YouthNet staff volunteering – Radio Lollipop

Charity world News Volunteering Working at YouthNet YouthNet

As YouthNet runs Do-it, is a proud holder of the Investing in Volunteers kite mark and is reliant on our own volunteers it’s not surprising that we offer staff volunteering leave.

My colleague Laura and I took advantage of this on Wednesday to go and help out with the Great Ormond Street and Radio Lollipop‘s Rockin’ Reindeer Christmas parties. Usually we volunteer for Radio Lollipop in Great Ormond Street on a Wednesday evening. We spend two hours after work each week visiting and playing with children on the wards, while other volunteers run a radio show. The children can request songs and enter competitions on different themes each week.

At Christmas, there’s lots more than usual going on. A couple of Saturdays before, we both helped out at a Tin Pan Annie concert (fundraising for Radio Lollipop) where we dressed up as a snowflake and a reindeer, waved at and danced with kids during songs – then shook buckets at the end.

The Rockin’ Reindeer Christmas parties were held over two days, two on Wednesday and two on Thursday, each for an hour and a half. We were both helping on Wednesday afternoon and we spent the parties running a craft table where children who were at the hospital at the moment, or had been in 2011, could do some sticking, gluing, colouring and, in this picture, making reindeer out of playdough. We also did some celeb spotting, spying the Weasley twins, Tess Daley, the Radio 1 crew, a Santa Claus who sounded suspiciously like Boris Johnson and a number of stormtroopers (do they count as celebs!).

For Christmas volunteering opportunities, check out our article on Christmas volunteering. But of course, volunteering isn’t just for Christmas – so if you’re interested in volunteering in 2012, you know where to go to find an opportunity to suit you – Do-it.

TheSite Leaders low-down 2: workfare programme

News Volunteering Youth

TheSite Leaders have been at it again. Our fortnightly live chats on the Leaders network this week brought us to discussing the Government’s workfare programme with them. The programme is aimed at getting people to volunteer their time in order to be allowed to claim JobSeekers Allowance. We started by asking them what they thought of the programme.

“So….we’re talking 30 hours a week or so – or 53 quid – when a 16-18 year old would earn double that in employment!? What experience do you get from stacking shelves or working at tills?”

“Well, I think it’s a good idea for all the youths who sit around and do nothing but cost society, but they are unlikely to take the work experience placement, so the only people stuck in this would be the ones who are actually trying to gain employment…”

“If the government wants to do something like this, then they should subsidise firms to take on more young people – simple.”

None of the Leaders had heard about these plans before, and that’s possibly because so far the programme is only in its role out stage. So far, it’s been big businesses such as Tesco, Poundland and Sainsbury’s who have taken up the programme.

Are programmes like this going to discourage young people from taking up volunteering altogether if they feel that working at Tesco for free is what volunteering is? One of our Leaders thought:

“I can see the point. But I feel it won’t discourage people from volunteering – there’s a difference between choosing to volunteer and having to volunteer”

It’s important that the voluntary youth sector has a big input into the Government’s work policy for young people because it’s in the sector’s interest to promote the interests of young people and also to have skilled young volunteers who are passionate about their organisations.

We finished the chat with a consultation on some redesigns for one of our websites – this is how volunteering should look; young people who want to share their skills and ideas. Long may it continue.

From unemployment to volunteering to employment…

News Volunteering Working at YouthNet

During those dark dreary, post-University days that move so slowly through the Autumn and Winter that I, like so many others thought to myself, “Where have all my friends gone?”, “What am I doing?” and “Was all that money really worth it?” I was bored and unemployed. I left University and searched for a job for months and was ultimately left demoralised and unsuccessful. The abstract thoughts of working were too much for a brain and body that was rarely up before 10am. I needed to do something.

So, as I am now so accustomed to, I searched Do-it, YouthNet’s volunteering website, for volunteering opportunities in my local area, and thus a new journey began. I got in touch with the local Youth Action Team and swiftly joined; motivated by communication, drive and possibilities, it was exciting. Here I spent time working in a team of other young people, putting together events, fundraising, sharing ideas and occasionally going to the pub. What a life!

