1. Can you do something great?
How could you make a real difference in your community? What does your personality say about your potential to get involved? Are you naturally inclined to be a neighbourhood nice guy or a local loafer? Take our short test to find out.
We all have it in us to make a real impact. And we already are, more than two thirds of people volunteered in some form during the last year, according to the Cabinet Office Community Life Survey.
And it’s not just the people we help who have the potential to benefit. Volunteering is associated with increased life satisfaction, lower levels of depression and improved health. The NHS even recommends ‘giving to others’ as one of its ‘five steps to mental well-being’. The good news is that modern technology and the range of opportunities available mean it's becoming ever easier to get involved with something suiting your time and lifestyle.
2. Take the test
Do you have what it takes to make a difference in your community?
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3. Volunteer nation?
In the last year some 21.8 million people formally volunteered at least once through groups and organisations, according to estimates in the 2016 Civil Society Almanac. That’s over 40% of the UK population.
And that’s not counting informal volunteering, which is giving unpaid help to non-family members, like looking out for a vulnerable neighbour. All that helping out can have a big economic impact.
"Very few sectors add more value"
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that in 2012 frequent formal volunteering added about £24bn to the UK's economic output, which was equivalent to 1.5% of GDP.
This level of contribution "would make volunteering one of the most important industrial sectors in the UK", Bank of England chief economist, Andrew Haldane, said.
How do we compare to the rest of the world?
The United Kingdom is ranked 28th for volunteering time in the Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index. The top five countries are Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Liberia, New Zealand and Canada.
In European terms the UK comes above many countries including Germany, Italy and France. The UK also ranks highly for charitable giving, placed fourth worldwide for donating money.
Online there are lots of automated search engines to help you find opportunities. Volunteer Centres though are a great place to begin looking in person for ways to volunteer locally. Centres can provide advice on areas of interest and help match you with roles with charities and voluntary organisations.
4. Where are people volunteering and why?
What types of volunteering are we doing and in what numbers?
5. Who is volunteering?
Ninety percent of volunteer hours are provided by about a third (31%) of the population. The same group of people contribute 80% of charitable giving and account for 70% of the participation in civic associations e.g. school governors. But fewer than 10% of us join no associations, do not volunteer, and give nothing to charity.
And there’s a relatively new form of volunteering which has a track record in attracting groups that don’t traditionally volunteer regularly and volunteering first timers:- timebanking.
Timebanking - Swap your skills
Timebanking is a really easy way to use your skills to do something great in your local community without having to commit to a regular activity, and you can get something in return.
It works like a "modern day system of bartering" which can build community cohesion. Participants use their skills, like gardening or computer expertise to help people. In return they receive credits which can be used in future if they require help themselves.
To take part, you start by listing the skills and experience you can offer and also any help you may need. One hour of time contributed is equal to one time credit. You are encouraged to 'spend' your time credits to build up others’ participation and sense of inclusion.
6. Virtual volunteering
Now there’s really no excuse. Modern technology means it’s easier than ever to get involved without leaving the comfort of your sofa.
Many organisations offer opportunities to contribute small increments of time, often using the internet, smartphone apps or social media.
Sometimes referred to as micro-volunteering, activities range from counting birds in your garden to reporting graffiti or fundraising and campaigning that can be done online.
You can also volunteer your time in many other ways for one-off events. For example, baking a cake for sale at an event, packing charity kits, or cleaning a local park.