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Volunteering: How and Why?

This is a diverse area with a range of options depending upon your fields of interest that can prove to be of personal and professional value. Volunteering provides opportunities to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge and can potentially lead to further pathways for jobs and similar work. 

Consider volunteering for causes meaningful to you whether locally, nationally or in the international arena.  

(Note: The status of a few of the volunteering organisations mentioned may be temporarily paused due to the COVID19 pandemic)

Volunteering Nationally

CharityJob is a site for charity jobs and volunteering opportunities for internship and trustee positions available.

Do IT offers a well established volunteering database with thousands of opportunities covering many different activities and roles.

Earthday Network offers Share Your Air: Document Your Air Quality with the App

For Good is a NUS-run project promoting opportunities to engage in socially beneficial research on behalf of charities and other organisations. An excellent way to develop, contextualise and demonstrate your research skills.

Vinspired offers volunteering and work experience placements to young people. National in scope, and with a good range of filters to quickly find the opportunities and causes that you are interested in.

NCVO represent over 16,000 voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and social enterprises across England.

The UCL Student's Union publish volunteering roles regularly, particularly in and around London.

Volunteering Internationally

Be wary before spending money on volunteering opportunities, and consider what you and the community you are working in will gain from the experience.

Ethical volunteering offer advice & information for people who are interested in international volunteering and want to make sure that what they do is of value to themselves and the people they work with.

International Citizen Service (ICS) is a UK Government funded programme providing volunteer placements to 18-25 year olds and Team Leader placements to 23-35 year olds.

The Telegraph has a useful article reviewing gap year providers including charities.

The UK Government has issued safety guidance for those seeking more adventurous volunteering.

Do it has a lot to offer to help others and give back to the community both nationally and abroad.

Online/Remote Volunteering

There are almost limitless possibilities to volunteer online in projects requiring any level of commitment. A few examples are listed below, but be creative, explore causes and topics which are important to you, and think about the skills that you have to offer and want to develop.

The Mix is a UK based charity that provides free, confidential support for young people under 25 via online, social and mobile.

Zooniverse is a platform for people-powered research, more that a million volunteers assist professional researchers accelerating important work and making a real difference.

The Earth Day Air Quality app invites people to photograph their horizon daily - Earth Challenge states that by gathering large quantities of photos coupled with associated air quality data helps us understand the relationship between air quality and our planet.

Bring Power to the people scientists at Oxford University are training algorithms to spot buildings in satellite images in Sub Saharan Africa to give more people access to electricity offering opportunities to improve peoples quality of life.

Sector-Specific Volunteering

LAW

Volunteering can be an expected and necessary part of gaining work experience for those pursuing a career in public interest law. A few examples of opportunities are listed below, but for a comprehensive overview, find more on 'How to volunteer for a legal charity' here.

CU Pro Bono Society exists to facilitate voluntary work by students for legal charities, and to raise awareness about current issues of human interest.

The Access to Justice Foundation works at a strategic level to improve access to justice in the UK.

Advice UK is the largest UK network of advice-providing organisations. 

A4ID facilitates legal assistance to civil society, developing country governments, social enterprise and bar associations to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Advocate acts as a clearing house, matching barristers prepared to undertake pro bono work with those who need their help

APPEAL is a charity made up of investigators and lawyers working on carefully selected cases - they advertise volunteering oppurtunities from time to time.

 

Presenting your experience to employers effectively

Your voluntary experience can be hugely valuable! Start by thinking about what the employer you’re applying for value. Volunteering can demonstrate your commitment to a particular cause and for value-driven employers like charities and advocacy organisations this is particularly important. Anyone could say they care a lot about climate change, but if you have been involved in fundraising or managing social media for a sustainability charity, that has more credibility.

Volunteering is experience of the workplace so you can include it in the work experience/relevant experience section of your CV or application form - to make it clear, you can include (voluntary position) after the job title. Employers are not just interested in the tasks you did but also evidence that you performed them well so think about the impact that your volunteering had. This could be a positive outcome for colleagues, the organisation you volunteered for or the people the organisations serves. See our CV and application resources for more

Volunteering in University

There are various organisations and projects students can participate in whilst at university.

The following are a few:

Cambridge University Student Societies

Cambridge Student RAG

Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU)

Students interested in Psychology or related areas can volunteer to take part in University of Cambridge research:

Cambridge Autism Research Centre

Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain

Cambridge Psychology

Volunteering Locally

Cambridge City Council have a webpage with lots of different volunteering opportunities.  

Cambridgeshire County Council advertise a range of opportunities. 

Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service are an active organisation to be involved in.

Care Network are looking for Volunteers to support people to regain their confidence and independence.  

Cambridge City Foodbank  regularly have opportunities come up. 

Jimmy's have been supporting people experiencing homelessness in Cambridge for 25 years.

Cambridge Sustainable Food are always looking for volunteers to help with food collections. 

Student Community Action has been providing volunteering opportunities that fit in with student lifestyles since 1972.

Wood Green Animal's Charity is a leading UK pet charity helping thousands of pets find a new home every year with a branch in Cambridgeshire.

CHOP The Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme (CHOP) works to provide students with opportunities to serve the homeless community in the city by raising awareness, fundraising and volunteering.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next moves. Everyone's journey is different, so there is no right or wrong approach to planning your next career steps. Here are some actions you could do now: