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

How to make a world of difference

The Vodafone Foundation have been trying to do volunteering a bit differently recently. They've been running a scheme called World of Difference where you can apply to volunteer with a UK charity for two months and Vodafone will pay you to do it. It's an interesting way of incentivising volunteering and could create a shift in how people view giving their time.

The idea is to make volunteering attractive to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to help a UK charity full time. I think it's an innovative way to get people engaged with charities at home. Do you think that this is really volunteering?

You have to apply and be selected, so if you're interested, the deadline is 3 November.

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Joining the debate

After Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, I sent a letter to the Independent’s editor, because his views totally contradict what we see almost daily at TimeBank. I was delighted to see it published yesterday.

We are constantly striving to breakdown barriers through our volunteering projects. How depressing that one man is given a voice which can do so much damage to communities by quoting what are clearly unsubstantiated ‘facts’.

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Put your heart into volunteering

heart shape © leeAnnL Flickr10,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant. Every day three people die waiting for one.  And you can donate an organ while you're still alive.

16.3 million people have already joined the NHS Donor Register.  Volunteer to be a donor at or call 0300 1232323.

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Come on Dad'm really proud of my dad. He's never had to use a computer for his work but after retiring did a computer course and loved it. Now, I know this is a bit selfish but I thought, great - he won't keep asking me to show him how to send an email or attach a picture. Er, no.

He's got the basics but when I mention Google he gets a glazed expression. So, I've realised that it would be really helpful if we sat down, one-to-one and went through some of the things I know. So, I'm going to stop making excuses 'I'm out tonight or Coronation Street is on' and what better day to start than Get online day tomorrow.

It's great to volunteer to help people you don't know but what about those close to you?  Go on, there's no excuses to put it off now.

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Food, glorious food

Mirepoix © Glane 23 WikimediaI can't get enough of MasterChef - and if conversations about who's going to win are a guide to go by -  it's as good a reminder as any of how food can create new connections between people.

I've volunteered with Food Chain in London, and loved working alongside professional chefs volunteering in the kitchen. So if food's your passion, why not find something in your area, try Lets Get Cooking?  All together now, "Yes Chef!"

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Who's blogging?

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with a fellow Chief Executive – that is to say a Chief Executive of a large international charity who is hugely experienced and who I occasionally meet, listen to her wise words and often take comfort that I am not alone in my challenges.hw pic

As we were finishing our meal the subject turned to tweeting and blogging. We both said we didn’t tweet but our charities did. I said I wrote on our internal blog as a way of keeping everyone up to date on what I was doing and major things going on in the organisation and now we were blogging externally I was excited that I would be able to guest blogg on it. She said that she didn’t blog but that someone blogged for her.

Now, at first this made be feel wholly inadequate that I was such an insignificant Chief Executive that I had to, shock horror, blog myself. Indeed if I was running such a massive organisation I wouldn’t, shouldn’t or indeed couldn’t write my own blogs. But to be honest, I rather enjoy blogging and I can’t imagine letting someone else do it in my name. The internal blog allows me to talk about things in my way about issues that matter to us as an organisation. The external blog will allow me to speak to a wider audience maybe about the same issues but still in my way.

So as I walked across the bridge heading for home I was wondering how you can ghost blog someone’s interests and passions within a work context. I am not sure I can think of anyone that I would ask to blog for me or indeed if I ever want to reach the stage where I didn’t blog myself or know what ‘I’ was blogging about.

So this really is me and over the coming months I hope to be popping up on our blog with the latest from TimeBank and my views on volunteering.

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How do I choose?

Question mark squircleThat is the question I've been asking myself for a while now - well more specifically; 'What volunteering shall I do?' But you work for a volunteering charity I hear you cry! Well yes, but I don't think it's finding an opportunity that's the problem. TimeBank is a great place to start and I read stories all the time about how volunteers love what they've achieved, but I just haven't found 'my thing' - yet. At TimeBank we get five volunteering days a year so how will I use them?

I have three problems:

1. There's so much choice; so many great causes or issues to volunteer with - I don't know what I want to do the most.

2. I'm very good at putting things off.

3. I'm obviously bad at making decisions.

Maybe I should just pick something and get started. I can keep on looking for 'the one' (that sounds a bit like finding a soulmate).

What are you doing and how did you choose it? I need a bit more inspiration please, you wouldn't want me to be without my 'soulmate' for much longer would you?

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The most open university

You've all heard of the Open University? Well, now there's an online university where anyone can study because the whole thing is run by academic volunteers. The International University of the People so far has 178 students from 50 countries. You can only study two courses at the moment so it has a long way to go before it competes with the elite universties. But they are working hard to make the content really high quality and not just a new version of Wikipedia.

It's attracting academics from  interesting places, but beyond the idea that volunteers would run the courses, I think it  shows just how much people are beginning to put into practice the technology that's existed for a few years now. If students at traditional universities are grumbling about the costs and lack of academic rigour then schemes like this could soon out pace them on all levels.

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