Speed Volunteering helps busy Londoners get outside and volunteer

Logo: Team London

To make it easier for busy Londoners, Team London has developed ‘speed volunteering’, offering opportunities to volunteer that are one-off, take fewer than six hours to complete and can be arranged at short notice when the mood to ‘do something great for your city’ strikes.

According to an independent survey, 60 per cent of potential volunteers are deterred from volunteering because of time limitations due to work commitments, home and family responsibilities and studying. As a result, London’s small charities and organisations were missing out on the expertise and knowledge of London’s professional and student networks; those with the potential to have a real impact on organisations with significant skills gaps due to small teams.

The Conservation Volunteers in Tottenham (Reid Aiton)
The Conservation Volunteers in Tottenham (Reid Aiton)

As a result of Team London’s speed volunteering website and the launch of the UK’s first speed volunteering app, these previously hard to reach individuals are able to find volunteering opportunities based on their location, interests and availability. It is this innovative approach to raising the profile of volunteering that was recognised by The European Volunteering Centre and contributed to London being named ‘European Volunteering Capital 2016’.

Charities and organisations have welcomed this development as they can now access thousands of potential volunteers to help out at short notice on much-needed projects. This has had a significant impact on environmental and conservation projects, which often require hands-on help at short-notice.

Jonathan Dean, Senior Community Engagement Coordinator at Trees for Cities, says that the speed volunteering platform has allowed the conservation charity to tap into a whole new community of volunteers: “The ability to offer opportunities at short 1-2 hour time slots
throughout the week and weekend is really useful for us, and it’s now really easy for us to match volunteers to the opportunity that they apply for. We’ve had some fantastic volunteers support our mid-week sessions which has really helped our programmes!”

Hackney-based community garden project, Cordwainers Grow, has also noticed the benefits of having access to newly engaged volunteers, who are happy to help for short bursts, due to Team London’s speed volunteering initiative, Kate Poland Co-Director of Cordwainers Grow said: “Our small community garden is maintained entirely by volunteers. We run it with enthusiasm and a belief in the power of gardening to bring people together – as well as improving the environment, of course. We have learnt that amongst our gardeners we have a variety of skills – composting, seed-sowing, planning, raising veg, PR, samosa-making, taking photos, organising things – but most people have other things to do – other lives – and sometimes we need help to help get things done. 

Cordwainers Grow, Hackney (Cordwainers Grow)
Cordwainers Grow, Hackney (Cordwainers Grow)

Speed volunteering is a great way to get those things done. It's like a caffeine boost.  We can identify something that needs labour or particular skills, put the task on the Team London website - and the volunteers keep coming.  We always make sure we have food and tea
(often herbs grown in the garden) as eating or drinking tea together is a big part of volunteering - it's as much about getting to know new people as getting things done. We have now expanded beyond the garden to run community workshops and help with other gardening projects, so we get speed volunteers involved with herbal, natural dye or even string-making workshops as well as helping plant up new growing spaces.  We have a wide range of opportunities for volunteers -  not all of it is to do with gardening.  It can be posting photos or blogs on social media, taking photos of a workshop, helping with admin or our website or giving us advice about marketing.  Everything helps.”

Visit Team London’s speed volunteering website or download the app to find out about environmental and conservation projects in your area: Visit or search ‘Team London’ in the apple app store.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) on 15 February 2016