29 June 2006
by Ingrid Marson
Every year I make a New Year's resolution to start doing volunteer work. Yet at the end of every year I realise that I still haven't organised anything. My main problem is that it's so time-consuming to organise volunteer work that I've always ended up giving up in frustration.
There's plenty of information online about volunteer opportunities, but to organise it you need to leave the comfort and convenience of the digital world -- phone calls, letters and face-to-face visits are still the modus operandi for most volunteer organisations.
One of the most useful Web sites for finding out about volunteering opportunities in the UK is do-it.org.uk, which lets you search for volunteering opportunities by location, category and your availability. But once you find something, you have to apply and wait for an email or letter from the volunteer bureau or organisation, and then make multiple phone calls or visits to arrange it.
I applied for a couple of volunteer opportunities through the Web site last year, but after making five or six unsuccessful phone calls where I was told the volunteer co-ordinator wasn't there or that the project was on hold, I simply gave up. With many charities crying out for volunteers, it's a shame that keen but disorganised people like me are slipping through the net.
Outside the UK things are easier. For example, New York Cares lets you book yourself in for volunteer sessions online. You can see online whether projects still need volunteers and you don't have to make any phone calls to check. The only times you need to step outside the digital world is to attend an initial orientation session (which you can book online) and obviously the volunteering itself. It also suits the casual volunteer as you can sign up to one-off volunteer activities.
Hopefully, in the next few years, as charities in the UK become more Internet-aware, someone will set up a similar site. In the meantime, I've got to go -- I've got a few more charities I want to call...