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Volunteering: Why do it?

Posted on 8 Mar 2016

SVW 2016 may be over, but student volunteering never is. Today Leon Ward, Project Manager for UpRising Cymru and trustee of the sexual health charity Brook, shares why he thinks volunteering is an essential part of the student experience as part of our #IVolunteerBecause campaign.

You will have read lots of blogs that outline why people volunteer: it gives you a chance to give back, develop your skills, to make a difference and get involved in some high profile and amazing work.

But why, as a student, would you do it?

1. It’s a different way of supporting charities

Volunteering is at the heart of charity and charity (and everything that word encompasses) is a big part of society in the UK. Volunteering is a way of supporting charities that doesn’t have a financial cost to – in fact, it cuts costs for the charity by helping help to deliver services, and provides you with a rich experience as a volunteer. And, volunteering is for everyone; there is something for you to do and a plethora of causes and opportunities to choose from.

2. The UK charity sector is big business (and most people don’t see it like this)

It employs thousands of paid staff, managing billions of pounds in donations and supplying millions of volunteering opportunities. I’m a trustee of Brook, the sexual health charity, and have been a charity trustee since I was 18 and whilst at University. Trustees are the volunteers that run charities; we are accountable to the Charity Commission and we manage the Chief Executive. Young trustees are still far and few in between. I believe that talented people, irrespective of age, should be given the opportunity to lead charities; if you’re interested in that, then look here. Volunteering as a trustee gives you the opportunity to develop experience of the inner workings of a charity; to understand the difference between restricted and unrestricted funding, to understand governance, and to navigate the charity through a difficult time for the charity sector which is influenced heavily by government policy. If you do that whilst at University, you’ll really set yourself aside from the crowd

3. Volunteering is not restricted to your local area

Indeed, there are plenty of national and international opportunities to get involved in – a much more fruitful way to spend your summer (and you can do all of this along side paid work, too). I was the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November, in my role as UK Young Ambassador to the Commonwealth; that was high profile and people from all over the Commonwealth were watching what we were up to.

If all this sounds a bit over the top, then take it back to the grassroots – look around your local area for things you can get involved with and see volunteering in the bigger picture – it gives you far more to talk about at your interview than your studies will. And, who knows, you very well may be one the trustees leading a local charity in the years to come.

Leon Ward

Leon Ward is a trustee of the sexual health charity Brook. He is the author of the best practice guide 'Young trustees: developing the next generation of charity leaders'. He is a keen blogger, writing for the Guardian, Civil Society, The Big Give and the Key. In his day job, he is the Project Manager for UpRising Cymru. You can follow him @Leonjward.

Categories: Advice, What volunteering means to me