The Student Volunteering Handbook Your rights, responsibilities, and what to expect

This resource has been created by Edge Hill University Careers

Authors: Jennie Owen and Helen Rimmer, Volunteering Advisers

Latest Update: May 2021

This resource will tell you:

  1. The benefits to volunteering
  2. Rewards you can gain through volunteering
  3. Policies and procedures you should be aware of
  4. Help with expenses
  5. Checks you can make on an organisation
  6. Other questions you should ask/ things you should be aware of

Volunteering Resources

You can find out more information about Volunteering on the Careers website; read about students who have volunteered and been recognised for their contribution, and access resources including:

Use the Careers Online Vacancy Portal: It's free to use and you can search for volunteering roles, part time jobs, graduate jobs, and more!

International Volunteering Handbook: International volunteering is an exciting experience, but it also means hard work far from home so it is vital that you are passionate and enthusiastic about it. Whilst we do not advertise opportunities abroad on our online vacancy pages, if you are considering volunteering overseas we would recommend that you read our Volunteering Abroad Handbook.

Volunteering From Home resource - Information about how you can get involved with volunteering opportunities from the comfort of your own home.

Volunteer Award - Information on how to register and log your hours towards the Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Awards.

Subject Specific Volunteering Resources - Information on roles linked directly to your course of study. These are available in the Resources section of the website.

Volunteering Advisers

Volunteering Advisers are here to help you in sourcing and applying for volunteering roles. EHU students can book an appointment with Volunteering Advisers to discuss what you are looking for, the opportunities available locally, and to research what's available further afield within the UK. Careers also support alumni for 3 years after graduation.

Once you have found an opportunity Advisers can help you in the application process by checking and giving feedback on application forms or CV's. You can contact us using the Ask A Question service.

Volunteering Advisers invite organisations onto campus throughout the academic year to events to promote the opportunities available, and to deliver information sessions to find out more about the work they carry out. Find out more through the Events and Workshops sections of the Careers website


Thank you for your interest in Volunteering. Your contribution is valued both by the community and the university.

Just because volunteering is unpaid, it does not mean it has no value! Volunteering will provide you with important skills needed in the work place, and job specific experience needed for the jobs you plan to apply for. Volunteering can also enable you to meet new people, settle in at university, and it can be personally rewarding and enjoyable. Volunteering can have a huge impact on you, those around you, and the wider community.

Volunteering does not include university placements, or work experience undertaken as a compulsory or accredited component of your studies. Volunteering by definition is voluntary, an activity that is taking place outside of and additional to your studies - by your choice, without financial award. This might involve hours spent with third sector organisations (charities or not for profit organisations) and some public sector roles. It can be micro-volunteering, a one off event, short term, or a longer term commitment. The first point of call is the Careers free online vacancy portal, but if you cannot find a role to suit you here - get in touch. The charitable sector can be a source of placement/internships; the Careers website provides more information about Placement, Internships and Insight Days and you will be able to gain more information through your department.

We suggest you volunteer for no more that 16 hours a week (in combination with part time work if you are in employment.) Commitment tends to vary from role to role.

The aim of this booklet is to give you all the information you need about volunteering and answer any questions you may have.

Many thanks,

Jennie Owen and Helen Rimmer - Volunteering Advisers

Reasons to Volunteer

  • To develop job specific skills, plus generic skills needed in the work place
  • To complete the Volunteering Award
  • To make your CV stand out
  • To give something back and make a difference
  • To get to know your community
  • To access accredited training opportunities
  • To gain an insight into possible future career paths
  • To meet new people and make friends
  • To build confidence
  • To allow you to apply for scholarships and the Careers Volunteer of the Year Award
  • To network and make new contacts
  • To have fun!

Rewards for Volunteering

The Volunteer Award - Log your volunteering hours towards a university recognised certificate at Bronze (25 hours), Silver (50 hours), Gold (100 hours), or Platinum Levels (150+ hours)

Be eligible for Volunteer of the Year nominations, at our annual Careers Celebration Event. (You can nominate organisations for Voluntary Organisation of the Year too!)

Apply for an Edge Hill University Scholarship. Excellence Scholarships include a Volunteering and Citizenship category.

That warm fuzzy feeling you get from doing something positive for the community!

