Frequently Asked Questions

What is volunteering?

Volunteering can be described in many different ways; lending a hand, giving something back, making a difference, being a good citizen or neighbour, helping out.  It doesn’t really matter how you phrase it.  Volunteering England part of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations describes volunteering as...

"any activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives. Central to this definition is the fact that volunteering must be a choice freely made by each individual.  This can include formal activity undertaken through public, private and voluntary organisations as well as informal community participation and social action. Everyone has the right to volunteer and volunteering can have significant benefits for individuals."

What do volunteers do?

Volunteers can get involved in a huge range of activities. We have over 400 opportunities listed on our database. For example you could help with conservation and gardening, business administration, PR and media or social issues and caring.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

As well as helping to make a difference to organisations and individuals that need volunteers there are lots of other benefits to volunteering:

  • The opportunity to meet new people and develop new friendships
  • The chance to build new skills
  • An opportunity to share existing skills and knowledge
  • To improve your CV and obtain a reference
  • To improve your health and wellbeing
  • Increase confidence
  • To get involved and contribute to your local community
  • To have fun

Who can volunteer?

Voluntary Action Coventry believes that everyone should be able to volunteer and will work with individuals to identify a suitable placement.

Inclusive Volunteering – we will work with other specialist agencies to support people with extra support needs such as learning difficulties, physical disabilities, mental health issues to find a suitable volunteering role.

Young people – we endeavor to meet the needs of young people that want to volunteer, however due to the nature of activity undertaken by some organisations, the clients they work with and the requirements of their insurance companies we acknowledge that not every opportunity will be suitable for under 18’s.

If you are under 18 and want to volunteer please get in touch as we do know of lots of organisations that involve young people as volunteers.

Asylum seekers and refugees

Volunteering is a great way for refugees and asylum seekers to gain new skills, meet new people and connect with new communities.  In general most refugees and asylum seekers can volunteer however there are certain conditions that guide the types of organisations where asylum seekers can volunteer.  For the latest guidance it is advisable to visit https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration

Claiming welfare benefits and volunteering

JobCentre Plus and other employment agencies recognise that volunteering provides opportunities that can enhance a person’s chances of moving into paid employment, such as; practical experience, opportunities to learn new skills and keep existing knowledge up-to-date, access to training as well as references.

Voluntary Action Coventry advises anyone who is considering volunteering and claiming welfare benefits to let their advisor know as soon as possible to ensure that the voluntary role complies with JobCentre Plus requirements.

What to expect when volunteering

Most organisations will offer you an interview, where you can have an informal chat about the volunteering role and talk about what you hope to give/gain from the experience.  The organisation might provide a tour around the buildings or areas where your volunteering activity will take place.  This is your opportunity to ask any questions that will help you to decide if this is the right placement for you.

When you start volunteering you should expect:

  • To have your out of pocket expenses reimbursed i.e. your travel costs to and from the place of volunteering 
  • To be informed of the organisations policies and procedures i.e. what to do if the fire alarm goes off, how to raise a concern etc.
  • To be covered by the organisation’s insurance policies
  • To be provided with suitable equipment/clothing to undertake the role.
  • To receive support and supervision and to know who to ask for help and advice.
  • Any training that is essential to ensuring you can fulfil the role.
  • To feel part of the organisation and to have your views listened to

How can volunteering make a difference to my health?

Nationally and internationally studies have been undertaken that show how volunteering can make a difference to the health and wellbeing of those that volunteer. 

A report from Volunteering England indicates that volunteering has a positive effect on volunteers health, it can impact on their:

  • longevity
  • ability to carry out activities associated with daily living
  • ability to cope with their own ill-health
  • adoption of healthy lifestyles and practices such as HIV prevention behaviours and healthy levels of drinking
  • family relationships
  • quality of life
  • social support and interaction
  • self-esteem and sense of purpose
  • view of their own health

The review has also shown that volunteering reduces the incidence of:

  • depression
  • stress
  • hospitalisation
  • pain
  • psychological distress.

(Source: Volunteering England)

Further research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are the most likely to receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.

How can volunteering make a difference to my life?

Below are two case studies of young people whose volunteering experience made a difference to their lives.


Matthew Berry is a young person and lives in Coventry; he explains how volunteering helped him and set him onto the path of a new career.

Volunteering changed my life

"I was previously unemployed for quite a long period of time. I had very little confidence, no self-esteem, and a lot of self doubt. I was trying to find work, but I only heard back from around one in ten companies.

I had an interview for the Business and Administration Apprenticeship at Voluntary Action Coventry. I did lots of preparation but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. However, they told me they really liked me and asked me if I wanted to do any volunteering. I thought this could be my chance.

I started at VAC's Pop-Up Shop and I was there every day for about a month. When the Apprenticeship at the Job Shop came up, I realised I already had the skills; this made the application and the interview seem super-easy. I had more confidence, things were already in my mind and I was able to give current examples.

I was offered the position at the Job Shop and it was amazing.I've come so far and I want to keep going."


I really enjoyed it! 

"My name is Casey, I'm a secondary school student, and I spent a couple of days during February Half Term volunteering. It was part of Coventry 4 Good's Paint it Pink project, when members of the public and volunteers helped to make artworks with painted hearts and messages about love, support and friendship.

It was really fun to mix up the paints, choose what to do with them and see how I could actually create something. It was good having lots of people's ideas all together in one piece of work. I hadn't really done anything like this before.

In the future I plan to take a biology degree and I hope to become a GP; I enjoy the sciences but I like looking for arty ideas and trying things out!"