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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

Empowerment and action for nature: The BBOWT Community Network

Tackling the nature and climate crisis is a daunting job and conservation charities like the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) know they can’t do it alone. As part of our vision for more nature everywhere, BBOWT has been working with individuals, communities, and volunteer groups to inspire people to take action. Our movement, known as Team Wilder, is about taking steps to care for wildlife on your own patch. If we all do our little bit, that will add up to something greater, something ‘bigger, better, more joined up’, as the Lawton principle so nicely sums up.

Start Making a Difference in Conservation with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)

Given the current economic and environmental anxiety gripping the UK, we are seeing more and more people and corporations recognise the importance of wildlife and conservation. We bring people together to create, improve and care for green spaces. From local parks and community gardens to Local Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest; from school grounds and hospital grounds to waterways, wetlands and woodlands; we connect people to the green spaces that form a vital part of any healthy, happy community.

How volunteering helped Kent Wildlife Trust staff with their conservation careers

The conservation sector can be a daunting area to break into due to competition from other candidates as well as the vast number of disciplines you can enter. Volunteering allows you to experience a wide range of conservation roles and understand how different organisations work before applying to any permanent positions. Volunteering also allows you to develop a myriad of new skills that can be highlighted when applying for job roles.

Shadow Volunteers: Growing the environmentalists for tomorrow

As budgets get tighter, trends and focus on volunteering are changing. People who volunteer may need to weigh up the value they get out of volunteering and flexibility alongside work or family. For organisations it might be that staff time and resources available to support volunteering are also under review. Tough times, tough decisions. However, for Forestry England and many other environmental organisations, volunteers are more than an amazing extra pair of hands providing skills that support our vulnerable habitats, wildlife and heritage. For many of us, volunteering was the gateway into environment and conservation as a career. Without volunteers we could be missing out on new, enthusiastic and talented people joining, benefiting and growing our sector.

Gaining experience & life skills through volunteering whilst at University and how this improves employability

There are so many other benefits of volunteering including helping students gain access to accredited training that may be offered to them as volunteers, as well as helping them build their confidence in the knowledge they are gaining from their studies. Students can sometimes get paid work in the organisation they are volunteering for, and not only are they building up their network of contacts for their working life, but having a professional reference helps students get the edge over other candidates applying for the same job as them.

How Volunteering Helped me get a job

A clear link can be seen between the time I spent volunteering and my current job as an Assistant Forester Trainee. A number of activities I took part in as a volunteer are exactly the same as the activities I carry out on Harewood Estate in my current role including invasive species control and leaky dam creation. Within two weeks of starting my job I started constructing a number of large leaky dams and my previous experience in this was very helpful.

Supporting the Volunteering offer

Volunteer involving organisations invest a lot of resources into the recruitment of volunteers but it is just as important to keep up their motivations and retain them. Recruiting volunteers is the start of the journey; retaining volunteers is the key to future development. Focussing as much time on keeping volunteers as we do on recruiting new one’s turnover might decrease, which would take away the pressure of constant recruitment.

Digital wildlife recording - reaching a new scale of mass participation

As threats to UK wildlife mount, the need to grow the evidence base for effective conservation becomes increasingly vital and the development of mobile phone technology, gamification and online community building has helped bring wildlife recording to the masses as a form of digital volunteering.

Communication makes volunteers feel appreciated

Traditionally communication has been one-way; information is sent out to volunteers from head office and from team leaders. The volunteer team has recently launched a new BBOWT Volunteers Hub in order to make that communication two-way. It is an online forum where volunteers and staff can discuss issues, seek advice and access documents. The team spent some time researching the various forums available.

7 Ways Volunteering Can Kickstart a Conservation Career

There is no substitute for hands-on experience: volunteering will teach on-the-job skills and give invaluable experience, which will be directly transferable to future employment. Candidates with relevant experience who have demonstrated initiative in getting it are considered more attractive to employers.

What volunteering experiences do employers rate?

Volunteering is often a useful way of gaining experience to get a foot on the environmental career ladder. Volunteering enabled me to transfer from the health to the environment sector and to start a career again after eight years out of the workplace. I have been a volunteer, employee and sat on interview panels for Dorset Wildlife Trust so what volunteering experiences do employers rate?

