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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

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.

Hints and Tips for Leading and Managing Volunteers in a Pandemic

In this article we can’t give you a guidance on what to do – much as we might like to – as all situations are different. What we can do is give you a few hints and tips that might prove useful in your ongoing journey (not challenge) to lead and manage your volunteers well during this global pandemic. We all know volunteers volunteer for people not organisations. As such key to supporting, leading and managing volunteers in the pandemic has been communication. Communication about volunteering and doing it safely, communication while volunteers can’t volunteer to keep them warm and engaged and communication about how to restart volunteering or indeed stop it again depending on changes to government’s guidance.

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.

COVID-19 – Return to the outdoors and looking ahead

Landowners and countryside managers in the United Kingdom and Ireland’s outdoors have faced a challenge like no other during 2020. The response to COVID-19 did not come with industry standards, best practice principles and guidelines, international research or case studies. The challenge was magnified by an exponential increase in demand for visits to outdoor spaces and in many cases a reduction of resources due to staff being placed on temporary furlough leave or lack of access to volunteer support.

The Nature Volunteers website

The Nature Volunteers website helps to help link people interested in volunteering in nature with projects being offered by organisations. The website has two aims - to give people better access to volunteer opportunities in the UK and to help organisations find volunteers to enhance the success of their projects. People wish to volunteer in nature for diverse reasons and Nature Volunteers was set up last year with funding support from the Higher Education Innovation Fund to expand the range of people accessing nature volunteering opportunities.

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?

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!

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.

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.