Getting involved in the community

Since stopping work in 2019 I have spent a lot of time volunteering on community projects, both immediately local and across the Cotswolds. When people come together for a common purpose, and each contributes a small part, there’s no better way to allocate time in my opinion.

There are two broad types of volunteer opportunities within a community:

  • An organisation with paid staff who rely on volunteers to provide parts of the service. For example, a wildlife trust or an care hospice.
  • An organisation consisting entirely of volunteers around a specific mission. For example, a town festival, sports club or performing arts.

The first type requires participation only. The tasks are organised by the staff and all volunteers are required to do is turn up.

The second has two types of volunteers: organisers and participants. Most people prefer not to organise things, so usually the burden falls on a handful of people who are most passionate about that organisation existing.

The easiest way to get involved in community projects is through organisations with volunteer programmes. However, the downside is that these opportunities are mostly during the week, because that’s when the task leader works. So unsurprisingly, the vast majority of volunteers in these groups are people who aren’t in full time employment.

So the pure volunteer groups, solely for community benefit might be worth looking at first, if you are working. One of my community projects is organising an annual walking festival in the town near where I live.  The aim is to promote walking and visitors to the town.

If you wish to get more involved in the local community, you could start by looking at all the events that run in the area where you live.  Could be a music festival, a town parade, a theatre group… Whatever really. Find a cause that you would like to make a difference to.  Get in touch and they’ll welcome you with open arms. 

For something environment related, you could try your local wildlife trust. They will run volunteer habitat management work parties in the winter where you go and improve the environment somewhere.  These are a great way to meet people, learn a new skill and be outdoors.

I wish I had got more involved in volunteering while I was working. I have lived in this area for 20 years, and for fifteen of them I hardly knew it at all. I just drove in and out and all my friends and colleagues were elsewhere. The last five has been a voyage of discovery, and I’m seeing new parts of the community all the time.

A final note though: Don’t over commit. It’s just as easy to burn out through volunteering as it is in your career. There is an annual amnesty day dedicated to allowing you to reflect on what you do, and make adjustments if necessary to keep your contribution enjoyable and sustainable.

This post was inspired by Sara Jakša who asked me a question over email about how to get involved locally.

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