The Value of Choice in Volunteering

Timing, they say, is everything. Some timing, like it being the 40th manifestation of National Volunteers Week in 2024 (June 3rd to 9th) is cyclical, comes around annually and surprises nobody. Other timing, like General Election campaigns, are thrust on us by considerations of electoral advantage. And thus two of my personal hinterlands are thrust centre-stage at the same time. What a time to be alive as the saying goes.

National Volunteers Week is normally planned in advance, themes agreed, publicity and promotion settles within a broad confine, as someone with a past in political organisation I can categorically tell you General Elections are thrown together on the hoof, “events dear boy, events” can make irrelevant the most professional gant chart. Timing wise we will have both the Volunteering sector’s annual week of celebration and the NCVO manifesto for the sector and consequently National Volunteering Week will no doubt attract candidates to the sector like a moth to a light. In that exchange I hope they all, across the spectrum, come to understand the real meaning of the term Volunteer. The value not just to the organisation taking on the volunteer but to society as a whole. To also understand how much volunteers, do to lessen the load on the state and local government. Such an appreciation of the reality of Volunteering will go a long way to ensuring that those who are our representatives in Parliament, across all parties, understand the value of choosing where and when to volunteer?

We at Volunteering Kingston work to give prospective volunteers a range of opportunities, to reflect what individuals need. We also work with Volunteer Involving Organisations to attract the skills Volunteers can bring to the table. In those activities the core philosophy for giving time and skills freely and with a mutual respect between volunteer and VIO. The volunteer experience is the glue that keeps attracting individuals to experience their own contribution and Volunteering Kingston is proud to articulate that.

Times change, what was true for volunteering and volunteers over four years ago, never mind sixty-four years ago, no longer applies. In 2024 micro-volunteering is prevalent, people juggle their life’s in a flexible manner and want the same options when it comes to their service to the local community. They value their time as priceless and that is a seismic development that VIO’s have to face and adapt to. Most have done so admirably and whilst it is true some might yearn for nostalgic approaches it is clear the relationship between volunteers and VIO’s has changed permanently and for the better. Choice is King and that is the right approach for the world as we presently find it.

We celebrate volunteers to reflect their contribution and sacrifice. All persons who have contributed over the years did so voluntary and with free will. Over the years, our Justice System and Employment Services have been directed to blur the lines but those activities are around the fringe of the Voluntary Sector. Activity, whether environmental, social or practical, embedded in the community you live in, is at its most effective when it is given willingly, when it is or feels like an obligation it loses its value to both the participator and those receiving the contribution. Once you blur that line with perceived mandatory elements not only do you undermine the volunteer experience you could actually discourage voluntary contributions from those who might otherwise step up.

For Forty years, the core element within the celebration that is National Volunteers Week is that of appreciation. The 2024 version should make sure it continues that regardless of what may be coming around the corner in our interesting times. The very essence of volunteering is the virtuous circle of giving, receiving and facilitating positive change. Nothing, particularly during our celebratory week, can change that. The value of choice in volunteering and the value of volunteers in general is for life, not just for annual National Volunteer Weeks or five year cycles of democracy.

Have a great National Volunteers Week 2024.

Michael Green. Project Manager, Volunteering Kingston

If you’re interested in beginning your volunteering journey this week, take a look at our volunteers page or browse roles on our Team Kinetic website.

Organisation Spotlight: Home-Start UK

Happy May! Today’s organisation spotlight is on Home-Start, an organisation that connects volunteers with young families to prevent crisis.

Home-Start Logo
Home-Start Logo


Tell us a little about Home-Start:

“Home-Start is a voluntary organisation in which volunteers offer regular support, friendship and practical help to young families under stress remotely or in their own homes helping to prevent family crisis or breakdown. Volunteers, who are parents or have parenting experience themselves, understand that sometimes family life can be tough and that is why their support can be so valuable in helping another family. Volunteers are central to the Home-Start service; we could not offer families the same support without them. We welcome people from all faiths and backgrounds to apply. Volunteers would be based in a family home in one of our boroughs (Richmond, Kingston or Hounslow)”

Why do you want to involve volunteers in your organisation?

“Home-Start is there to help families through their most challenging times by putting a trained volunteer on the doorstep of every family that needs them. By supporting parents and carers, we empower them, building confidence and resilience so that children can thrive”

What volunteer role/s do you have available at Home-Start?

