Volunteering Opportunities

UK volunteering agencies and ideas

  • NCVO (merged with Volunteering England) can put you in touch with your local Volunteer Centre if you can’t find it in the phone book. The network is over 400 strong, and the local organisations have registers of volunteer openings for their area.
  • Volunteering Wales from WCVA is a bi-lingual web site to help prospective volunteers in the country.
  • Volunteer Scotland has a volunteer activities search facility online. Also check Volunteer Centre Edinburgh.
  • Volunteer Now is Northern Ireland’s version.
  • Do-it online database of volunteering opportunities has thousands of vacancies available across the UK.
  • vinspired is the volunteering site for 16 – 25 year olds in England set up with government support.
  • Step Together Volunteering “using volunteering to increase integration into communities and improve well-being and employment prospects”.
  • TimeBank Volunteering mentoring projects, youth, employee volunteering.
  • What was Join In, the London 2012 Games legacy charity, connecting people with local community sports clubs across the UK who need their help.
  • For an alternative to ‘straight’ volunteering, check out the TimeMoney and LETS concepts under our Social Economy listings.

Professional/employee volunteering

  • REACH “the skilled volunteering charity” for experienced managers and professionals.
  • Career Volunteer identifies “highly skilled and capable professionals with time available to help charities with discreet, one off consultancy style projects on a pro bono basis”.
  • neighbourly is a “social network which connects community projects and charities with companies ready to help” – time as well as money.
  • Other employer supported volunteering schemes exist around the country. See other ‘pro bono’ projects on the Consultancy page.


Mainly through UK based organisations (generally those featured here are charities or non-profit businesses – there are quite a few commercially run companies offering ‘volunteering’).

  • Read the International Volunteering report on T0urism Concern archive to avoid being part of the problem, rather than actually helping.
  • VESL, a registered charity sends volunteers on 4-24 week projects in Asia (Sri Lanka, India and Thailand), on education and community development projects.
  • People and Places emphasises responsible volunteering, in Peru, India, Indonesia , Nepal and The Gambia (not currently Pakistan). Their work is externally audited and has won a responsible ttourism award.
  • Challenges Worldwide recruits, trains and manages volunteers with professional business or legal experience to undertake 3 to 6 month placements with partner organisations overseas.
  • UNA Exchange, based in Cardiff, has a number of different volunteering programmes open to UK residents, including international and leadership opportunities.
  • Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange, a registered charity, has a range of NGO projects requiring long-term assistance, from working with street children to protecting indigenous people’s rights, in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and other countries around the world. A participation fee applies – ICYE will support you in fundraising for this cost.
  • Lattitude Global Volunteering (was GAP Activity Projects) organises gap year work placements for 17 to 25 year-olds in 34 countries. Volunteers can take part in caring, conservation, teaching, outdoor, schools and medical projects for between 4 and 12 months. Phone 0118 959 4914.
  • Also See: Guardian Travel section gap year pages, including list of useful sites.
  • Year Out Group has a section giving advice on gap year planning.
  • Working Abroad humanitarian, teaching and environmental volunteer projects worldwide.
  • The Project Trust is aimed at ‘gap year’ volunteering.
  • Idealist (American based) has links and search facilities on international volunteering opportunities. Can sign up for info on/post volunteering opportunities directly.

Organisations with frequent
Volunteering Opportunities

These can include work experience or short-term (low paid) assignments.

  • Conservation in the field with TCV (The Conservation Volunteers).
  • Chance UK London based mentoring organisation for children from 5 – 11 years old who are at risk of school or social exclusion. Train men and women of all backgrounds to build on the child’s strengths and listen to individual needs. Volunteers are police checked, closely supervised and supported.
  • Citizens Advice is the largest independent advice-giving network in the world (the CABx). They provide free, confidential, impartial, independent advice to everyone and have volunteering opportunities in a wide range of roles – advisers, campaigners, trustees, IT, admin, fundraising, PR – across England and Wales.
  • Crisis, the homelessness charity, has volunteering opportunities around the country, all year.
  • Greenforce Always need volunteers for help with (international) wildlife survey work.
  • Kith and Kids needs volunteers to support children and adults with a range of disabilities to take part in a fun leisure and creative activities.

