Why volunteer for Veterans In Action (VIA)?
People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Regardless of the motivation, what unites them all is that they find it both challenging and rewarding.
Below are some of the reasons people choose to volunteer. For some it provides an opportunity to:
- Give something back to an organisation that has impacted on a person’s life, either directly or indirectly
- Make a difference to the lives of those who suffer
- Help ourselves by helping others, the ethos behind VIA
- Help others less fortunate or without a voice
- Feel valued and part of a team
- Spend quality time away from work or a busy lifestyle
- Gain confidence, self-esteem and self-belief
- Raise essential funds to enable VIA to help more veterans
- To help VIA grow to enable further Regional Alive Centres to be developed
- Engage with veterans locally and signpost to local organisations who cover aspects not covered by VIA
- To promote VIA in local area
For some, volunteering can be a route to employment, or a chance to try something new which may lead to a career change, or to work alongside other like-minded people. From this perspective, volunteering can be a way of:
- Gaining new skills, knowledge and experience
- Developing existing skills and knowledge
- Enhancing a CV
- Improving one’s employment prospects
- Gaining an accreditation
- Using one’s professional skills and knowledge to benefit others (usually described as pro bono)
For others, volunteering appeals because of its social benefits. These include:
- Meeting new people and making new friends
- A chance to socialise
- Getting to know the local community
There is lots of anecdotal evidence that volunteering has a positive impact on health.
What will happen when I contact VIA about volunteering for them?
This is not like applying for a job; it is about becoming part of a TEAM. VIA want to find out whether you have the basic skills we need and whether we can offer you the kind of opportunity that you want.
Volunteering opportunities can be short-term or long-term, part-time or full-time. If the role has some responsibility, for example handling money, or if you will be working with vulnerable people or with dangerous equipment, VIA may ask you to go to an interview. This will give you and VIA a chance to assess each other and ask questions.
The questions VIA will want to ask you will depend on the type of volunteering that you are interested in. However we may ask any of the following:
- Why you are interested in volunteering
- What sort of volunteering activities you are interested in
- What skills you would bring to the volunteering role
- If there are new skills you would like to learn through your volunteering
- How much time you have to offer, and when you are available
You can also ask VIA anything that you feel unsure about. You may want to check some or all of the following:
- Reimbursement of expenses (travel, lunch, etc)
- Opportunities for training or gaining qualifications
- What tasks are within the volunteer role
- What support or supervision will be available (someone to talk to regularly about how you are getting on)
- How volunteering may affect any claims for state benefits
- Who you’ll be working with
An informal chat or interview can also give you an opportunity to look at where you will be volunteering and meet some of the other staff and volunteers. In addition to completing a registration or application form you may also be asked to provide references.
What should I expect as a volunteer?
- An induction where you are told about the organisation and its policies. This would generally cover health and safety, what to do if you have a problem and an introduction to other staff and volunteers.
- You should be told who your supervisor or leader is and how to contact them. It is important that you have a named person who you can go to with any problems or queries.
- Adequate training to be able to carry out your role. The exact nature of the training you receive will depend on the role, but you will probably need at least basic training for the tasks that you will be doing.
- You should receive ongoing support and supervision, to make sure you are happy in the role and know where to go if any problems should arise.
If you are volunteering for just a few hours to help at an event or something similar, you should still expect to be informed about the task and its purpose, health and safety, the organisation, and leadership / supervision etc.
You should also expect to be treated equally, regardless of your gender, race, age, faith/religion, disability or sexual orientation. VIA has an Equal Opportunities Policy and is willing to accommodate volunteers from all walks of life.
Will volunteering cost me anything?
Under rules laid down by HM Revenue and Customs, VIA are allowed to reimburse you for anything ‘reasonable’ you have had to pay for to volunteer. This can include travel, meals purchased while volunteering and special clothing.
As a small organisation, all we ask is that expenses are of a reasonable amount so that the maximum of our funds go directly to where it is needed in helping those who suffer.
No expenses will be paid our without receipts.
How much time do I need to volunteer for?
This is really up to you. Although the less time you have the harder it can be to find something that’s fulfilling for you. You can volunteer at any time of the week, in person, over the phone or via the internet.
VIA believes that the more time that you put in then the more you get from the experience including those we help. The VIA TEAM build relationships with the veterans we help so we always encourage volunteers to get fully involved as much as possible although we also understand that many have busy schedules and can only do short-term volunteering.
Much of the volunteering with VIA takes place at weekends or on VIA expeditions and events, you can also volunteer during office hours or in the evening too, again depending on what you want to do. Online volunteering (also known as ‘virtual volunteering’) is becoming more popular as it offers a greater degree of flexibility. Also, trustee and management committee positions can be quite flexible in terms of their time commitments.
Can I leave if I don’t like it?
Yes, of course. You are under no formal obligation to keep volunteering for VIA if you don’t want to. However it is always worth talking to someone at VIA about this first and you can then discuss with them why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve your time as a volunteer in the organisation.
If you feel that something is seriously wrong or someone is treating you badly you should consider making a complaint to VIA.
I’m working full-time. Will I still be able to volunteer?
Yes, there are many opportunities to volunteer in the daytime, evenings, nights and weekends. VIA can cater for different time commitments, whether you want to volunteer once a month or once a week.
Some examples include:
- campaigning through social media
- organising fundraising activities
- building relationships with fundraising locations
- joining a fundraising event
- joining a VIA Expedition for a short time
- becoming a VIA Area Coordinator
- offering essential skills to VIA in your spare tme
Will I get training?
VIA will offer training and support where necessary in all aspects of the activities you are volunteering for or ask you to contribute your existing skills.
It will also depend on the type of tasks that you will be doing. For instance, if you’re spending one day joining a fundraising team you will be teamed with another member of the VIA TEAM.
Do I need qualifications?
Obviously this depends on the role, but usually you don’t. Some very skilled volunteering tasks may require qualifications, and VIA may offer you training to enable you to fulfil the role in time.
Can I get a qualification or accreditation?
VIA, at present does not offer volunteers qualifications such as an NVQ, however you will learn a lot and gain valuable experience, skills and a reference. VIA do work in partnership with local Community Services who can offer training. If you do need a formal qualification, it may be best to contact your local Volunteer Centre as they may know of other local organisations that offer qualifications. Also, you may be able to keep a record or portfolio that would help you get a qualification or entry to a college course.
VIA will at all times listen to what volunteers want that will help not only them but allow them to help VIA long into the future. Our intention is to grow together and to develop an organisation that will grow in all areas giving us access to veterans where they live.
Can I volunteer together with my family or friends?
- fundraising in local areas
- organising your own event locally
- joining a VIA Challenge
- joining a community task
Will I need any official approval to volunteer?
In some instances people from overseas may need to check whether they are entitled to volunteer whilst in the UK with the UK Border Agency.
Some people also worry that they won’t be able to volunteer if they have a criminal record. Firstly, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 only organisations that work with children or vulnerable adults are entitled to ask about any ‘spent’ convictions that you may have. This means that only certain volunteering roles (usually those that involve volunteering with children or ‘vulnerable adults’) require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (previously CRB checks).
Having a criminal record isn’t necessarily a bar to volunteering.