A fellow Youth Action Team member was living away from home and volunteering full time with CSV, this sounded intriguing. I wanted to move out, but couldn’t get a job; yeah a full fridge is brilliant but a life away from home is better. I knew that volunteering full time for a year would give me the skills and experience to move forward and hopefully never lie on the sofa, slouched like a dying bear at 2:20 in the afternoon watching Come Dine With Me…again.

So it was that I too applied for the CSV role, a role which could send me anywhere in the UK, possibly supporting people with disabilities or working in a school, it could have been anything, but at least it was something. Find out more about residential opportunities here.

Thankfully I was accepted, and asked to come to work in CSV’s London offices. I was given the scope for an intergenerational project called Young at Heart that links 16-25 year olds with older members of the community. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d never worked in an office before and had been given this fantastic project that would build community links around Camden and Islington and got to live in London for the first time as well!

Through volunteering full time I learned so many basic skills that I simply hadn’t at University. Whilst it was a vital experience, managing your time at University isn’t a priority – if anything, I had too much time to know what to do with – now I had to plan, organise and manage. I arranged events, gave presentations about volunteering to young people, developed skills and was on interview panels. I even started writing a blog for Do-it about my experiences.

It felt like I was finally getting somewhere! I was gaining confidence, I understood what a charity did and how important the work of its employees is to achieving that aim. I worked with brilliant young people who could talk and engage with older people whether we were designing World Cup mascots or  creating film posters.

These experiences carried on throughout my one year placement and by the time I left I was sure that I wanted to work for a charity. Now, that might not be the same for everybody, but the surenessof conviction that I found, the pleasure that I got from working in that environment and the skills I learned and the people I met were invaluable, and would be invaluable to any young people struggling to find a job at the moment.

By creating strong links through my volunteering, and also having the back up that a degree reflects I have now been springboarded into a job with YouthNet working on, where I first looked for opportunities, and where I posted opportunities for my volunteering project. It feels like I should perhaps break into a rendition of the ‘Circle of Life’.

Volunteers Week at YouthNet – Thanks to our Live Chat Moderators

News Volunteering Volunteering at YouthNet Youth

Volunteers Week LogoDay two of Volunteers Week and it’s time to recognise another group of YouthNet volunteers – Live Chat Moderators.

Four times a week we open up the chat room on for a two hour group chat session. Three out of those four sessions are run by volunteers and without them the service wouldn’t be as established as it is today. Our volunteers have enabled us to run more chat sessions than ever before and in turn support more and more young people in real time.

Visitors to the chat room can log in anonymously and talk about anything that’s bothering them. Volunteers are kept on their toes by the wide range of issues that come up. These range from the more trivial banter about what’s for dinner and what’s on TV, to serious discussions about mental health issues, relationships or homelessness to mention just a few.

Given that no chat session is the same, our volunteer chat mods need to be extremely adaptable. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is key, as well as building rapport and being able to offer emotional support and signposting to relevant sources of information and advice. 

I’d like to tell you a little bit about each of our amazing chat mods and what they bring to live chat.

Sandra – Since becoming a chat mod Sandra has gone on to be an online peer advisor as well. She’s also an accomplished Soprano and has recently been presenting a local radio show on Insight Radio. Her personality really shines through in chat sessions and she definitely has a way with words. Her chat debriefs are always our favourite email of the week.

Chloe – Chloe has graduated from University and hopes to become a clinical psychologist. Chat has allowed her to gain practical experience in using her skills to help others. Chloe has been able to relate to the people she helps in chat and built up a great rapport with the community.

Kaff – A long time fan of, Kaff uses her wealth of life experience and knowledge of TheSite to keep people coming back. She is a great listener and has an air of the wise old auntie about her 😉 She’s earned a lot of respect from the people that come to her sessions which enables her to diffuse potentially difficult situations with ease.

Wayne – Wayne enjoys a bit of football banter in chat but he’s also equally on the ball when it comes to offering straight talking advice and amazing analogies to put people’s problems into perspective. Wayne is visually impaired and teaches sighted people how to teach visually impaired people how to use computers (quite a mouthful). He’s also currently pursuing another moderating role away from TheSite.

