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

Half price hotels

Bedroom at the Hotel Max © apartmenttherapy.comOne hotel chain in America is offering half-price or free rooms for people who volunteer for a day. I used to think that volunteering was all about doing something for free.  Have I been wrong all these years?

The use of incentives, rewards and recognition for volunteers has been much debated, particularly around youth volunteering. RockCorps have done a great job at getting people to think about this issue. Their approach is very explicit - young people can't win or buy a ticket to one of their concerts; they have to earn one by volunteering.  It's a good way of saying thank you and a clever way of attracting new volunteers.

Volunteering is usually a two-way thing - I've got a huge amount out of my volunteering and yet the closest I've got to a tangible reward is a certificate and a DVD! I'm still not sure whether we should be offering more incentives to encourage and reward volunteering - though that half-price hotel room sounds appealing doesn't it?

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Hair dressing heros

purplemattfish'sWe all know what it's like to go to the hairdresser and they want to chat, but there's a new scheme in Northern Ireland to encourage hairdressers to spot people who might be feeling suicidal. After training they will be able to offer a listening ear as well as practical information on where to go to see a counselor, or organisations that can help.

I think this is a brilliant scheme and shows that people are willing to volunteer to listen to people in their communities, even as they go about their working day. It demonstrates that you really can fit volunteering into your life.

If you noticed that someone was in distress when you were going about your working day, what would you do?

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Use it or lose it?

Reigh Le Blanc © flickrEver wanted to help advance medical research but want to keep your distance from any needles? Well, the BBC has teamed up with medical researchers and is looking for 100,000 volunteers to test whether brain training works.

The aim of the experiment, launched tonight, is to find out whether mental workouts really do exercise our brains and help prevent the onset of dementia. Brain Test Britain wants to find people willing to do 10-minute online brain training exercises three times a week for at least six weeks.

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Must be the money

I hold my hands up. I watched a bit of Cocktail when it was on TV recently - the film starring a pre-Scientology Tom Cruise. At first I giggled at the sheer eighties-ness of it. The haircuts, the waistlines, the jumpers, the unfeasibly huge glasses. Then I realised it wasn't just the fashion that seemed outdated. Tom Cruise's character is obsessed with money and making loads of it. Of course he sees what is important in the end, but from his how to make a million self-help book to trawling down Wall Street, the film screeches the eighties mantra 'greed is good'. And this is what felt the most out of date.

I am delighted that the noughties is less about greed and more about the good life. We're not all about to wear hemp and live off the land, but I certainly feel that greed is tempered with moral values. Do you think we've changed since the eighties? We certainly see a steady stream of willing volunteers coming through our doors every week. And a recent survey by John Lewis mag, Edition, reveals two-thirds of ladies shun designer clothes and instead discuss helping others.

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Who needs the Fourth Plinth?

curriculum vitae © the Italian voice on flickrSeems like we all do. Recent graduate Alex Kearnes certainly found it useful. He bagged himself a job  waving a placard of his CV during his hour-long stint on Anthony Gormley's Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

It's a very original way to get noticed.  But what do the rest of us do if we don't get a chance to show our wares on the Fourth Plinth, especially if you don't want to go down the road of the naked plinther?

Volunteer - it's a fantastic way to gain new skills, make an impact and add something different to your CV.

We know there are volunteers out there who have got a job through volunteering - if you're one of them we'd love to hear from you and so would other people wanting to get a great job too.

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Christmas decorations go up!

baubles © gee on flickrIt's still four months away and Rochdale has already put up the lights and here at TimeBank we're beginning to get the first questions about what volunteering you can do over the festive season.

Well there's loads you can do and last year we put together a special page to answer those questions. But we want your help to make this site even better this year.

What do you want to know about  volunteering at Christmas and New Year? And how can we help you get started?  Let us know so we can make this as useful for you as we can.  Email us on or leave a comment below.

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On Weston Beach copyright sagepe on flickrAs the summer draws to a close you may be thinking about whether your 'staycation' was worth it. Was the weather bad? Did you spend the same amount of money as usual? Did you see a new place, or was it Cornwall for the fifth year in a row?

Perhaps next year you could do something a little different. The RSPB are offering conservation holidays. There are many residential volunteering holidays in the UK with lots of different charities. Check out this newsletter for some inspiration for next summer.

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Can a cup of tea really make a difference?

A Nice Cup of Tea © adactio on flickrAfter a hectic day of meetings and lots of work, I just nipped to the kitchen for a well earned tea break...

Whilst making my tea (milk no sugar if you're offering) I bumped into our Chief Executive, Helen, and we chatted about how important it is take a break from your desk every now and again and how it can help you to feel more inspired when you go back to your desk.

Which got me thinking. TimeBank has a variety of mentoring projects, where volunteers can give up their time to mentor people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Support can range from helping to write a CV to simply meeting for a coffee and chat once a week.  And this can make a real difference to someone's life.

Back to Life - one of our mentoring projects, is a great example of this. It offers practical and emotional support to young adults, aged 18-35 recovering from mental health issues.

So in answer to my initial question, yes, a cup of tea can really make a difference.

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