Overseas placements

  • VSO Voluntary Services Overseas have various opportunities, such as managers to help people in the world’s poorest countries build successful organisations and businesses.
  • Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange “offers exciting voluntary work placements in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Projects include orphanages, human rights organisations, arts, education and environmental work. For those between 18 and 30, available July / August for 6 or 12 months.” You should apply 4-10 months before departure. Placements are self-funded – help with fund-raising is given. More information on website.
  • International Voluntary Service Volunteering opportunities on more than 800 short term workcamp projects in more than 45 countries including UK, North Africa, USA, former Soviet Union, all of Europe, Australia and Japan. Volunteers work in international groups on projects of importance to local communities for 2 to 4 weeks. Food and accommodation provided but volunteers must organise and pay for their own travel.
  • RedR (Engineers for Disaster Relief) maintains a register of professionals who can respond to short-term needs of relief agencies.
  • Skillshare Africa is a charity currently working in six African countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa – with the aim of sustainable development. One of the ways in which they work towards this is through the sharing of skills (hence the name).
  • Village Africa Volunteering in Tanzania.
  • Restless Development is a “youth-led development agency” (previously.Student Partnerships Worldwide) based in Africa and Asia working with and for young people.
  • World Youth International (Australian but operating internationally) offers a range of overseas volunteer and exchange programs for people from 14 up for periods from 1 month to a year, in Asia, Africa, North and South America. Volunteers can work on community development projects, teach English or help create income generating projects in villages.
  • Department for International Development Web site includes, under Working with NGOs, contact details of the volunteer programmes they support.

Volunteer Management

Although it is called the ‘voluntary sector’, not all organisations use volunteers in carrying out their work. It is only the governing body (the people ultimately responsible for the organisation) who have to be volunteers, and even that is not absolutely essential. (See Glossary)

Recruiting and Managing Volunteers

  • A Volunteer Training Bank was hosted by the Museum of London website, but gone with site redesign in April 2018 – pdfs may still be accessible by searching the site, or googling Volunteer Training Bank.
  • Volunteering In the Arts Toolkit with English (2012) and Scottish (2015) versions.

See our Volunteering Opportunities page for online listing services/apps, other volunteering agencies, pro bono brokers etc.

Online Volunteering

Also known as virtual volunteering or micro-volunteering.

Online Volunteering, managed by United Nations Volunteers, is also worth a look.

Jayne Cravens is an expert in online volunteering. She refers to the above two sites, but adds (in a UKVPM posting) a caution not expect to launch a community of OVs over night. “Start with just one or two online volunteering tasks, and a very small number of online volunteers, so you can build up your own skills in online people management. Don’t overwhelm yourself — it’s so easy to do when starting an OV project.”

Organisations for Volunteer Managers

Slightly different is the Association of Independent Volunteer Centres, a collaboration of five volunteer centres in Northern Ireland. Website disappeared at May 2017, but only registered as a NI charity in 2015.

Training and skills for Volunteer Managers

As well as short courses provided on relevant subjects by most of the umbrella bodies listed in the first section on this page, and those listed on our short courses page, check out:

  • Investing in Volunteers is a quality standard for organisations that involve volunteers in their work, covering planning for volunteer involvement, recruiting volunteers, selecting and matching volunteers and supporting and retaining volunteers.
  • National Occupational Standards for Managing Volunteers – see our Training Resources page.
  • Institute of Leadership & Management has qualifications which starts at NVQ level 3 and do go up to level 5 (link missing at Oct. 2014). For the nearest ILM Centre offering the NVQs phone 01543 266867.
  • OpenLearn: Involving Volunteers A short online course on volunteering developed by Volunteer Scotland and the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership at Open University Business School. “This course is about the essential things you need to consider to ensure a positive experience for individuals engaging in volunteering.”
  • Various Scottish courses from Volunteer Scotland.
  • One hour online sessions to improve the way to involve volunteers from Rebecca Tully.
  • New Zealand Competencies for Managers of Volunteers are worth checking.

Volunteer Management Software

Be Collective Web-based, supports “organisations of all sizes to promote and manage their volunteering, while also enabling organisations to track and monitor their impact”. A Tech for Good company backed by Wise Foundation funds.

Better Impact (previously Volunteer Squared) is a web-based system, originally from Canada.

Three Rings, produced by a team of volunteers working for Three Rings CIC, a not-for-profit company. In use by university Nightlines, Samaritan branches, community libraries etc.

Simply Connect seems to be the new name for VC-Connect (developed by Voluntary Action Sheffield), which developed a back-office system for volunteer centres to track the organisations and volunteers they are working with. See info on the connected Volunteer Connect online platform.

