Volunteering support

Search for a Volunteering Support Organisation my in my area

Volunteer Support Organisations (VSOs) undertake the following activities:

  • provide information to individuals about volunteering
  • provide a referral service that is responsive to the needs of volunteers, potential volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations
  • provide support to not-for-profit organisations and community groups in the recruitment and management of volunteers
  • promote volunteering and volunteering opportunities

Search for your nearest Volunteer Support Organisation


Volunteer Guides

Download your guide to why and how you can volunteer, and your rights and responsibilities. Click here to view Volunteer Guide (PDF).

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What to expect when you volunteer

What is volunteering?

Volunteering is an activity or project which takes place in volunteer-involving, not-for-profit community organisations. Volunteering:

  • benefits the community and the volunteer
  • means no financial payment – in a position not designated as paid
  • occurs in the not-for-profit sector
  • addresses human, environmental and/or social needs
  • respects the rights, dignity and culture of others
  • promotes human rights and equality.

Volunteering does not replace paid workers or constitute a threat to the job security of paid workers. Volunteering is always a matter of choice.


Benefits of volunteering

Volunteering is all about making a difference in your community; it also benefits you personally as it offers the chance to:

  • act on your values, passions and interests
  • make new friendships and create professional networks
  • gain work experience and learn new skills
  • enjoy new social and cultural experiences
  • develop personally and build confidence
  • enjoy better physical and mental health as studies show volunteering makes us healthier and happier
  • challenge yourself in a supportive environment
  • feel warm and fuzzy about helping your community
  • have fun!

Volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer. Just a few hours of volunteer work can make a difference to your happiness and mood!


Where to start?

Sometimes people ‘fall into’ volunteering. Other times, people make a conscious decision to volunteer and then face the challenge of how to start. Here are some steps you can take as you embark on your volunteer journey;

  1. Decide that you want to contribute to your community by helping in the not-for-profit sector.
  2. Think about your skills and interests—which of these would you most like to use, improve or obtain in your volunteering activities?
  3. Contact your local Volunteer Resource Centre
  4. Search for and read about the various roles. Choose those you like.
  5. Contact the organisation/s to indicate your interest. Find out how to apply for available volunteer positions.

Choosing a position

You may find that you have a number of opportunities to volunteer and need to make a decision as to whether a volunteer role is right for you. Seeking answers to these questions will help you decide on the best ‘fit’ or match.

Openness

  • Is the organisation a not-for-profit organisation?
  • Is there a written position description for the position?
  • Is the organisation willing to provide you with a volunteer policy explaining your rights?
  • Is the organisation willing to provide you with written information about itself?

Skills

  • Will the work maintain or develop your skills, if this is part of what you want to gain from volunteering?
  • Will the organisation provide you with a reference, if you need one?

Support

  • Does the organisation have a Volunteer Manager or other contact person to support and supervise volunteers?
  • Does it offer adequate training and orientation for you to perform your job?
  • Does it offer reimbursement for travel or money spent on behalf of the organisation?
  • Does the organisation have volunteer insurance to cover your out-of-pocket expenses following an injury during your work on behalf of the organisation?
  • Does the purpose of the organisation match your own values, beliefs and interests?

Volunteer rights and responsibilities

Your rights

Volunteers have certain rights under the law, e.g. the right to a safe working environment, free from harassment.

When you volunteer, it is also reasonable to expect a decent and caring attitude that is reflected in how the organisation operates.   This is based on what the community believes is the right way to treat people who give their time.

You should expect:

  • Not to be asked to do, or support any illegal activity
  • Training, policies and procedures to make volunteering fair, rewarding and safe
  • Proper equipment and a process you can follow if there’s an accident
  • To be covered by the organisation’s public liability insurance – in case you cause harm to another person or property
  • To be covered by volunteer insurance
  • Proper supervision – someone you can ask for help
  • A reasonable workload
  • Reasonable tasks – not just things none of the paid staff want to do

Your Responsibilities

Rights work both ways – volunteers also have responsibilities to their organisation and to the community. As a volunteer you have a responsibility to:

  • Follow the rules – especially where they relate to legal requirements or safety
  • Undertake training when asked, and follow instructions
  • Do your best in whatever you’ve signed up for
  • Try to represent the organisation well in any dealings with the public or clients
  • Don’t waste their time – do what you’ve committed to do

Volunteering – things you should know

Checks and protection

Some community organisations screen potential staff and volunteers. Screening is a standard procedure that is used to protect volunteers, organisations and service users as well as check that your character and skills match the position. The level of screening conducted reflects the level of risk and responsibility attached to each position. Standard checks include references, driving records, working with children and background/police checks. Organisations have a duty of care to protect staff, volunteers and service users from harm. Organisations must honour this duty when choosing volunteers.

For some services, such as childcare, thorough screening of staff and volunteers is mandatory.

Confidentiality

Protecting privacy is essential for all organisations. To keep personal details private, staff and volunteers must comply with policies and procedures. Private information cannot be shared unless consent has been given by those involved. You must:

  • keep written information secure
  • consider that all discussions as information given in confidence and should not to be repeated
  • report concerns to your volunteer supervisor.

Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct guides the organisation’s responsible and ethical behaviour. A code must be consistent with legislative requirements. A Code of Conduct may also reflect the philosophy of an organisation. Volunteers and staff will be expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with an organisation’s philosophy.

