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Gift your talent and creativity by volunteering


Rebecca Kennelly

Director of Volunteering, Royal Voluntary Service

Volunteering can be a great way to stay active and connected with your community, but volunteers are not only able to offer support; they can also lead, manage, direct and show the way.

To volunteer one’s time is perhaps the most generous gift you can give: it is the gift of yourself. But, in recent years, volunteering opportunities have become increasingly structured with volunteers being asked to support the activity either after it has been completed or in set roles. We believe volunteers need space to express something of themselves through their volunteering, rather than simply carrying out a prescribed and pre-designed role.  

Volunteers want to creatively lead community projects

We are seeing an emergence of volunteers who want to be more creative and lead the development of local activities for those in their community, particularly older people. They want to give back, but also want greater control over how that support is exercised.

Many of our volunteers are already leading the way by running activities or groups, or by setting them up from scratch. They are making a huge difference to the lives of thousands of older people each month. We are keen to encourage more of that, whether that’s volunteering with the support of Royal Voluntary Service or another organisation.

More social clubs for older people across the UK

A partnership with Prudential is helping us to develop more social clubs and activities for older people across the country – all run by volunteers, for their community.

From social activities and hobby classes to running a lunch club or providing companionship to older people in their home, we are harnessing the get-up-and-go of all people by encouraging them to put their talents and life experience to valuable use by becoming volunteer coordinators. 

Yoga, walking football, art and singing clubs

Over the last year, we have seen some exciting new groups come to the fore – from yoga in Reading and an art club in Glasgow to walking football in Kent and singing in Falkirk.

Of course, starting a group may seem like a daunting prospect but, with backing and support, people are turning their ideas into reality.

One in five older people eat lunch alone

With research finding one in five older people eat most of their meals alone1, one activity we are particularly focusing on is lunch clubs. Our volunteers run nearly 80 weekly lunch clubs across Britain, which are a lifeline to older people, who would otherwise be eating alone. The clubs offer a chance to make friends, build a support system and help maintain social connection while enjoying a hot meal.

The volunteers who run the clubs – whether they be the volunteer coordinator, the cook, a kitchen assistant or simply there to chat with diners – provide a vital service and dish up over 50,000 meals each year. It is a service that, with volunteer support, we hope to bring to even more villages, towns and cities. 

Volunteering is good for you

Wanting to make a difference and give something back to the community are common reasons people want to volunteer. Of course, voluntary service is highly rewarding, but there are other benefits too.

Volunteering not only does good, it makes you feel good (and live longer), and our volunteers agree. In a 2017 volunteer experience survey of 1,830 of our volunteers, 73% said volunteering had helped them feel healthier.

Volunteer work is also fun. You can get to know some of the most interesting people in your neighbourhood, building friendships and enjoying others company.

All things are possible

The gift of voluntary service is one anyone can make, and everyone should believe they have the opportunity to give. To make it easier, we have recently opened up our lunch clubs and community centres to the children and grandchildren of volunteers to enable a broader range of people to give support and bring a new richness to those services.

The potential for volunteering to positively impact society is enormous and it is our belief that volunteers can do anything.

1 The research was an online survey of 1,004 respondents aged 70+ who were surveyed between 11.10.2018 – 12.10.2018 by Censuswide

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