Do-It , originally a listings website for volunteering vacancies, now says “through our technology people build meaningful connections, do good things, and feel healthier and happier as a result.”

TeamKinetic A web based system, designed in Manchester.

Volbase: There are various programs with this name, including one used by IBM for their own use in volunteer matching.

VolSoft, an American outfit, produces The Volunteer Reporter, which has been mentioned on UKVPM as worth checking.

Volgistics is a web-based recruiting tracking and coordinating system from the US. The previous VolunteerWorks desktop program has been retired.

VolunteerHub is another American online offering for managing volunteers.

Also see: Membership (and fundraising) systems will often have relevant facilities for volunteer management.

Further Resources

More information on the web


Volunteer Management Issues

A lot of avoidable tensions between volunteers and the rest of an organisation are about differences in expectations, often unvoiced. Remember it is a two-way contract – volunteers want something in return for their efforts, whether it is ‘only’ a feeling of satisfaction from doing something useful or contributing to society. They could also be looking for work experience, including learning new skills, something to put on their CV or a chance to influence. It is helpful if this ‘unwritten contract‘ is out in the open, along with what level of commitment the organisation is looking for, and policies on behaviour (e.g. advance warning of absences, conforming to equal opportunities requirements) and expenses, for instance. You should make sure that this can’t be interpreted as an employment contract, which could open a whole can of worms.

For issues around trade union relations and how volunteers relate to paid staff in providing services, see our Glossary, under Drain Guidelines, for Guidelines for relations between volunteers and paid workers in the Health and Personal Social Services.

For legal issues see Volunteers section under Legal matters, or Volunteer expenses.

Older volunteers

VITA (Volunteering Initiative for the Third Age) was a project of WRVS (now Royal Voluntary Service), to raise the profile of volunteering by older people, and to remove barriers. Project closed Nov ’06.

Insurance can be an issue leading to upper age limits being imposed. Proper health and safety risk assessments could be a better way of deciding whether a volunteer is suitable for/capable of a particular job.

Legal Matters

We need to point out that VolResource does not employ legally trained staff – the information given on these pages is our understanding from experience and reading, but shouldn’t be taken as definitive. The purpose here is to flag up issues which you may need to explore further and point you in the right direction. You should take legal advice where appropriate.

Copyright and trademarks

See the UK Intellectual Property Office for more details on Trademarks, Copyright and Patents.

Music, Creative Arts

Many people don’t realise they need a licence to play pre-recorded or live music in public – this includes over phones, at events in the office, conferences etc. Some CDs for playing ‘music on hold’ are specially copyright free (actually they cost more to start with, but have no recurring charges). – Community Matters has closed – “offers a low-cost blanket licence to charitable community organisations managing community centres or similar buildings…. The licence covers only the activities run directly by the organisation or by its sections” – annual fee for member organisations £35.25, non-members £47.00. Otherwise, contact PRS for Music (was MCPS – PRS Alliance) on 020 7580 5544. Licensing: phone 020 7306 4500.

Printed publications

Copyright exists on anything which has been published – there is no need to print the copyright symbol, although this usually helps clarify who is the copyright holder. While there isn’t one central clearing house as such, there are various agencies dealing with particular areas. If you wish to reproduce more than a quote or short extract, such as part of a review, you should normally contact the publisher in the first instance.

For copyright on newspaper cuttings, features etc, contact the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA media access), phone 01892 525273, email: copy@nla.co.uk. The Copyright Licensing Agency licenses photocopying and scanning on other works, and is owned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the Publishers Licensing Society, and also operates for the Design and Artists Copyright Society.

Web publishing

Copyright law extends to items published on the web (including this site). We obtain permission before reproducing items here, and would expect the same the other way round. Obviously if somebody is sending out publicity material, there is an expectation that this can be reproduced. So far, it is held that creating links to other web sites is not covered, but it would be highly dubious if a link was disguised to make the connected page seem a part of your own site (= ‘passing off’).


Can include charity logos, trading names. Dealt with by the Intellectual Property Office (was Patent Office), a mark can be registered for UK, Europe or worldwide, but the last can be particularly complex and time-consuming.

Other Common issues


Please see the Working Relations page.

