Volunteer Voices column: It will cost you time but it could be the most rewarding time ever

Volunteering can fit round the time you have available and is always time well spent.
Volunteering can fit round the time you have available and is always time well spent.
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In the last ‘Volunteer Voices’, I looked at the vital contribution volunteering makes in the Borders and I’m pleased to say we have had new enquires from people looking to find the right opportunity for them.

But Volunteer Centre Borders wants as many people as possible to volunteer – and understanding the motivations and reservations surrounding volunteering is a core part of attracting and retaining volunteers and contributes to building a volunteer-friendly culture which will benefit individuals, organisations, communities and society as a whole.

Whilst the vast amount of research-based reports into what can be complex psychological factors means it would daft to even try and address them all in a 500-word article, there are common themes and it is one of those I would like to address here – namely time commitment.

Many volunteer-involving organisations tell us one of the main barriers to people volunteering is their perceptions of how much time they will be expected to commit and often this relates to the time spent over and above volunteering at training courses.

I spoke to one potential volunteer recently who said he was happy to volunteer for two or three hours every week but ‘no way am I wasting time going on these training courses as well’.

There are three points to make in answer to this.

Firstly, the actual time spent ‘volunteering’ can often be as little or as much as you can spare.

There are certain roles which do require a specified time commitment – for example providing support or mentoring to vulnerable people or coaching a sports team but there are others which are entirely flexible.

The key point here is when considering volunteering, think about how much time you can offer – if you can spare an hour a week, then a role which is looking for three hours just simply won’t be suitable for you.

But there will be others which are and which will fit into your schedule.

Organisations which are good at involving volunteers know this and will be happy to find a solution which benefits all parties.

Secondly, there is no way of getting around some of the rules and regulations which are now in existence to support and safeguard some of the most vulnerable in society so when looking for volunteering opportunities there will always be certain roles which are going to require, for example first aid training or child protection training, as well as going through the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) vetting.

This is again something to consider when looking for the right opportunity. And it is important to remember these rules and regulations are often required of paid and unpaid staff and should be viewed as an organisation or group fully supporting all those carrying out their duties.

And finally, the time spent on volunteering and going on training courses can be viewed as an investment.

Many employers look at what transferable skills a potential employee can offer and will view completion of training not only as an asset but as an example of a person’s commitment.

You can’t get away from the fact that volunteering will cost you time – but for many, many people it is the most rewarding time they’ll spend.

Gordon Brown is the executive officer at Volunteer Centre Borders