In Depth features: Volunteering

beams on sunlight underwater (image: Christian Palmer on unsplash)

Library of articles mainly from CJS Focus on Volunteering.  Articles cover everything from the benefits of volunteering to how organisations can best set up volunteering programmes.

Click on the article title to read. Articles are checked on a regular basis and many have been updated since they were first published.

Browse the full library of articles and in depth features covers a range of subjects e.g. environmental education, working with wildlife and animals, countryside skills traditional and modern, overcoming barriers.  Read all articles here.

Volunteer Articles

Connecting people and place

People and the DALES welcomes groups from nearby urban areas of Leeds, Bradford and North West Lancashire into the stunning Yorkshire Dales for health and wellbeing opportunities. Participants include people with a disability, young people, people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, individuals from deprived locations and those with mental health difficulties. To date, more than 10,000 individuals have taken part in People and the DALES events including walks, lambing, tree planting, conservation work and training.

Some things change, some stay the same – reflections on the countryside profession in 2019

Ted Talbot is Countryside Manager for the National Trust in the Peak District. He has worked in countryside management for 30 years. We asked for his thoughts on the current state of the profession. With many employed in the public sector, cuts since 2010 have impacted on Parks & Countryside Services with volunteers being asked to step in. Much has changed in the workplace with more technology being both a curse and a boon. Managing people, communities and volunteers is and always has been a key skill for rangers and people are always the key to maintaining support for your countryside services. Ted wants us all to be ready for the next Green Revolution, to try and lead it even.

Fit for the Future

Professor Alastair Driver has worked in UK conservation for 40 years now and knows many eNGOs, landowners and government agencies have done amazing work to conserve our natural heritage for many decades, and goodness knows what state our biodiversity would be in if they hadn’t, but the simple harsh truth is that traditional nature reserve and protected site conservation on its own is not enough to reverse the decline in biodiversity. Rewilding Britain is on a mission to encourage more people to allow nature to take care of itself.

Applicant vs employer – the difference of opinion

Through our work CJS perceives the problems that applicants face as well as the issues met by employers during recruitment. To try and highlight some of the problems CJS asked a few employers along with some applicants to give their opinions on the countryside recruitment process. A number of our social media followers were happy to provide details of their experiences whilst trying to secure that elusive job in the countryside sector. It is clear that employers and candidates have differing perspectives when you also read the opinions of the employers including Warwickshire County Council. CJS get the feeling that there is a need to bring expectations of employers in line with those of applicants – but how?

Much more than just a run in a park

Every weekend at more than 700 public open spaces across the UK, around 14,000 volunteers dressed in high-vis bibs are busily preparing to welcome walkers, runners and spectators to parkrun and junior parkrun events. What began 14 years ago is still a free 5k on a Saturday morning coordinated entirely by volunteers. Walkers, families, pushchairs and dogs are all as welcome as runners. The events can give a real boost to the park, as explained by Jon Balaam at Rushmere Country Park. They have helped him to engage with new audiences & build local support.

The importance of volunteering with the National Trust

The National Trust is supported by over 60,000 volunteers, they in turn are supported by effective volunteer managers. There is constant investment in the development of volunteer managers; part of this investment between 2013 & 2017 was the Volunteer Management Traineeship Project. Seventeen trainees spent 18 months worked on sites across the country and followed an ILM Level 3 qualification. The project gathered data about the impact of having a dedicated volunteer management role within the team and 67% of volunteers felt the trainee had improved their volunteering experience.

Wildlife Trust Trainee scheme proves valuable to the future careers of biological recorders & biodiversity alike.

The Biodiverse Society Project with Lancashire Wildlife Trust was an ambitious three-year biological recording project. Trainees received wildlife survey training, experience, networking opportunities with local naturalists and support from Wildlife Trust staff. In return Local Record Centres received new data and were able to gain exposure to the wider recording community. Developed to address a growing skills shortage & a lack of ‘work ready’ individuals in the UK environmental sector (Lantra) the project was seen as a great success and many of the trainees have gone on to paid work in the sector.

How citizens can support science and conservation

People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) uses citizen science to gather data on a number of species. This data can then be utilised in the fight to protect animals from extinction. With the virtual universal use of smart phones & apps data gathering has become easier than ever before. Mammals on Roads survey records roadkill as a measure of the size of existing populations. The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme trains volunteers to count the number of dormice found in special boxes erected in sites where dormice are known to be present. The data from these surveys has confirmed the continuing decline in the UK population of dormice & hedgehogs.

Its not just about getting muddy at the RSPB

If you think volunteering for conservation is always physical, outdoor, muddy work then think again. The RSPB gives some examples of how you can use existing talents, whatever they might be to help save nature. As well as plenty of outdoor & practical volunteer roles, they also look for all sorts of volunteers with diverse skills including graphic designers, media gurus, finance experts, web designers, electricians and more.

Connecting people with nature. Safeguarding species from extinction.

The Scottish Beaver Trial is fortunate enough to have Roisin Campbell-Palmer as the Field Operations Manager. Employed by RZSS Roisin has always had an interest in working with animals and after gaining a degree in Zoology she went on to complete an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour & Welfare. This all equipped her well to manage the beaver project which includes research & monitoring of the beavers, stakeholder and public engagement and managing volunteers. Roisin also works on the Scottish Wildcat Action project which involves the securing of a conservation breeding programme.

Our first Featured Charity: 2016.

Details of charities previously featured by CJS, just because they are no longer featured doesn't mean that we don't support them any more!

When waders and bankers combine the results can be wonderful

With decades of experience in training environmental volunteers they were able to manage a large group of city bankers, more accustomed to PowerPoint presentations than pond life, working together with a local community group to restore and revitalise a much neglected local lake and create some environmentally sensitive woodland paths through the trees.

"I just want to be your Friend"

Volunteers are desperately keen to help out, and those involved in nature conservation / countryside management seem all the more so! As much as you may require training, ignore your own volunteers’ training at your peril. We all like to learn new skills and volunteers, especially as they are not paid, require the stimulation of training more than most.

The Value of Volunteering

Natural England has just over 3000 registered volunteers, without whom we would quickly notice that much of our work simply would not get done.The average value per volunteer is just over £1500 a year and for every £1 we invested on supporting the volunteer programme, we get around £8 worth of time back. Volunteers can assist with office work, research projects, surveying and monitoring, wardening, public events, educational activities and practical works.

How can I help?

If you are looking for a part time volunteering position which provides transferable skills yet can be fitted around working hours, then the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Out of Hours (OOH) service might tick the boxes. You can even work from home. Volunteers receive extensive training on all manner of bat related subjects. The Bat Helpline is directed to their home phone when the office shuts, so they can answer a plethora of queries. As well as extensive bat knowledge, volunteers gain valuable customer service skills.

Wildlife Rescue

There’s more to working at a wildlife rescue centre than you might think. Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue is one of the country’s busiest wildlife hospitals, and its team needs a surprising variety of skills, some of which are described here.

Striving to Deliver Opportunities within the Environmental Industry

The Field Studies Council (FSC) is a charity established in 1943 to bring environmental education to all. Through its 17 UK field centres the FSC delivers a range of environmental education courses to students across the age spectrum; also several community initiatives. The organisation is concerned about the lack of fieldwork within the curriculum and the lack of knowledge of taxonomy many students have. FSC have developed a two-fold approach to address the skills gap this presents.