Volunteering for first timers

Millions of Australians of all ages participate in volunteer work.

Hand with marker writing Volunteer

Millions of Australians of all ages participate in volunteer work – 6.1 million of us did so in 2010. If you’ve been teetering on the brink of volunteering, but are unsure of the best steps to take to become involved, here are 10 ideas on how to get going.

10 ideas to get you underway
Begin by doing some background reading, for example, by visiting the website of peak organisation Volunteering Australia. This will help you clarify why you want to volunteer, how much time you’d like to commit and the skills, talents and life experience which you may be able to offer.

Two important things to remember from the outset are:

  • you can volunteer for an hour a week or less and still make a difference
  • you don’t need to have a deep passion for a particular cause – all volunteering helps build stronger communities.

Try before you buy
Next, plan to ‘try before you buy’. By participating in a single event or other short-term volunteer roles, you can get a feel for volunteering, even if you eventually choose to volunteer elsewhere. You can also start tweaking your volunteer skills, by taking on board any training offered and watching seasoned volunteers at work. These 10 ideas (in no particular order) can help you find your ‘try before you buy’ volunteering opportunity.

1. Visit Volunteering Australia’s GoVolunteer website. It lists both one-off opportunities (such as volunteering at a major event) and short-term roles.

2. Support outreach/fundraising activities run by your local church, schools, service or sporting clubs, e.g. baking for/staffing cake stalls, helping at sausage sizzles. Watch your community noticeboard and/or newspaper for appeals for volunteers.

3. Try your hand at leaflet-dropping, for example, for politicians during elections, or organisations such as the local Neighbourhood House or Community Centre.

4. Does a friend’s volunteer activity appeal to you? Ask if you can shadow them while they’re ‘on the job’.

5. Contact your local RSL, whether you’re a member or not. They are always seeking volunteers for their appeal days, as well as for longer-term community support activities.

Click NEXT for more tips and information on volunteering.

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    3rd Mar 2015
    The City of Casey runs an excellent site which matches prospective volunteers with those who need volunteers. It's great for one off event assistance as well as an ongoing commitment. It's not restricted to the City of Casey area, so if you live in the south east of Melbourne have a look. www.volunteermatcher.com.au
    3rd Mar 2015
    We need people for the Iron Man comp -
    11th May 2016
    I would volunteer, but I think I am too old to compete. It may have been different 50 years ago.
    3rd Mar 2015
    What about helping with the Red Shield Appeal. The Salvation Army are always looking for volunteers to help in various ways. eg Sitting for an hour or two at the local shops, door knocking on Red Shield day. This happens in the Australian Eastern Territory - NSW, Qld & the ACT. I don't know what happens in the Southern Territory (rest of Australia). The phone number for the local Corps is in the phone book.
    11th May 2016
    Job volunteeering serves other purposes too, especially for those people wishing to re-skill in other fields.

    11th May 2016
    We do volunteer work which, in my case, allows me to do things I never dreamt I would. Washing floors, emptying garbage bins, setting tables, emptying and loading dishwashers are jobs that I enjoy doing now that I'm used to them and it allows the charity for whom I work to free up funds to spend them on those who need them. We do it to keep busy and have a commitment, something to take us out of a routine that could get tedious. We always get thanked for our work which leaves a good feeling but that is not the reason we do it.
    11th May 2016
    I think many volunteer jobs ought to be paid employment. I recently was admitted to hospital, and I think we know what a night there costs, and the woman directing traffic was a volunteer - surely there are funds to pay people like that. And again, I went to our Art Gallery to pay a tidy sum to be educated by a volunteer who told me she had to do her own research and was accountable for the number of people she assisted in the day
    I volunteer and have done for the past four years - I retired 8 years ago and had some travelling to attend to first. My position at a primary school has me sitting with a child who has some needs which are apparently met by this silly old chook sitting with her doing the occasional craft project, cooking, or teaching her how to cheat at UNO. It costs me very little (probably $2.00 a week - no funding of any kind from the school) and that's ok - I've been sober nearly 29 years, a non smoker for 25 years and I can afford to give something back to a fabulous community. But I would be extremely resentful of giving my time and resources to an institution which could and should pay its workers.
    5th Jan 2018
    There's an interesting article in today's Sydney Morning Herald (Fri 5 Jan 18) about effective volunteering -- see http://www.smh.com.au/comment/volunteering-doesnt-make-the-world-a-better-place-20180104-h0dd25.html . It should really improve things rather than just prop up broken systems.

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