If you do one thing this year… volunteer

Volunteer infographic
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Around one third of people in Scotland give up their time free of charge to help a good cause. A quarter of those people do so every week.

For charities like Capability Scotland volunteers are a lifeline. Volunteers help us to operate our charity shops. They look after Collection Boxes in shops and businesses throughout Scotland, raising tens of thousands of pounds every year. They donate their skills to help us solve problems or to enable us to do our work better. They participate in polls and research, helping us to shape the policy landscape. Some people give up their time on an ongoing basis, some help with a specific project. Capability Scotland has nearly 900 volunteers across Scotland and they are an important part of our team.

What can volunteering do for you?

Fiona Hynd, who works for Standard Life, is someone who shared her professional skills to help Capability Scotland’s schools.

“I first got to know about Capability Scotland as part of a leadership development programme at the start of the year.

“I do feel embarrassed to admit that other than sponsoring my little girls to remain silent for 24 hours (bliss!), dropping spare change into a tin at the local supermarket or shedding a tear or two whilst donating to Comic Relief or Children in Need, this was my first direct involvement in what I would class as real charitable work. And it was addictive. Because what was at stake was important – the lives of children and young adults who rely on the support of this charity so much. This sticks in your mind when you turn out the light each night at your kids’ bedtime. It compels you to do more and think differently and give your time selflessly.

“I don’t feel embarrassed to say that I probably put more hours into this challenge than an equivalent work related issue. But the professional in me also benefitted, because I had a chance to step out of the details, think innovatively and creatively, and use the skills and strengths that I’d developed over the years working for Standard Life in a new way. This in turn has given me a different perspective and fresh approach to work and an increased confidence to bring back to the office. I’ve continued to keep in touch with the charity and am helping them with aspects of their strategy. I’ve also recently applied to be a member of the Children’s Panel, something I’ve meant to do for years, but this was the kick I needed.

My advice – go for it!”

Whether you are a senior professional or a young person striking out for the first time, volunteering can be a brilliant way to develop your skills and broaden your horizons. It’s also a great way to meet people. Many of the people who volunteer in Capability Scotland’s shops or who looked after a Collection Box do it because they love to meet people. Fiona Russell, who has been volunteering in our Morningside  and Corstorphine shops for twenty years explained that meeting all sorts of people is one of the best things about the role: “You get the whole world in a charity shop.”

What should you look for in a volunteering role?

Volunteering can be a life changing experience but it’s important to make sure that a charity will give you the support you need to make volunteering a success. Here are some things to look out for…

  • Supervision? Do you have a named person you can check in with and who can support you in your volunteering role?
  • Objectives? Whether it’s picking up donation boxes, befriending a vulnerable person or helping to shape a strategy do you have clear objectives? It’s great to feel like you’ve done a good job!
  • Training? Do you need training to do what you’re being asked to do? Is there infrastructure in place to help you be successful?
  • Policies? Does the organisation have a volunteering policy? This might cover things like whether your expenses are covered and if so, how to claim – or what to do if something goes wrong.
  • Team work? For many people, volunteering is about meeting people and feeling like you’re part of something bigger – a team, or an organisation. Will you be invited to team meetings or events? What about social occasions? Do you like the people you have met so far?

Where can you find out about volunteering?

If there is a charity you are particularly interested in give them a call or check their website to see if there are any opportunities. At Capability Scotland we’re always looking for people from all over Scotland who are interested in being a Charity Shop or Collection Box volunteer on a regular basis or who are interested in helping out at events on an ad hoc basis.

There are also lots of organisations and websites out there to match potential volunteers with the charities that need them:

  • Volunteer Scotland offer a digital gateway to help you find volunteering opportunities.
  • Project Scotland match 16-30 year olds with charities who need help short term help and provide a mentor and expenses too.
  • Gumtree can be a great source for finding potential volunteering placements.

If you’re interested in volunteering to “adopt a box” and become part of our Collection Box team, or in ad hoc event volunteering, please contact Julie Spence.

If you are interested in volunteering in one of our 18 charity shops please contact Sophie Wilbraham.