Volunteering is truly an opportunity for incredible change. A change for those in need, and a change for those helping them. It is an opportunity to create a meaningful impact across the nation – or across the globe, assisting charities and communities alike.

When you volunteer, as well as creating a powerful difference in the lives of those that need it most, it’s important to remember that you’re also going to be making a positive change in your own life – meeting new people, learning valuable new skills and even exposing yourself to new cultures. These are all hugely helpful to boost not only your career, but to open up new opportunities that otherwise you may not have even considered.

Volunteering can of course be daunting when you don’t know where to start – and it’s because of this that many of us find excuses that ultimately prevent us from experiencing these incredibly valuable opportunities.

So, with this in mind – and with International Volunteer Day less than a month away now, we thought this would be the perfect time to tackle some of the common excuses that stop people from volunteering head on, because really, that’s the only way to face them!

1. ‘I don’t know where to start’

There is a huge amount of volunteering opportunities across the UK – let alone the world, so it can be a pretty overwhelming task to try and find out what you can do and where!

First things first, decide what you want to do – for example, you may want to volunteer with animals. Remember it’s important to think about why you want to do a certain kind of volunteering too, as this can be really useful in guiding your choices and ensuring you find an opportunity that you are truly passionate about.

You might even have some experience that may be relevant from a course you’re studying, or from your day-to-day job. This can really help to narrow things down, as you may be looking for a more hands-on volunteering experience, or wanting to help increase a charity’s exposure through assisting with their marketing and PR activity for example.

Once you’ve created a manageable list of volunteering opportunities you would like to do, you then need to focus on where you want to do it. For example you may want to volunteer with animals locally, such as with the RSPCA, or you may want to work with endangered animals abroad with an organisation such as us!

Once you have all this information it’s time to start looking – websites such as Do-it.org or NCVO.org.uk are helpful, and you can also use LinkedIn too! Many colleges and universities work with carefully selected organisations to provide the best experiences possible for their students – ones which are often offered as valuable course work experience, so don’t forget to talk to your teacher or lecturer to see what’s on offer.

2. ‘I don’t have the time’

We all lead busy lives between work, family, friends and all of the commitments that come with them. However the phrase ‘I’m too busy’ can often just be a mindset where we feel so overwhelmed by what we’re currently facing, that we just end up creating excuses so as to prevent us from having to deal with anything else.

Put simply, a lack of time doesn’t have to stop you from volunteering – you can volunteer as much or as little as you like, from a few hours here and there to a few months! Ultimately you decide what works for you and your lifestyle.

Don’t be afraid to mention any additional constraints to the organisation you choose to volunteer with too, in order to avoid creating any unnecessary pressure – charitable organisations understand that many of their volunteers have full time jobs and commitments, so make sure they are flexible in turn.

Don’t forget that volunteering can also be beneficial in reducing the stress in our busy lives. It can be a really valuable outlet to escape from the hustle and bustle of our everyday routines, offering an opportunity for personal development, as well as the chance to turn our attention to something completely new.

3. ‘I don’t have the skills’

Not true! The vast majority of volunteering opportunities simply require you to be friendly, enthusiastic and dependable, so this really is an excuse that you need to forget!

Of course there are some organisations or projects that may require certain skills – for example you may be interested in sports coaching, and therefore require knowledge of football. However, more often than not these are just basic skills which are not unachievable – not to mention a personal dedication and passion is still of fundamental importance.

Never be afraid to apply to a project that you feel you may not meet all the requirements for, just explain what other skills you can bring – the ones that can’t be learnt! What’s the worse that can happen? Many volunteering opportunities do also provide training prior to when you begin, to ensure you can fulfil the role to the best of your abilities, such as if you decide to work with the elderly or vulnerable.

Ultimately, regardless of what you decide to do or where, volunteering is an amazing opportunity to develop your skill set, experience new and challenging environments and meet new people that otherwise you may never have crossed paths with.

4. ‘I don’t have the money’

If you’re hoping to go on an expedition abroad for example and you’re concerned you may not have the funds to do so, it’s time to turn your attention to fundraising.

Much like volunteering, the whole idea of fundraising can also be very intimidating – but it’s all about breaking it down into manageable steps.

Planning is key to ensure your efforts are a success, whether you’re creating a calendar, baking cakes or going on a sponsored run, so make sure that before you embark on any fundraising initiative that you plan everything – then dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘T’s!

Here are just a few quick questions that you need to consider when you’re organising a fundraising initiative to help get you started:

• Is help required to run it?
• Where is it being held?
• Do you have the necessary skills/knowledge?
• Is any special equipment needed?
• How will it be promoted?
• When is it taking place?
• What are the financial risks?
• What is the expected cost/income/profit?
• Do you need insurance/public liability insurance?

To find even more handy information about fundraising, take a look at our very own essential fundraising guide. It’s got everything you’ll need!

5. ‘I am worried about what will happen’

It’s natural to be nervous when you’re embarking upon a new opportunity, just don’t let these nerves get in the way of an incredible new experience.

We know, we know, easier said than done – but think of what you could be missing out on. It’s important to break out of your comfort zone, not just for your own benefit but also for those in need. Any time that volunteers can give makes a meaningful difference, so just think of what could happen if your time was actually spent doing the volunteering, rather than worrying about it!

If you are particularly apprehensive, why not get a friend involved too? Or start with a local charity, before you branch out to something more adventurous!

Here at Gap Africa we find that many friends decide to volunteer together and it really helps to settle any pre-expedition nerves. We’ve found that it encourages friends to push each other to try new experiences too, so volunteering as a group is always something that comes highly recommended from us. It also means you’ll always have someone to take a picture while you’re in action (always handy!) – and once the experience is over, you’ll also have someone to relive the special memories with time and time again.

So there you have it – five excuses that stop you from volunteering, which we hope have now turned into reasons why you should!

If we could say just one last thing, it would be to take a volunteering opportunity while you can, because it may well be something you’ll never be able to experience again. And with that in mind, don’t forget to take a look at our amazing range of sustainable volunteer projects – it could really help to narrow down that search…

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