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

Semantics and definitions

Semantics around what is and isn’t volunteering are always a worry. 

I think it is vital now when so many volunteer support organisations ranging from local volunteer centres to national infrastructure organisations are losing their funding come the end of this financial year.

Internships, work experience, volunteering, voluntary work and working without pay in a profit making organisation -can you tell me what is and what isn’t volunteering?  

This recent article in the sector press Poundland denies using volunteers in its shops where they deny using volunteers but said that they use unpaid jobseekers in 'on the job training'.

In case you are confused, a handy document exists that has been published by the Volunteering Stakeholder Forum.  Please feel free to click through and use this really valuable resource The Principals of Volunteering.  The document endeavours to answer and define what volunteering is and what it isn’t.

Be it big or small we are all a part of our society so lets make sure it’s a fair one.

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Get fired up

At TimeBank, we've been campaigning about our recent cut in funding from the OCS. Take a read of our previous blog posts to find out about it.

Anyway, I digress.The power of campaigning and the buzz you feel from helping a cause you feel passionate about is amazing. There are lots of organisations out there that need your support, so why not get involved and campaign for them?

We've got a fair bit of information on our website about campaigning for human rights or for organisations like Stonewall working on issues around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender - and raising positive awareness. And that's just two areas. What are you passionate about changing? Get in touch with an organisation that shares your views, they're bound to be more than happy to hear from you. 

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Parents joining the Race Online

Can you imagine not knowing how to use google or log on to email, let alone not knowing what a mouse or a keyboard is?

I for one can barely remember the time when I had to manage without those things. But for some people it's a whole new scary world out there. And imagine what it's like having young children who are spending half their time on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube and not having a clue what they're up to.

So TimeBank launched a new project last week called Parents First, which aims to address just that issue.

The project matches mentors aged 18-25 with parents in the London Borough of Lambeth.

They spend 12 hours together, helping the parents to play a more active role in their children's development by learning about computers and the internet. This could be anything from learning about online safety, how to access their children's school's website to booking a family activity online.

If you're between 18 - 25 years old and live in London you can find out more on the Parents First website and sign up to be a mentor now.

Parents First is contributing to the government initiative, Race Online 2012, which aims to get everyone in the in the UK online by 2012. They run events and projects around the country. So if you don't live in London, you can still get involved. Have a look at their website to find out how. You could also check out Age UK, who are looking for volunteers to share their IT skills with older people.

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World Book Night 2011

If youve been paying attention you might remember that I was chosen as a book giver for the first ever World Book Night.

What that meant was that 19,999 people and I across the UK and Ireland had 48 copies of a book each to hand out to random strangers. Yes, that was me accosting people on the high street the other Saturday evening.

There was a fabulous launch which was free for all the book-givers held at Trafalgar Square with lots of authors reading passages to us from Alan Bennett to John le Carre and from Margaret Atwood to Edna O Brien plus many others. There were also a plethora of celebs reading to us from Rupert Everett to Suggs and Nick Cave. I went along with three other book-giver mothers from my sons primary school.

As one of the 20,000 book givers I handed out 48 copies of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. One million books were distributed altogether and I must say it was really hard to decide which one of the 25 selected titles I was going to give out but it made me think about reading all of them. 

I also discovered a new excellent local book shop as I had to pick up my box of books from recently discovered said independent bookshop The Crow on the Hill.

If like me you have been inspired by World Book Night to think about how you could use your reading as a volunteer there is a great legacy from the National Year of Reading which is called Wikireadia it has lots of ideas and links to volunteering opportunites so do please browse through.

Don't forget that if you need any more help get in contact with our helpdesk team here at TimeBank and once you have volunteered you can review your experience and spread the word to others

Happy reading.

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MP support for TimeBank

I attended a 90 minute debate in parliament this morning entitled ‘The effects of cuts on the voluntary sector’.

TimeBank and its current funding crisis were heavily featured in the debate as a perfect example of an organisation delivering the  ‘Big Society’ yet having its funding cut.

Barbara Keeley MP argued strongly for organisations such as ours, which provide the infrastructure to make volunteering a reality and encourage social action not to whither on the vine due to funding cuts. Cutting away at our core funding which severely reduces our ability to act as that precious go-between for volunteers and the beneficiary organisations, completely undermines the vision of a Big Society. Read Barbara’s blog here.

There was a great deal of support from other MPs who recognised our role in encouraging volunteering, but at the same time acknowledging that there needs to be a careful and well-timed transition away from government funding. One MP suggested that the government was out of touch with the modern-day voluntary sector organisation. He said that these charities have to rely on government grants for core funding in order for the frontline services to be realised.

This is the harsh reality. We can’t be expected to deliver the level of care and expertise required to enable volunteering without the staff and resources in our back office which make it happen.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our e-petition to keep these issues in the limelight and in front of government.

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The Goat Race

The Spitalfields City Farm in London holds an annual Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race to raise money for and awareness of the farm.

The 2010 race raised almost £3,400 for Spitalfields City Farm. This year's race will be held on Saturday 26 March at Spitalfields City Farm, London (E1). Please show your support for the City's nearest farm to the Square mile by volunteering on the day. There are all sorts of things to do from helping to run the fairground games, serving at one of the bars or the tea stall, helping on the door and moving bales of hay around. They are looking for volunteers for a few hours in the morning or afternoon depending on what you can do.

This promises to be a fun day out so get some friends together and get dowm to the farm - if you're interested in volunteering email Anthony. You can also check out there Facebook page for updates.

If you can't make the Goat Race or don't live in London but would like to volunteer at another one-off event, check out others here.

The farm are always looking for volunteers to maintain the farm and gardens, look after the animals and help them to deliver projects. In short, without volunteers there would be no farm - so your support would be really appreciated. Find out how to get involved

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Find out how you can take your Employee Volunteering to a different level

Despite the negative funding news we've had from the Office for Civil Society last week, we are committed to delivering all our current and new Employee Volunteering programmes, as well as team challenges.

TimeBank will be showcasing its new and improved Employee Volunteering scheme at the Responsible Partnerships Exhibition on Thursday and Friday this week. So if you're planning to attend, come and see us at stall number 48 to have a chat about the tailored options we can offer - whether you're a small business or a big corporate looking for a one-off team challenge, or a personalised programme.

Our CEO, Helen will also be speaking on Thursday, 17th March at 11.10am and will explain how we have refined our Employee Volunteer options over the last few months. For example how we've built in more flexibility to bring you closer to achieving your social responsiblity goals. 

We hope to see you there. If you can't make it to the exhibition and would like to find out more, give Oliver Jacobs a call on 020 3111 0720 or drop him an email at

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Thank you for your wonderful support

Since receiving the awful news on Monday that our application for core funding from the OCS had been rejected, we have been overwhelmed by the warm response from all our supporters, volunteers and peers.

Since Monday we have received well over 2,500 signatures to our e-petition and have had some wonderful media coverage about our situation.

We have not taken this news lying down and will continue to challenge the government’s decision. If you want to add your name to our campaign then please do so (see my other blog for details). We are also urging our supporters to write to their local MP to raise awareness of this appalling decision and to ask them to put a question to the Minister in parliament. Here's a template letter - you can use this and submit directly to your local MP through the 'Write to them' website, just put in your postcode to find your local MP and submit your letter. If you would like to support us in other ways, take a look here.

Meanwhile at TimeBank it is business as usual – we are continuing to deliver our funded projects and our employee volunteering schemes to the highest level, the dedication and professionalism of our staff is without question. We will strive to help and support people into volunteering opportunities for as long as we can.

Once again, thank you for your support and I hope to be able to report more positive news in the near future.

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