Volunteering into employment – considerations for volunteer involving organisations

23 April 2021

When thinking about volunteering, one of the benefits we often hear talked about is the skills and experience it offers up for employment.
This was the focus of our recent round of Volunteer Co-ordinators Network meetings, where we explored the support for volunteers who are seeking employment.

How volunteering can help

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Government’s economic watchdog, predicts that by the middle of 201 UK unemployment will reach 2.2 million, which is 6.5% of the working-age population. We used this statistic to discussthe potential for organisations to reach out to and involve people who are job seeking as volunteers.

Several studies, including the most recent UK Civil Society Almanac, have shown that involvement in

volunteering offers a huge number of potential benefits.

For individuals who are unemployed, we heard how volunteering can:

  • offer an opportunity for an individual to enhance personal skillsets, attitudes and knowledge
  • counteract some of the potential impacts unemployment can have on physical and mental wellbeing, self-confidence, personal resilience and loss of routine
  • create an opportunity to do something different and try something new
  • offer potential access to paid work. I started my career working in the voluntary sector as a volunteer during a period of unemployment, and am aware of many others who started their journey in the same way
  • increase the diversity and number of volunteers within an organisation.

How organisations can support people into volunteering

For organisations thinking of involving job seeking volunteers, or developing a volunteering programme specifically to help people who are unemployed, there were suggestions for areas to consider.


  • Review existing or develop new roles: offering access to taster sessions, training, references and out of pocket expenses can help reduce both real and perceived barriers and encourage people to consider the potential of a role.
  • Look at advert language and where roles are profiled: placing adverts on job sites including Indeed, Total Jobs and Linked In and of course our own free to access Volunteering in North Yorkshire Directory (VINY), can help to raise awareness of opportunities. Online job fairs and events also offer the potential to share films showcasing the potential of volunteering.
  • Consider motivation and aspirations: people volunteer (and don’t volunteer) for many different reasons. Knowing these reasons can lead to a more fulfilling volunteer experience for both an individual and an organisation.
  • Be open to offers: people may come forward offering specific time and availability. Being able to accommodate people looking for a more flexible approach offers lots of potential both for you and them.
  • Consider the individual : wherever possible, it’s important to consider a person as an individual, focusing on what someone can do and not what they can’t do.  This can be particularly important for someone who has an underlying health condition or caring responsibilities.

How to help job seeking volunteers into employment

As a volunteer involving organisation, there are many ways you can encourage and support your volunteers moving into employment.

  • Provide regular feedback: this can make a real difference and show someone the impact of their volunteering.
  • Offer to support with CV development, interview skills, training: whilst others may be offering tailored support in these areas, you may be able to offer a different perspective and add some value.
  • Identify and work in partnership with other agencies working with an individual: if possible, try to find out who else is supporting an individual as part of your application process. With appropriate permissions in place, you may like to contact other agencies to share what support you and they are offering to share ideas and avoid duplication.
  • Make sure an individual has told the Job Centre or benefits office about their volunteering: it can be helpful to write a letter for someone to take to their job coach confirming all the details of their volunteering and for this to be updated if there are any changes in their volunteering.
  • Keep up to date with information about volunteering and benefit rules: there are current and further details on the government website. Most benefits allow people to volunteer, but there are some rules, particularly for people claiming Employment Support Allowance, that it is good to be aware of.
  • Be flexible: under some benefits an individual might need to attend a job interview with two days’ notice, start work within a week or need to rearrange or give up their volunteering to start a job. Being aware of this at the outset can help avoid misunderstandings.
  • Increase awareness of organisations and agencies: there are a number of organisations across North Yorkshire currently supporting people who are job seeking into volunteering and work placements, training and employment. These include local Job Centres and the Action Towards Inclusion Project.  It’s worthwhile contacting your local organisations to make sure they know about your offer and volunteer opportunities.
  • Be realistic: the potential of volunteering in helping someone return to work is dependent not only on skills and knowledge, but also on a lot of factors beyond an individual or organisations control, and importantly, beyond the influence of volunteering.

The voluntary sector has already made a huge difference to people during Covid 19. Proactively reaching out to people who are unemployed and showcasing the potential of volunteering is another opportunity to make a real difference.

Find out more

If you would like any further information please get in touch with us at volunteersupport@communityfirstyorkshire.org.uk or phone 01904 704177.

Copies of the presentation materials and case studies shared by Action Towards Inclusion and the Job Centre at the recent meetings are available on our Community Support North Yorkshire  website.

If you are a volunteer co-ordinator in North Yorkshire and would like to join us to:

  • meet with others in a similar role
  • access resources and training
  • get support with your work
  • share ideas and best practice

then keep an eye out for our county-wide Volunteer Co-ordinator meetings. We would love to welcome you to one of our future meetings.