Complaints and suggestions

If you become unhappy in your role, let the organisation know. In such cases, you are encouraged to follow your host organisation’s formal complaint or grievance procedure. Your concerns should be heard and action taken to remedy the issue. If you become critical of an organisation, express this in a constructive way. Discuss this with your volunteer supervisor, perhaps suggesting an improvement to the situation.

Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S)

Both organisations and volunteers must look after the health and safety of all the participants in the workplace. To do this, you must:

  • follow health and safety instructions
  • use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • report any injuries or hazards noticed at the host organisation.

Volunteer agreements

A volunteer agreement is a record of the requirements and expectations related to a volunteer position. It clearly states the organisation’s expectations of volunteers. Volunteer agreements include:

  • title and expected duties of the volunteer position
  • purpose of the volunteer position
  • location and contact details of the host organisation
  • time/s of work
  • name/s of you volunteer supervisor/s

Before accepting a volunteer position, make sure you understand the conditions outlined in the agreement.


Volunteering for students and young people

Students report that they receive many benefits from volunteering including enhanced feelings of personal worth and contribution, refinement of values and gaining new skills and knowledge.

Research shows that one in five Human Resource Managers look for volunteering experience on resumes. In addition, the growth of university intake programs such as Latrobe’s Aspire – which takes students volunteering experience into consideration when assessing university applications – show that there are many practical benefits to volunteering as a student.

What is volunteering?

Volunteering is giving your time, skills and abilities for free to help an organisation, or assist in an activity that benefits others.  Technically, it’s defined as an activity that assists not-for-profit organisations – but that doesn’t just mean charities.   It can mean arts festivals, sporting events or team involvement, environmental activities, animal welfare, political activism and any number of ways to help in the community.

Shaping your career

Volunteering can give you an insight into the career of your choice, and help you to decide whether it’s the right career path for you.  It can also completely reshape your future.  Entrepreneur, Alex Rixon-Booth launched a student volunteer organisation – I Need Helpers – after experiencing the benefits of volunteering himself, whilst studying.

“We always look forward to seeing the familiar faces of our student volunteers and continue to be the connective tissue between them and their future careers,” said Alex.

I Need Helpers is one of the first organisations to have a significant influence in the development of volunteer programs for the event sector.  Last year, through Australasian Special Events, it gained the title of Melbourne’s Leading Volunteer Management Organisation.

What other benefits can you expect?

In a recent study by Volunteering ACT, students reported the following benefits of volunteering:

  • enhanced feelings of self-worth and a feeling of being part of something worthwhile.  Students felt that what they did was important and they got positive feedback about their involvement.
  • growing self-efficacy (self belief)
  • connectedness — particularly for young people who are feeling disconnected or left out
  • a sense of community belonging
  • realisation that money does not need to change hands for everything in life
  • acquiring skills that they did not necessarily have, or that they had not had the opportunity to apply
  • developing empathy for others who have different lives than themselves
  • finding direction and moving on to work in related fields
  • enhanced social interaction and new friends
  • connecting with the real world — young people said they were exposed to the demands of the adult work environment such as having to be reliable, dependable and organised
  • mutual personal growth for the volunteer and client

Read Cecilia’s student volunteering story.


If you’re under 18

Plenty of young people volunteer, but there are some issues that can make it harder for people under 18 to find a volunteer role

  • Organisations must ensure their insurance policies (especially volunteer insurance) include those under 18
  • Organisations may be unwilling, or unable to adequately fulfill their duty of care to the young person (duty of care is generally considered greater for people under the age of 18)
  • A role may require travel or a full driver’s licence
  • Work may take place within school hours
  • A role might call for skills or experience that young people have not gained

If you can’t find a suitable role by searching online, call our Volunteering Information Service on (03) 8327 8500 for a list of organisations that frequently engage young volunteers.


Volunteering for groups of young people

Many schools, universities/TAFES, clubs and social groups instruct students to undertake community work, often in groups.

It can be hard for groups to find volunteer opportunities because community organisations may not have the necessary space, equipment or staff to supervise, or even the money to fund the projects for groups to work on.

However, many organisations get a lot out of engaging with groups of young people – it just might take a bit more effort to arrange!

The best way to find an opportunity for your group is to think local:

  • speak to your local church groups, schools, community centres, aged care facilities and centres for people with disabilities
  • ask the local council about environmental or heritage groups that operate in the area
  • scan the local paper for news of community activities and events
  • approach cultural groups or clubs active in your area

 

Volunteering for University & TAFE (placements)

Volunteering can be a great way to connect a student’s need for experience in their field with the community’s need for specialised help.  However, most organisations are looking for a commitment from volunteers that may go beyond the needs of your course placement.

You will also get more out of your volunteering experience if you do work that inspires and satisfies you – as opposed to just doing it because you have to.

The following universities have dedicated services to help students volunteer:


Volunteering through my work

Corporate, or Employee Volunteering, is any effort by an employer to encourage and assist its employees to volunteer in the community. It is one way in which businesses can fulfil their social responsibility and many businesses are now offering a set amount of paid volunteer leave as part of their employee benefits program. Others go one step further and coordinate volunteering opportunities for their staff. Opportunities can take the form of one-day team activities, individual skilled volunteer activities or longer-term partnerships with a not-for-profit organisation.

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