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about us

defining volunteering

Volunteer Edinburgh's mission is to involve more people in volunteering and active citizenship

Our Core Values

Volunteer Edinburgh’s mission is to involve more people in volunteering and active citizenship.  Volunteering is a powerful tool for communities, improving personal well being, building social capital, and for personal development which can improve an individual’s employment prospects.

We believe that there are fundamental principles that must be maintained if volunteering is to thrive.  These principles which are embedded in our core values are that volunteering must always be about freedom of choice, that it must never exploit the volunteer and that volunteers must not directly replace paid staff.

Both these principles, and our other core values, have been developed to ensure that when individuals volunteer they can do so safety, positively and to the benefit of volunteering as a force for good.  All organisation who advertise with us are expected to sign up to our values.

Volunteers are an enormous asset to Edinburgh.  Tens of thousands of people volunteer their skills and time which helps improve life for everyone in our city.  Without volunteers our third sector cannot survive and our public sector would be diminished.  Volunteers are therefore a precious resource and must be valued, championed and engaged in a positive and mutually beneficial way.

How do we define volunteering?

We define volunteering as activity which is undertaken within a structured organisation, normally for a voluntary organisation, social enterprise or public sector organisation.  It is unpaid and is done by free choice and without any compulsion.  In our context, both as an organisation who involves volunteers and as a volunteering infrastructure organisation we define volunteering as an ongoing part-time activity, while recognizing that one off “event” volunteering is also something that we support.

Informal volunteering is also part of the volunteering family.  This social activism is a vital and valuable part of our society.  It is often organic, driven by cause, need or community of interest.  Those involved in this type of activity often do not define themselves as volunteers.  We would define this under the broad heading of “active citizenship”.  As active citizenship is often self-selective we do not normally recruit people for this type of activity.

Volunteering is a broad church and we recognise that volunteering in other contexts includes one off (such as a fund raising event or festival volunteering), remote ad hoc activity (often called micro-volunteering) and in some circumstances full time volunteering, such as volunteering overseas.  Although we sign post to such activities we do not normally advertise this type of volunteering.

For clarity by “part time” we mean activity which is typically done weekly and for anything up to 20 hours per week.  Where a Volunteer Involving Organisation (VIO) requests to advertise an opportunity with a commitment of more than 20 hours per week we would suggest that they split the role into more realistic blocks of time.

When is volunteering not volunteering?

Volunteering cannot be something that someone is forced or compelled to do and we will not support any programme which compels in any way an individual to “volunteer”.

We also recognise that people can develop skills and experience using methods other than volunteering.  Internships and work experience programmes are also used to develop skill and experience.  We believe it is unhelpful to confuse what constitutes variously volunteering, unpaid work experience or internships.  Sometimes the terms have been used inconsistently and interchangeably and this is damaging to true volunteering.

Internships, that is work experience linked to ongoing or recently completed formal learning, is not something that we advertise.

What can I do if I am concerned about a volunteering opportunity?

Volunteer Edinburgh cannot police volunteering.  We can however offer guidance and support to volunteers and volunteer involving organisations which can often help find solutions to problems.  If you are volunteering and are concerned about any aspect of your volunteering the first thing to do is talk with the organisations that you volunteer for.  If having done that you feel you need additional support you can contact us and we will try to help.  If your concerns are about an opportunity being advertised on our website please contact us and let is know so that we can investigate.