as conservation volunteering, may provide you with training in handling specific tools and health and safety.
Q9. Can I volunteer from home?
Yes. It’s an increasingly popular way of volunteering and you can search for home based opportunities via Volunteer Scotland’s 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.
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.
Q10. How old do I have to be to volunteer?
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.
You can filter your search on the Volunteer Scotland website to return volunteer opportunities for a specific age range. Once you have returned your first search, look down the left hand side and click the age range you are under ‘Age Group’.
Sometimes organisations do not provide this information so it’s worth contacting them directly if you are unsure. You could also contact our office for details on organisations which accept younger volunteers.
Q11. Can I volunteer together with family and friends?
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.
Q12. I have a criminal record - can I still volunteer?
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 with a member of our team first and they will be able to advise you about volunteering with a criminal record.
Q13. I feel I need extra support to volunteer - is that possible?
We have a specific member of staff who provides extra support to Volunteers – Please see our Supported Volunteering page for more information.
Q14. Can I volunteer full time and get living expenses?
You can, but only under certain circumstances.
Most residential voluntary work offers board, lodging and some form of pocket money. It can be for a week or two or a whole year.
Other organisations take on ‘paid volunteers’, giving them regular living allowances over and above their out of pocket expenses.