What is volunteering?

Volunteering is where you offer your time and skills for free to a charity, organisation or an individual who is not a member of your family or a friend.

Volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience. Not only will you be giving your time to doing something useful, you can meet new people, learn new skills and hopefully have fun as well!

There are many opportunities for you to volunteer; you just need to decide what’s right for you. Around 5 million people over the age of 50 participate in voluntary work, and many organisations rely on older volunteers for their knowledge and their experience.

Benefits of volunteering

There are many benefits to becoming a volunteer, including:

  • Learning a new skill or putting existing skills to good use  Many organisations could benefit from your existing knowledge and experience and it’s always useful to learn new skills.
  • Meeting new people  By volunteering you can meet like-minded people of all ages and make new friends.
  • Gaining valuable experience  If you are looking to get back into paid work or maybe to change your career, volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience in your chosen field.
  • Occupying your time and getting out of the house  Having something to occupy your time can improve your mental health and keep you busy, particularly if you are feeling lonely or isolated.
  • Contributing to a good cause  Volunteering for a good cause, for example for your favourite charity, is a great way of contributing to your local community and will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a difference.
  • Improving patient treatments and outcomes  you can make a difference by talking about your medical condition; contributing to patient involvement groups for Trusts.
  • Helping you to adjust to retirement Many people find it difficult to adjust to retirement, and taking on voluntary work can be an excellent way of coping with this. It will keep you occupied, without having the pressures of paid work.
  • Helping you to overcome bereavement  If you are going through bereavement, it can be a very difficult and lonely time. Volunteering can help to take your mind off things and is a great way to meet other people who may be in a similar situation.
  • Building confidence If you have been out of work or retired for some time, you may find that you are lacking confidence in your skills and abilities. Volunteering can help to restore this, when you see the difference that you can make.
  • Improving you health  Research has found that volunteering gives people a sense of wellbeing, a stronger immune system and even a speedier recovery from surgery!

Things to think about before volunteering

Before you decide to volunteer you might like to think about the following:

  • What you would enjoy – Is there a cause that you’re particularly passionate about, or perhaps a group of people you enjoy working with? Do you have any specific skills that you want to put to good use? Would you prefer an office-based role or an active outdoors activity?
  • Making a commitment – Some organisations take on volunteers on a very casual basis, whilst others need someone who can give their time on a more structured basis. Think about the amount of time that you can spare before deciding on a role that will suit you.
  • Achieving your aims – If you are thinking about volunteering to improve your career prospects or to learn a new skill, you should think carefully about whether the role will fulfil your expectations. It is important to explain to your chosen organisation what you hope to gain from volunteering with them.
  • Welfare benefits – You can volunteer for as many hours as you want, as long as you don’t get paid beyond expenses and you are available for interview within 48 hours. The old rule that you could only volunteer for 16 hours a week no longer applies, however you should Always check with your personal adviser before you start volunteering.

Volunteer roles

There are a huge range of volunteering opportunities to try such as:

  • administration
  • Trustee of a charity or voluntary group
  • animal welfare
  • befriending
  • campaigning
  • health and public health research
  • community driver
  • fundraising
  • Park Run and fitness
  • NHS services directly or through associated charities
  • youth work
  • sharing public health messages

How to find a volunteer role

When you know what type of volunteer role you would like to do, or the organisation you want to volunteer with you can look for a role. Contact the:

Your local Volunteer Centre

Volunteer Centre Newcastle is a free service for anyone interested in volunteering. They offer:

  • a wide range of volunteer roles across Newcastle and the wider region
  • supporting volunteers in identifying suitable roles based on their interests, aspirations and availability
  • training on good practice in volunteer management
  • support to organisations in writing volunteer policies, risk assessments, and role descriptions etc.

Volunteering Matters run Volunteer Centre Newcastle. Volunteering Matters brings people together as volunteers to help with challenging problems in communities and support local people.

Volunteer Passport

The Volunteer Passport scheme is ran by Volunteer Centre Newcastle

The Volunteer Passport (VP) means you go through one application and training process. Then you can volunteer for a wide range of different roles and organisations. The volunteer roles you can choose from are suited to your availability, skillset and interests. Helping to find the right role for you. Watch the video below for more information


Local volunteer opportunities

Health and care research

Research improves the health and social care provided by the NHS and others. Advancing medicine to find new cures and better treatments for future generations. It also helps to improve diagnosis, prevention and quality of life for everyone. In some cases it can change lives, or even save lives.

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria work to improve health and care outcomes for the people of the North East and North Cumbria through research. There are lots of ways to get involved in their health and care research. Patients, carers and the public can get involved in:

  • giving your thoughts and opinions
  • helping develop research materials
  • identifying new research topics that are relevant to patients, carers and members of the public
  • making sure that researchers ask the right questions in a way that the public understand

NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre: Newcastle is where you can learn about and take part in clinical research studies. Their research facility in the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Fenham is where you can take part in a research study, including video consultations and virtual trials (where you don’t need to attend in person). Parking is available. Find out what studies you can get involved with on their website.

Research+Me is the NHIR online research registry. Register to get involved in research. They will only contact you if there is a study that you are eligible for. Some research studies need healthy volunteers and others are for people with specific medical conditions, so anyone over 18 years old can sign up.

The NHIR is part of The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

NIHR BioResource is where you can donate a blood sample and get matched into research studies based on variations in your DNA, health and lifestyle information, your age, gender or ethnicity.

Voice is an organisation that supports a range of health and technology research activities and requires volunteers who have an interest in ageing.

PaCT Lab at Northumbria University are interested in understanding how people use technology and have a special interest in how older users engage with e-health technologies, cyber security systems, and digital privacy controls.

Hospital volunteering

There are lots of different volunteer roles in hospitals such as: helping in a shop, welcoming patients, fundraising and more. There are roles available at:

Dementia related research

  • NE-DeNDRoN is a local network of clinicians who conduct research into dementia and other related conditions
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK want to find a cure and identify which diseases lead to dementia
  • Join Dementia Research offers you the opportunity to be matched with a research/study connecting you to researchers both online and face to face. You don’t have to have dementia to take part.

Lots of charities are looking for people to support their research.  From Parkinson’s UK to the MND Association, Versus Arthritis to Blood Cancer UK.   Get in touch if you want to help.

Community participation

Community Champions help share correct and up to date public health messages and vaccines.

Take up a volunteering challenge for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (for instance the Late Shows in May)

You can become a Volunteer Ranger and help manage any of the city’s local parks and nature reserves.

Keep fit and active whilst helping older people through GoodGym.

Timebanking UK and Time Exchange are timebanking organisations where you volunteer your time to help someone in return for someone volunteering their time to help you with something.

Rest Less  is a digital community that aims to inspire today’s generation of over 50s and 60s to get the most from life – focusing on work, financial wellbeing, learning, volunteering, lifestyle and more.  You can search for a volunteering role on their website.

onHand is a volunteer-matching platform, and they are offering their services to people needing help with simple tasks in the North East.

HostNation is a befriending scheme which is looking for local people to buddy up with refugees or asylum seekers living in Newcastle and Gateshead.

National Council for Voluntary Organisations is the national volunteering agency and offers information and advice on volunteering.

Search is a local charity that involves volunteers aged 18+ with its work supporting older people to lead happier and healthier lives’

Last updated: November 17, 2023