“Home-Start House Visiting Volunteers aim to build the confidence and independence of the family by:

• Offering support, friendship and practical help

• Committing to a minimum of 1-2 hours per week for remote support or 2-3 hours per week home-visiting according to the family’s needs

• Visiting the families in their own homes, where the dignity and identity of each individual can be respected and protected

• Reassuring families that difficulties in bringing up children are not unusual

• Emphasising the positive aspects of family life

• Developing a relationship with the family providing a regular, reliable presence in that family

• Drawing on their own experience of parenting to encourage parents’ strengths and emotional well-being for the ultimate benefit of their own children

• Encouraging families to widen their network of relationships and to use effectively the support and services available in the community”

What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for Home-Start?

Just two hours of your week will make such a difference to a family. If you are compassionate, kind, committed and have parenting experience you could be our next Home Visiting Volunteer at Home-Start – Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow.

Interested in volunteering with Home-Start? Send them an email at  info@home-start.org.uk or a message at 0116 464 5490.

Discover volunteering roles with organisations like Home-Start here. If you’re with an organisation and would like to get in touch, find Volunteering Kingston’s contact details here.

“It’s given me a bit more faith in humanity”: Case Study of an Assistant Volunteer at Click Café

For this Case Study I spoke to Duncan Moss, an assistant volunteer at Click Café, a community hub and café run for and by disabled people from Enhanceable. In his words, Duncan’s role involves “helping out where help is needed – operating the till, the dishwasher, setting out food, making tea etc”. He explained that he was let go from his job as a care-worker in 2021, and had decided to begin volunteering to “get back into the swing of having a job”. 

Working at Click

Duncan stated that he had been volunteering for 10 months, and the experience had been very positive. He praised the environment, giving a cheerful anecdote about his interview as an example of its uniqueness: “I had an interview, by the end we were doing karaoke”. Duncan also praised his fellow volunteers, emphasising their kindness and support:  “Everyone is so nice here. No-one’s out to get you,” he explained, “It’s given me a bit more faith in humanity”. For Duncan, volunteering allowed him to better his well-being by socialising and being productive.

Duncan  spoke highly of the working environment and his peers at Click and emphasised that he enjoyed the responsibility of the role. To volunteers at Click Café, the role was not “a job you can just turn up to when you feel like it” largely due to its reliance on volunteers to keep operating. 

When asked about whether or not this role was suitable for a diverse range of volunteers, Duncan was very positive, prefacing his answer with “anybody is welcome here for a cup of tea”. He reiterated the kindness of his co-workers, stating that “we just accept everyone for who they are”. Whether people of different faiths or disabilities came to volunteer, he explained, they were welcome. 

Duncan was extremely optimistic about Click Cafe’s future. “I’ve got lots of ideas for Click Café ”, he explained, “It’s got an exciting future”. Perhaps the best testament to his love of Click Café was when he said that “I’m happy to work here [at Click Café] beyond retirement age”. 

If you’d like to volunteer as a way to gain a solid work experience foundation, be sure to visit Volunteering Kingston and take a look at our current advertised roles. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of volunteering, read this Case Study on a Visitor Volunteer at the William Morris Gallery.

By Annabelle, Volunteering Kingston

Eggs, in many baskets.

Easter, with its moveable dates, its complex mixture of general holiday, sporting weekend, chocolate centric themes and occasionally the first sign of proper spring weather, is a reflective time. This year’s Easter weekend was no exception. In volunteering terms, Easter does not have the focus that Christmas and New Year period can generate. Nevertheless, Easter is a good representation of the wide range of volunteer opportunities that take place or are available.

Flexible Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering is no longer just turning up twice a week at the same place and performing a regular service. Today, volunteers want more variety, Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIO’s) are interested in more flexible volunteers, the range of skills required and experience needed is so much more eclectic than was the case even just five years ago. Volunteers don’t put all their eggs in one basket anymore.

Whilst the 2020-2022 Covid centric experience wasn’t where groups like GoodGym were formed, it was where that flexible responsive nature had a positive light shone on it. Likewise with bite-size and micro volunteering, it was the ability to positively contribute without having to commit to set hours/days which attracted a new cohort to the positives of volunteering. As articulated in blogs past, the age dynamic for volunteers has shifted markedly since 2019, whilst it is easy to just note the decline in “time-rich” older volunteers it is a mistake not to acknowledge the balancing that has taken place with younger, more pro-active volunteers stepping up.

Like all supply and demand situations, there is always a slight lag between the request for flexible volunteering opportunities, or multi-micro volunteering, and the availability to meet those requests. VIO’s however do seem to want to meet the expectations of a new approach, however it tends to be the traditional structures, delivering for communities already, that get priority. Balancing the two is key to ensuring volunteering stays relevant and popular – taking for granted that there will always be volunteers waiting would be a mistake. As anyone who checks in regularly at www.volunteeringkingston.org.uk the evolution of opportunities, from static to organic, will continue in 2024, and the more the merrier for this new approach.