Questions to ask yourself first

  • How much time have I got to give?
  • Can I volunteer regularly?
  • Would I be able to fit short term opportunities in more easily?

Do not over commit yourself, it's better to start with a few hours and increase them than to find out you can't continue.

What sort of roles are available?

There are a wide range of roles available (there is usually something for everyone!) You might consider:

  • Volunteering with children
  • Roles in heritage and the arts
  • Supporting vulnerable adults
  • Opportunities to gain experience in conservation or with animals
  • Volunteering with offenders, victims of crime, or the police service
  • Roles related to sports, health, well being and nutrition
  • Opportunities in marketing, retail, PR or media
  • Web design or IT related roles
  • Volunteer trustees to support charities by overseeing the administration/management of an organisation

...or many more areas

Start by searching for a vacancy on the free Vacancy Portal. If you cannot find a role to suit you, make an appointment with a Volunteering Adviser, or contact us on Ask a Question.

A note on Micro-volunteering/ Volunteering from Home

Micro-volunteering allows you to engage with short term volunteering roles with the flexibility to volunteer when you want, to commit to projects that can often be undertaken from home. These opportunities to gain experience have been particularly popular during the recent pandemic. We have produced the Volunteering from Home resource, which is a helpful starting point.

It is important to recognise that as the turnover of these types of opportunities can be quick, the university will not have direct links with many of these organisations listed. This means they are not signed up to our volunteering terms and conditions. You should only volunteer with reputable organisations. It is your responsibility to research roles before you make a commitment, however the Volunteering Advisers are here to support you in finding the right role for you.

Things to consider:

  1. Will this role make a difference and provide me with useful experience?
  2. Will this role incur expenses? (For example how are telephone calls paid for in roles such as telephone befriending?)
  3. How are my personal details used? (Be wary of disclosing personal details and ensure any information provided is necessary and dealt with securely by the organisation.)
  4. What support will I receive? What happens if there is a problem? Is there a point of contact?
  5. Has this role replaced a paid position? Does this feel as though it should be paid role? Is the organisation not for profit? (A charity, a small community not for profit enterprise, public sector?)
  6. If I am interested in the Volunteering Award, is it still possible to track my hours?
  7. If I am asked to download software, is this safe?
  8. Does this role allow me to follow any current social distancing guidelines?
  9. Is there a risk assessment in place? Is there a volunteering policy? Is there insurance where necessary?

If you have any queries about short term opportunities, please contact a Volunteering Adviser via the Careers website.

Volunteering Policies and Procedures

Equality and Diversity: We seek to support all students and members of staff in finding volunteering and to make opportunities and practices accessible for everyone. We aim to ensure that all volunteers are able to carry out their activities in an environment free from all forms of discrimination. However if you experience any concerns please come and see us. We expect all our students and staff to promote equality of opportunity in their volunteering.

Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults: Many volunteering opportunities involve work with children and vulnerable adults. If your role will involve close contact with children or vulnerable adults it is likely that you will require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check in order to safeguard vulnerable clients, and you as a volunteer. The organisation you are volunteering with should let you know if a DBS check is required, and if it is, should apply for it on your behalf. If you have a DBS check as part of your university course, and have registered for the DBS update service, some organisations will be able to accept this rather than submit a further check. If an organisation is unable to fund the DBS check this should be stated clearly on the advert, or at the first point of contact.

Health & Safety and Insurance: It is important when you start a volunteering relationship, that you familiarise yourself with the organisation’s Health & Safety guidelines and procedures. You must ensure that you adhere to these during your time with them.

Even though it is the responsibility of the organisation you volunteer for to provide appropriate insurance, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that the organisation has employer and public liability insurance, or equivalent, which covers volunteers.

The health, safety and well-being of our students and staff are of fundamental importance. The organisation you volunteer with has the following responsibilities:

1. To insure you for the volunteering activities you undertake

2. To complete a Risk Assessment covering the activity, which is regularly updated.

3. To give you an induction so that you are fully aware of what the task entails and what action to take if something goes wrong.

In order to help the organisation promote your Health & Safety:

1. If you spot something which you consider to be a risk, do not assume someone knows about. It is your responsibility to report it and check that something is done to address the problem.

