We have put together a list of some of the more common questions we can be asked, if you would like to find out more please contact us.
Q. How much time do I need to volunteer?
This is really up to you. You can find volunteering opportunities that only take one hour per month, to five days a week - or more. Some roles are for one-off events, some are short term and others might need a six month commitment or longer. You can volunteer at any time of the week, day or night. While a lot of volunteering takes place during office hours, you can volunteer at evenings and weekends too, again depending on what you want to do. Some organisations ask for a particular commitment from their volunteers while others are able to take a more flexible approach. Certain roles like befriending require building up trust with someone, which is why a certain amount of commitment is required. Think carefully about the amount of commitment you are able to give before choosing your role.
Q. Can I leave if I don't like my role?
You are under no obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if you don’t like it. But if you’re unhappy it is always worth talking to whoever is responsible for you to see if anything can be done to improve your time as a volunteer. If you feel that something is seriously wrong, or someone is treating you badly, you can check if your organisation has a complaints procedure and follow its guidance. You can also get in touch with the Volunteer Centre to discuss your concerns.
If you simply don’t enjoy your position and want to try something else just re-apply through Causeway Volunteer Centre website or by emailing or telephoning the Centre.
Q. Do I get my expenses paid?
Most organisations reimburse out of pocket expenses such as travel or meals, usually within set limits. Some organisations will also provide clothing or childcare costs but this is the exception rather than the rule. You will need to check what expenses an individual organisation pays before you start volunteering.
Q. Can I claim benefits while volunteering?
Volunteering will not affect your benefits so long as you are still able to meet the conditions for receiving those benefits eg you need to be free to attend job interviews and obviously if you have a condition prevents you from doing paid work, in most cases, you will not be able to do this on a voluntary basis either. However volunteering is viewed as helpful in gaining paid employment and is also therapeutic when recovering from an illness or managing a long term condition. It is always advisable to let your Benefits Advisor know that you are volunteering. If you are unclear about this you can talk to the Volunteer Centre staff.
Q.Do I need qualifications?
Not usually. Some volunteering opportunities require qualifications such as counselling and some need particular skills and experience but most organisations provide whatever training is necessary. If particular qualifications are needed this will be stated in the volunteer role description on the database. Often organisations are looking for personal skills, such as being able to get on with a wide variety of people, being reliable and being enthusiastic about a particular interest or cause - rather than academic qualifications.
Q. Can I get a qualification or an award?
Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications such as Benefits training, Child Protection, Safeguarding Adults, First Aid, Food Hygiene, MIDAS, Mentoring and Befriending etc if this is relevant to the role.
By volunteering you will also gain valuable experience, develop your skills and be able to ask the organisation for a reference. Many organisations present Certificates of Recognition to volunteers. Volunteers can also be put forward for the National Citizens Award or Points of Light. Young People can gain a Millennium Volunteer Award and some organisations offer ASDAN qualifications. Causeway Volunteer Centre in partnership with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council hosts a Volunteer Recognition Event each year and Certificates are normally presented by the Mayor.
Q. Will I get training?
All organisations will offer hands on training to prepare you for the role. How much training you need, will depend on the role. As an advisor with Citizens Advice, training will take several months and for some support roles you will have to complete training as part of the recruitment process eg Best Buddies. If you are working with children or adults who are vulnerable you will likely get Safeguarding Training or Food Hygiene training if you are involved with food preparation.
Q. Can I volunteer from home?
Volunteering form home is an increasingly popular way of volunteering and you can search ‘Volunteer from home’ in the opportunities on our website.
Example opportunities are telephone befriending or making blankets or clothing for premature babies in hospitals or for charities that work with children who are deprived of the basic necessities. Volunteers are currently knitting trauma teddies for PSNI to give to children in stressful situations. You could also do some environmental work like keeping a record of birds, bees, squirrels etc
Q. How old do I have to be to Volunteer?
There are no age limits for volunteering generally but many organisations set age restrictions that reflect the level of responsibility or experience needed. This can also be dictated by insurance companies. Information on our database normally states if there are age restrictions for a particular opportunity.
Q. Can I volunteer with my family or friends?
Some opportunities are suitable for group volunteering eg beach cleans, tree planting or car washes but this need to be organised and properly supervised. You will find information about upcoming opportunities on our website or like our Facebook page to be kept informed. You can also volunteer with family or friends for fundraising events and collections. Other opportunities available to groups include marshalling at tourist or sporting events.
Q. I’ve got a criminal record – can I still volunteer?
If you have a criminal record you can still volunteer but there are some limitations. Depending on the nature of your criminal record, you may not be able to take up some volunteering roles but a variety of others would still be open to you.
You can discuss your options with NIACRO firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. I feel I need some extra support to volunteer – is that possible?
If you feel you need additional support in finding a suitable volunteer placement you should contact the Volunteer Centre and arrange to have a chat with them about the best options for you.
Q. None of these FAQs answers my question, what do I do now?
If we haven’t covered your question please get in touch with the Volunteer Centre and we’ll be happy to help.