Volunteering can provide opportunities to meet new people, share knowledge and experience and learn new skills while giving something back to the community.
Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain. Volunteers do not replace paid staff but add value to the important and diverse work that organisations perform.
Where to start
Think carefully about what skills, knowledge, experience, and time commitment you can bring to volunteering and how you would like to be involved.
Organisations that involve volunteers cover just about every sector of the community including environment, arts and culture, health, disability, education and sport. Choose an organisation with similar principles and values to your own. You may also want to focus on organisations with positions that are close to home or work.
Volunteering SA&NT and local volunteer resource centres such as Northern Volunteering SA and Southern Volunteering SA can support individuals and communities that are interested in taking up volunteering.
Once you've decided how you want to contribute to your community, contact the organisations to indicate your interest and find out how to apply for available volunteer positions.
Most organisations will have an application process. This helps both parties get the most out of what you have to offer. It's also important for you to find out as much as you can about the organisation and the tasks you will be undertaking so you can be sure it’s something you really want to do.
What to expect when volunteering
Volunteering is a partnership between you and the organisation. As a volunteer, you can expect induction, training, and a safe environment to work in. It’s also important to give and receive feedback, and do work that reflects the mission or purpose of the organisation while meeting new people and having some fun.
Expect your host organisation to:
- provide sufficient training and orientation for you to carry out your volunteer role effectively
- be clear about their expectations of you
- keep you informed
- respect your opinions and ideas and give them fair consideration
- provide a safe and healthy work environment.
The organisation you are working with will expect you to:
- do the job you have agreed to do
- be respectful to others
- be accountable for your actions
- accept directions
- tell them when something goes wrong or isn’t working
- co-operate with other volunteers and staff
- respect property, materials and equipment
- be open to change and ready to learn new skills.
Things you should know
It's worth your while to take a bit of time to learn about volunteering. There could be things that surprise you, even if you’re not a 'first timer'.
Most organisations have a checking process to protect volunteers and service users and to make sure your character and skills match the position. Typically organisations will ask you to provide identification, a reference letter or contact details of referees.
For volunteer roles that involve people working with vulnerable groups - eg children, aged or people with a disability - you may also need to undergo further screening such as a criminal history report or screening assessment.
Protecting privacy is essential for all organisations. To keep personal details private, staff and volunteers must comply with policies and procedures. Private information cannot be shared unless consent has been given by those involved.
Code of conduct
A code of conduct guides the organisation’s responsible and ethical behaviour, and may also reflect the philosophy of an organisation. Volunteers will be expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with an organisation’s philosophy.
If you become unhappy with your role, discuss this with your volunteer supervisor. In such cases, you are encouraged to follow your host organisation’s formal complaint or grievance procedure.
Work health and safety
If the organisation you volunteer for employs anyone to carry out paid work, you (as a volunteer) are covered by work health and safety (WHS) laws and you have responsibilities under those laws.
If the organisation is made up only of volunteers working together for a community purpose, the organisation and its volunteers are not covered by WHS laws.
Check if the organisation you are volunteering for has insurance that will cover you if you are in an accident or injured while you are volunteering.
It's the organisation's responsibility to ensure that appropriate insurance cover is provided to protect volunteers of the organisation.
Mutual obligation requirements
Volunteering may be one of the options presented to you in order to meet mutual obligation requirements for Centrelink payments. For more information, visit the Centrelink website, contact your Centrelink community work coordinator or job network member, or telephone 13 24 68.