The role of the Volunteer Coordinator/Manager in the conservation sector

My main responsibilities as Volunteer Coordinator with NWT are to recruit new volunteers, and to support existing volunteers. I manage a small number of volunteers directly, but most of the 450 or so NWT volunteers are line managed by the NWT staff members they volunteer with. We have volunteers supporting us across the organisation, from our Visitor Centres to our Reserves, at our head office in Norwich and out at events across the County. We are very fortunate to have a loyal and hugely motivated band of volunteers who love nature and wildlife and want to ‘do their bit’ to conserve them.

Reflecting on a strange (but wonderful) year at A Focus on Nature

A Focus on Nature is a youth conservation network aimed at connecting young aspiring conservationists, supporting them through their education and early careers and inspiring them to reach for their goals. We are an entirely voluntary organisation led by young people who have a passion for nature. Despite the voluntary nature of every role at AFON, the commitment and determination of every committee member and regional representative is unwavering. Find out more about what AFON has achieved over the last year.

Time to put an end to Voluntary Traineeships?

When many hours of unpaid work are an essential prerequisite to even applying for a job, we end up choosing our workforce on the basis of means rather than talent or potential, and have to question how “voluntary” these roles really are. Defenders of these roles will say: “Our graduates have a great experience”, “Most of our trainees move into relevant jobs” or “We have people queuing up to join the programme”. They are right. Many people do benefit from voluntary traineeships – I know I once did - but that doesn’t necessarily make the practice acceptable

Benefits and Challenges of Long-Term Volunteer Programmes

As much as it hurts to admit, work in conservation is very desirable and regrettably it’s an area of employment where the demand for work often outstrips its availability. This can too often act as a barrier to entry for those looking to change careers or who don’t have a relevant academic background. This is a shame because it excludes a range of potentially brilliant future conservationists - to their detriment and to the detriment of the sector.

Developing my career in the environmental sector through volunteering

We are all told when we are studying or trying to get into the conservation sector that volunteering and getting practical experience is hugely important, and it is, it’s the reason I now have a job. However, something that is not always recognised is that continuing to volunteer once you are in the sector can be hugely valuable as well.

The important role of trustees in setting an organisation’s culture, tone and values

If you’ve ever struggled with a difficult decision in your life, you’ll know how important the advice, support and guidance from members of your family, or a close personal friend, can be. Often a simple conversation can make things clearer and you’re then able to be more confident and decisive in your actions. In a business environment, trustees work in a very similar way. They are there to support executive teams to deliver an organisation’s vision and strategy, to push them forward and create an environment where people feel confident to make ambitious and bold decisions.

Biological Recording

Most people who are passionate about the natural world and who enjoy going outside, either to their garden, local parks or the wider countryside, usually enjoy identifying what they see to some degree. They might be participating in national recording days, such as the “Big Garden Birdwatch”, or making regular surveys of their local green spaces for Butterfly Conservation. But whatever they do, biological recording can be an incredibly fun and addictive hobby that can take you on a lifelong journey of appreciation or even a related career.

Derek Crawley on recording Britain's wild animals during lockdown

Derek Crawley is the lead author of the Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (D Crawley et al 2020). He is the founder member and Chair of the Staffordshire Mammal Group and a verifier of mammal records. Derek reports on what he has been able to do during lockdown.

Goodwill towards outdoor spaces brings in new faces at Dean Castle Country Park

During the first wave of the pandemic, all formal volunteering stopped. However, the Country Park was busier than ever as local people used the facility for their daily exercise and turned to our social media page on Facebook for up to date information on closures. There was a large amount of goodwill directed towards the Park. The outdoor space and link to nature that it provided our communities with was a lifeline during lockdown. As lockdown easing was implemented, a new recruitment drive targeting our Facebook users was implemented. This attracted a new demographic of people who hadn’t thought about countryside volunteering before, but wanted to ‘give something back’ to the Country Park.

Friends United

Whether called ‘Friends’, ‘societies’ or ‘user groups’. and although every site and every group is different and unique, there’s a common thread which knits this movement together – communities are essential to the present and future of our public spaces, and they are determined to show this by getting more and more engaged, involved, and empowered. And of course greenspace staff and Friends Groups need to work closely together.

Green spaces need Friends!

Parks Community UK was set up by and for Friends Groups activists to enable and help support communities to play a more active role in looking after their green spaces. It is the grassroots service arm of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, the umbrella network for the 7,000 local Friends groups throughout the UK.

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.

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!

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.

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