First of all, decide what kind of volunteering would suit you. Think about the sort of organisation you’d like to volunteer for, the activities you’d like to get involved in, and how much time you can offer.
Volunteering doesn't always mean giving up whole days at a time. There are many opportunities available to suit even the busiest of people. Just sparing a lunch break can be enough to help a good cause. Find out more in Volunteering: fit it in.
What types of volunteering are there?
There are numerous types of volunteering open to you. Here are just a few:
Businesses and public sector organisations are often keen to help their employees become involved in volunteering, perhaps as part of a corporate social responsibility programme. Sometimes employers run a scheme to encourage staff to volunteer, and sometimes employers allow their employees time off to pursue their own projects.
If this sounds like the best option for you, ask if there’s an established scheme at your place of work. If there isn’t, you could suggest it. Look at the Employee Volunteering and Volunteering England websites for further information.
Volunteering for a specific health condition
If you or someone you know has been affected by a specific health condition, volunteering can be a great way of sharing your knowledge and experience. It could even play a part in your own recovery. You might like to give your time to the hospital unit or department that treated you.
Alternatively, you could volunteer for a charity. This might involve helping in a charity shop, fundraising or running support groups. Go to Find services for details of how to approach your local NHS trust, or visit the website of a charity you'd like to volunteer for.
Biobanking involves healthy people or people with a specific condition giving samples of blood, urine, tissue or saliva – these are then used to develop a better understanding of health and certain illnesses.
For more information, visit healthtalk.org, where you can hear volunteers talk about their experiences of biobanking.
Time banks are an innovative way of volunteering your time and skills. If you participate in a time bank you offer your skills in return for credits, which you can then use to buy someone else's services. For example, you could offer three hours of gardening and in exchange receive a one-hour language lesson and a two-hour beauty treatment from other members of the time bank.
Visit Time Banking UK to find out what's available in your area.
Where can I find volunteer roles?
Volunteering Matters (formerly CSV) was founded to encourage young people aged 16 to 35 to volunteer. Its main focus is on full-time volunteering. Opportunities include work on environmental projects, helping children to read and supporting people who are unwell and unable to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are also many health-focused projects, open to people of all ages on a part-time or full-time basis. Visit Volunteering Matters to find something that suits you.
Do-it is the only national database of volunteering opportunities in the UK. The Do-it website allows users to search more than 1 million opportunities by area of interest and postcode. There is also the option to apply online.
National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
NCVO is the umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England, with the aim of connecting people and organisations. It has 11,000 members, from large organisations to small community groups, so there will be one that is right for you.
Locate your nearest volunteer centre.
Friends of the Elderly
Friends of the Elderly needs volunteers to help out with its day centres, befriending services, and activities in care homes, and to get involved in its Be a Friend campaign.
Local NHS Trust
Contacting your local NHS trust directly is a good way of finding out about volunteering opportunities in your area. See Volunteers: NHS heroes, in which Diane Bown, the head of volunteering for the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, describes the difference volunteers make to the health service.
Visit the website of your local trust for more information on how to volunteer, or contact them directly. See Find services: NHS trusts.
Read about Andrew's experiences of volunteering with dementia patients.