An informal conversation and guide to the sometimes confusing world of volunteering.

All creatures great and small

A few colleagues and I have just had a lengthy discussion about pets (all in the name of volunteering of course).

We discussed everything from Ray's cat who ate potato skins and cucumber (I know, weird!) to cats chasing (and be-heading pigeons) to the very sad day when you hear the news that your moggy 'whiskers' or 'scruff the dog' isn't much longer for this world.

The discussion started when Andy said he'd never seen his friend so distraught as the time he heard his family pooch was really ill. We concluded, and I don't think this is a new fact, that we are in fact a nation of animal lovers and our pets are well loved family members. Put your love of animals to good use and volunteer - find out different ways to get involved.

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Have a go heroes

The national charity Help for Heroes which raises money for wounded ex-servicemen and women, is seeking 11,000 volunteers to help with its biggest fundraising drive yet - Tesco Helping Heroes.

During the weekend of 1-2 July there is an opportunity for you to donate an hour of your time to collect money outside Tesco supermarkets across the UK.

The volunteering days form part of the Help for Heroes One Hour for Heroes appeal which everyone, from politicians, companies, sportsmen and women and actors will donate one hour of their time.

As well as collection volunteers outside the Tesco stores the charity is also looking for Regional Collection Coordinators and Store Point of Contact volunteers.

For more information visit the website.

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Does anyone say dib dib anymore?

In London alone more than 7,000 young people are currently on club waiting lists and there are thousands more right across the UK.

They are waiting to join organisations like the Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force, Boys Brigade, Community Fire Cadets, Girls Brigade, Sea Cadet Corps, St John Ambulance as well as the Scouts and the Girl Guides of course because there aren’t enough adult volunteers to help run the groups.

Summer is on its way and what better way to get involved and get into the outdoors through this kind of volunteering.  There are so many benefits for the young people that take part in uniformed groups and evidence shows that the young people who do participate in uniformed groups have better school attendance and attainment, and are less likely to offend or behave in an anti-social manner.

If you don't like uniforms, you could always volunteer with the Woodcraft folk - read what a volunteer said about it on our website.

Come on then, dib dib and all that.

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Boys, boys, boys

It's a big generalisation but I would say us ladies are the ones who like to shop 'till we drop. Well, now it seems more men are hitting the shops. 

Unfortunately, it's not to get out that credit card and buy us lovely More men are volunteering in charity shops, at least for the British Heart Foundation anyway.

BHF's latest volunteering stats show that a third of all volunteers in shops are now men. This is a massive 100% rise in men volunteering. It could be down to unemployment going up (if you're reading this you already know how great volunteering can be for your skills) or that there are more BHF furniture and electical stores, traditionally manly areas (apparently!).

But, whatever the reason, it's great and long may it continue. Whoever you are, many organisations would value your time in their retail shops. Take a look at information on our website about finding your local charity shop. Or if you'd like to volunteer for a BHF shop, sign up here.





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Help break the world record...

Create the Guinness world record for bunting – made of Fairtrade cotton – to highlight the injustices faced by cotton farmers in the developing world!

The Fairtrade Foundation is looking for volunteers with skills in using a sewing machine and/or seamstress skills from now till 12 May to sew bunting onto a tape. This will be used to help raise awareness of the problems faced by cotton farmers in areas like West Africa, who rely on being paid a fair price for their cotton to secure their livelihoods.

A minumum of four hours of commitment is required and they will be working through weekends to beat the record! All would be welcome to Battersea Park on 14 May to see the bunting displayed around the park.

Come along and be a key part of the Fairtrade Movement, working with others to highlight trade injustices faced by cotton farmers. Contact, Sarah Jewell at or 020 7440 7681 if you are interested.

Read more here

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Friday 20 May - Digital Day

Adult Learners Week is happening from 14 - 20 May. It's the UK's largest festival of learning with the aim of getting adults of all ages and backgrounds to give learning a go.

It can involve anything from learning photography or cooking to discovering the powers of the net or understanding digital technology. And, speaking of digital technology, this year Friday 20 May is now England's first Digital Day.

We run a number of mentoring projects which match volunteers with lots of different people who want to get online. As a volunteer, you could also do the same on Digital Day. Just take a look at our digital resources to find out how you could run your own event - there's lots of useful resources to get you started.

Imagine what the world would be like without emails, Facebook, Twitter or your mobile? Well you could unlock these mysteries and help someone take advantage of all these tools. 

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So I have been a little MIA on the blog front recently...

It's been a busy time for Leaders Together (the project I manage) supporting small organisations affected by the recession and now facing further cuts to their funding.

Leaders Together is a London based mentoring project, matching senior leaders from the public, private and voluntary sectors with leaders of small charities or community groups based in London, which have an annual income of up to £100,000.

It has been a challenging time for the third sector particularly for small community organisations adjusting to a shrinking fundraising landscape whilst trying to build effective and efficient organisations that are fit for purpose. A survey carried out by Unite of third sector groups stated that 65% of respondents said they were worried about funding cuts to their organisation and 55% were worried about redundancies.

If you are a small organisation looking for a little extra support on anything (not just fundraising) get in touch with us now, we might be able to help you thorough these challenging times.

If you are a senior professional and think you might be able be support a small organisation as a mentor get in touch with us now and we can look at what you have to offer and how you can help a small organisation through this difficult period.

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Should we be charging young people to volunteer in their communities?

The Government's flagship youth project, the National Citizen Service, has launched in pilot regions across the UK this week. According to the BBC's website 600 young people in Teeside have signed up to the scheme which is aimed at getting young people more involved in helping their local community.

As an organisation that encourages and supports people into volunteering, we obviously welcome this initiative. However, we are surprised to see that participants in Sheffield are expected to pay a fee to join up. Click here to see the advert on Facebook.

Young people who want to put something positive back into their community should be given every possible encouragement to do so, without the barrier of having to pay for the privilege. Faisal Islam, Economics Editor for Channel Four News, highlights an irony in his blog; "the Government's strategy claims that 'too often such opportunities (work experience and volunteering) are restricted to the better off'". Well then, why on earth are they asking youngsters to stump up £50 to join up when many people are struggling financially in the current economic climate?

Volunteering and setting up community projects are an enriching experience for all, but for the young person it can also be about acquiring precious new skills and building confidence which can really boost employment prospects.

We have witnessed these positive outcomes from our own version of the NCS - Junction49.

Junction49 is an online community dedicated to young people (aged 13-25) who want to set up projects, campaigns and events around issues that matter to them in their community. Since 2007 Junction49 has attracted 8110 members with 1150 new ideas submitted.

What is particulary unique about the site is the multiple levels of support that is offered to young people wanting to get their ideas off the ground, both online and offline. Behind Junction49 sits a dedicated helpdesk team of staff and volunteers who will give tailored advice and support to ensure that the ideas have the best possible chance of succeeding.

So what is the catch? There is none. There is no fee involved and the site is open to absolutely everyone within the age-range who wants to do something positive with their time and help their community. So for you young people out there who want to be good citizens but don't want to be charged for it then look no further and join up to Junction49 today.

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