2. If you have a medical condition, or additional support needs, speak in confidence with the person supervising your volunteering

3. Ensure you have read and understood risk assessments relating to the activities you are being asked to carry out.

4. Do not feel pressured to do something you consider to be unsafe. We will always support you in such a situation.

Confidentiality: Whilst volunteering, you are expected to hold in confidence all matters that come to your attention. Information must not be divulged to any other person or agency without consent of the service user. The only exception is where there is a clear evidence of serious danger to the services user, or someone else, or if a child or vulnerable person tells you they are being harmed in any way. We expect the organisation to provide adequate guidance and training regarding the possible disclosure of abuse. You should follow the policy the voluntary organisation has on confidentiality, and data protection.

Complaints/ Grievance Procedure and Code of Practice: The organisation you work with should have a complaints procedure. If you have any complaints against any host organisation, we ask that you follow that organisation’s standard complaint procedure. Please contact the Volunteering Advisers, so that we are aware of what is happening, and we can support you. You must adhere to the Code(s) of Practice the volunteering organisation has in place


You are encouraged to claim back your travel expenses from the organisation; and you should discuss this with them from the start. Normally to claim back your expenses you need to keep your receipts and have a signed record of your volunteering.

It is important to bear in mind that not all organisations can offer you this support. In which case you may be eligible to apply for funding from the Student Opportunity Fund.

Other points to remember

Most volunteering opportunities ask for an application form. This should be filled in with as much thought and detail as you would a paid role as many roles are very competitive! Volunteering Advisers are happy to look at drafts of application forms and provide helpful feedback. These can be sent to us using the Ask a Question option on the Careers Website.

Some sectors do not traditionally take volunteers, this can be for a number of good reasons, and Careers are careful not to advertise roles that should be offered as paid opportunities. If you are looking for specific experiences, e.g. to support a charity gaining experience within their Human Resources department, you may want to contact an organisation directly to ask if they can offer the type of voluntary experience you are looking for. This can be an added challenge, but Volunteering Advisers can offer support you in how to make a professional first contact, use your existing links, create an effective CV and covering letter, and also give advice on following up if you do not get a response. It may be you need to contact a variety of organisations to secure experience, or that you need to reconsider other more established volunteering roles related to the area to wish to eventually work in.

However you source your volunteering experience - you are an ambassador for the university. Your actions reflect not only you, but the university as a whole.

If your personal circumstances change, you are experiencing difficulties in a role, or can no longer commit - let your supervisor know. They will usually be very understanding of the challenges students face balancing responsibilities - in particular study commitments; and they may be able to offer guidance and support. Voluntary organisations often rely on volunteers - if you unintentionally let them down without making them aware of these changes in circumstance, it may have an ongoing impact to the service they offer and the likelihood of their offering similar roles to students in the future. It may also impact on your being able to use them for a reference for graduate employment.

Volunteering roles should not replace paid roles. If you have been offered a volunteering position that you think might fit into this category - contact us for more advice.

Organisations vary and so might the length of time it takes to get a response. Some organisations will respond immediately, others may only recruit once or twice a year. Volunteering Advisers are happy to advise here and support in following up applications where necessary. You may find cut off dates on the vacancy service seem far off, this is usually because the organisation is continually recruiting throughout the year, rather than an indication that you will have to wait a long time for a response.

Please ensure that you follow all appropriate current Covid guidance.

The Volunteering Advisers run a brokerage service, which means we have links with a variety of organisations and can make suggestions as to where you might gain experience. However, it is your responsibility to research any role and ensure policies and procedures are in place. We are here to support you, so please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Further checks you can make

All official charities are registered and should have a charity number (usually displayed on their website). You can search for charities by name or number on the Charity Commission Website.

You may also consider volunteering for a Community Interest Company. A CIC is usually non-profit and exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders. You can search for check the status of a CIC here.

Roles are also often advertised in the Public Sector. This might include opportunities in schools, libraries, the NHS, or the Police for example.

Volunteering roles should not replace paid roles. If you have been offered an unpaid position that you think might fit into this category, or are concerned about the reputation of an organisation you are considering volunteering with - contact us for more advice.

Ready to get started?

Thank you for making a difference!


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