The DOs (and a few DON’Ts) of skilled volunteering

Resource leaflets

You may be aware that we celebrated our 35th birthday recently and I have been digging into the archive to see what past resources we have created for volunteers. We have produced a number of publications since we launched in 1979. You can see one of our many publications above (from our non-digital days!)

Searching through these, I realised, as well as the number of resources we’ve produced over the years, that there are a number of tangible things you can do to make the most of any volunteering opportunity. I wanted to highlight some of these points so here’s a whistle-stop tour of some of the DOs and DON’Ts of skilled volunteering.


  • Find out about the organisation. You need to be enthusiastic about its aims and activities.
  • Do go there. Do sense the atmosphere. Do keep an open mind.
  • Be selective about the role and the working environment. Personal satisfaction is even more important in a voluntary appointment than it is in a paid one.
  • Be flexible. Be ready to do things yourself where you may be used to having other people do them for you.
  • Find ways to use your management skills. Often it is the professionals trained mind and ability to use resources effectively that are likely to be needed, rather than a particular expertise.
  • Be prepared for a new work style and attitudes. It will probably be more informal and less structured than you are used to.
  • Agree a trial period. Fair to both parties, it gives the opportunity to withdraw gracefully if the appointment is not working out.
  • Sort out the practical details – things like expenses, travel, hours and insurance.
  • Aim to keep on learning. Take advantage of every opportunity to increase your own knowledge. You may well have to take the initiative in acquiring background information essential to the performance of your role.
  • Consider home-based opportunities, where offered. Many will involve contact with colleagues too.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF. Voluntary work is not only worthwhile but it should be satisfying and fun.


  • Over commit yourself – very easy in the first flush of enthusiasm. Decide how much time you can offer and stick to it. The organisation must be able to rely on its Reach volunteers.
  • Expect the same facilities. Most organisations exist on very tight budgets and have to keep their costs as low as possible. You will be unlikely to have back-up staff and equipment and office accommodation may be cramped.
  • Try to move too quickly or assume too much responsibility at the very beginning. Even though you may see considerable scope for improvement in the way things are done, premature attempts to implement your own methods may not work.

More than ever before, charities are desperate for skilled volunteers. In these tough economic times, their budgets have been cut and at the same time they have been asked to provide additional services to help those in need. Skilled volunteers can fill the gap here.

And why do skilled volunteers want to get involved? Our volunteers register with us for many reasons; some are retired or on career breaks, others are working full or part time. Some volunteer to build their CV and career, others to give back to their communities. We have skilled volunteers from across the UK, many working to help in their own communities. Volunteering can be hugely rewarding and your skills will mean that you can make a real difference to an organisation.

If you have experience in professional skills such as management, IT, marketing, accountancy, project management, HR, business or mentoring and want to apply your expertise to a good cause, visit the Reach website.

Jeanne Davis
Volunteer Publicity Officer

A retired writer, Jeanne is Reach’s Volunteer Publicity Officer. You can read more about Jeanne in her series on the Laterlife website.
October 29th, 2014 by