Useful Web Sites

  • Sandy Adirondack, co-author of Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook, has useful info targeted at keeping voluntary organisations up-to-date with relevant legislation, such as topics above, employment law, discrimination legislation etc.
  • British Law is a portal run by volunteers (law researchers and others) linking through to law advice organised by topic, for individuals and small organisations.
  • Law on the Web is mainly advice for individuals and small businesses, but is designed to be highly accessible.
  • compact law (was Law Rights) is a source of ‘free legal information for England and Wales’ mainly for individuals, but includes Health and Safety at Work, Minimum Wage etc.
  • BAILII British and Irish Legal Information Institute provides ‘Comprehensive Access to Freely Available British and Irish Public Legal Information’. Has news and reports on various court decisions, as well as legislation info.
  • LawTel (was New Law Online) – subscription required. For those looking for more in-depth reporting on judgements and other legal matters.
  • International Centre for Not for Profit Law Listed here more for completeness, you can get a list of UK law directly relating to non-profits.

Other key sites

Volunteers and the law

The law around volunteers can be quite complex, depending on circumstances. The following is not intended to be comprehensive or definitive, but what we have found that is likely to be useful. Suggestions for other issues which ought to be covered welcome. NOTE: much of this is now out-of-date.


Don’t forget that volunteers working for you are covered by some of the same (or similar) regulations as employees – for example on health and safety, insurance. So see the Employment issues page. But do note that providing some employee ‘benefits’, such as training not directly related to their work, could muddy their status such that legally they become employees.

Criminal Record Checks

NOTE: much of the following is out of date and should be ignored in favour of guidance from Disclosure and Barring Service on Gov.Uk, or Sandy Adirondack’s legal update page. In Scotland, it is Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks – see Disclosure Scotland or Volunteer Scotland resources.

Police checks, criminal record, basic, standard or enhanced, free volunteer disclosures. Some of the search terms which should bring you here!

Criminal record checks for Standard and Enhanced Disclosures are for organisations which work with children or vulnerable adults, provide health care, or certain professions such as accountancy. They are only available to employers who are registered with the Criminal Records Bureau. Such registration costs £300, plus £5 for each additional counter-signatory (person able to sign applications on behalf of the registered body). Organisations can group together and register under an umbrella body.

The individual (employee or volunteer) and registered employer apply jointly for a Standard Disclosure (updated version of criminal record certificate), listing unspent and spent convictions and cautions, or, for some types of work, an Enhanced Disclosure also listing police information such as suspicions that did not lead to a caution or conviction. The Basic Disclosure (still not available at Jan 04 – previously referred to as a criminal conviction certificate) will only cover unspent convictions and any employer (registered or not) will be able to require employees, volunteers or applicants to provide a copy.

The fee for standard disclosures is £24, enhanced £29 (but fees have increased since this was written). However, checks on volunteers are free but they still have to go through a registered body so costs are involved!

Charity shops, other public fundraising

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act you are not allowed to ask an individual to declare spent convictions unless they will be working with vulnerable people. So an organisation can only get Basic Disclosure on charity shop volunteers, unless the shop has vulnerable people working there.

The basic check is applied for direct by the potential volunteer (or employee), with minimal verification. It is NOT free for volunteers, and is unlikely to be much use in preventing fraud etc. round handling money.

Children’s charities

Trustees New recruits to the management committee/trustees to children’s charities (for this purpose, a charity whose workers normally work in regulated positions, as per Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 section36) must be “checked against the register” – Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoVA) list which should be included in standard disclosures. See ‘No Secrets’ PoVA guidance (Department of Health).

Travel, drivers

On own car use, one suggestion on the UKVPM forum is to use information on AA web site to separate the costs of car ownership from the running costs, and re-imburse the latter only. HM Revenue & Customs mileage rates (see taxation page) are the maximum before tax would hit.

Volunteer Drivers

If you pay Volunteer Drivers anything for ferrying clients etc. around, it is worth checking HM Revenue & Customs guidance. The archived advice (haven’t found current version yet..) covers how to work out whether tax is due on any mileage or other allowances received towards the cost of running the car.

Insurance for volunteers driving their own vehicles in the course of their tasks can be an issue – business cover is likely to be required. RNIB has compiled a list of insurers who are more helpful and found that “even sowing the seed that we might suggest other insurers to our volunteers has always, to date, resulted in a successful outcome”. Increases in premium would be seen by Inland Revenue as part of their approved mileage rates and shouldn’t be reimbursed separately. You may be able to find more on the Association of British Insurers, but ‘Motor Conference’ information page has disappeared at July 09.