Kimberley – Or is that Kimbers, Kim or Kimbo? Kimberley brings a sense of humour and fun to chat and is rarely lost for words. She’s currently studying to be a Careers Advisor and says herself that chat has become ‘second nature’.  She has recently helped us to create a new and improved training program and will be our first Live Chat Mentor to train a new volunteer.

All of our chat moderators have their own skills and quirks that bring something unique to live chat. Different visitors to chat will find they relate to different moderators and it’s these relationships that encourage people to return to TheSite and get the support that they need.

White paper on giving announces funding for Do-it

Latest news News Volunteering

The Government has announced their White Paper on Giving today, setting out new policies for charitable giving and confirming over £1m of funding for YouthNet’s volunteering database Do-it. The funding will be provided by the Cabinet Office, the Department of Work and Pensions, and the Department of Health over the next two years.

The investment is to ensure that Do-it continues to meet the evolving needs of those wishing to volunteer, as well as opening up access on even more websites and social media platforms. Do-it has always collaborated with a wide range of partners and organisations and will use the funding to open up the database further, hosting the widest choice of volunteering opportunities and enabling individuals to find these more easily across different sites.

YouthNet CEO, Emma Thomas said: “Volunteers play a key role in many UK, national and grass-root organisations and during the continued uncertain financial climate these resources are particularly vital, so it’s great that the potential Do-it has to drive local giving has been recognised through committed government funding.

Do-it makes it easy for existing and a new generation of volunteers to get involved in giving time and, with the continued support we will receive, we will be able to reach out to more potential volunteers by making our online database even more available. This will provide people with more choice and flexibility about how and when they can give their time.”

YouthNet launched Do-it in 2001 and it now hosts around 1 million opportunities to volunteer.

About Do-it

  • Do-it is run by YouthNet and is the UK’s leading volunteering website, home to around 1 million volunteering opportunities.
  • Do-it attracts more than 130,000 unique visitors per month.
  • In March 2011, 1.8 million searches were conducted on Do-it (over 60,000 a day), and Do-it handled more than 62,000 applications for opportunities (that’s one every 44 seconds).
  • YouthNet provides Do-it syndication feeds to other organisations, allowing people who visit their website to find local, relevant opportunities.

Do-it syndication partners

Current partners News

YouthNet syndicates the Do-it service to a number of corporate partners, to help expand and enhance their employee volunteering schemes.

Built in partnership with the Volunteer Centre network, Do-it is the UK’s leading volunteering website. There are over 1.6 million opportunities to volunteer, from major charities such as the National Trust and Oxfam to local voluntary and public sector organisations. Do-it connects people, communities and organisations to inspire positive change.Companies can syndicate (integrate) Do-it’s search facility to their intra- or internet site, meaning your colleagues or website visitors can search for volunteering opportunities without leaving your site.

All the money we receive from these partners in return for their feed goes straight back into the running and continuous improvement of the Do-it service, ensuring that volunteers across the UK can quickly and easily find opportunities which suit them.

Thank you to all our current syndication partners for their support:

• Centrica

• Grant Thornton

• Orange Rockcorps

• Southern Co-operative

• Yell

• Zubed

Case study: Do-it and Centrica

Briana Whitlock tells us how using the power of Do-it has helped Centrica employees get involved in volunteering.

“Our approach is to enable our employees to support the causes they care about through their volunteering activities.   That’s why we’ve developed the Get Involved programme – to help employees who want to participate in volunteering. Get Involved provides toolkits, a calendar of upcoming opportunities and other resources such as the syndication feed.

We believe that by supporting our employees in carrying out volunteering activities, whether during business hours or in their own time, they gain positive feelings about the company and feel more engaged. Volunteering also helps to develop employees’ skills that they can then apply at work.  This is all in addition, of course, to the benefits to the communities our employees are reaching out to.

British Gas, as part of Centrica, also develops specific volunteering programmes with a focus on vulnerable customers, skills and training, and young people.  This is in line with our wider community investment strategy. We work with our key charity partners to develop opportunities that are relevant not only to the beneficiary, but to the employee.

We give our employees two days each year for volunteering during working hours.  For those who are engaged in long-term volunteering, we recognise their efforts by offering a grant of £150 each year to the organisation they support.

The Do-it syndication feed provides our employees with an easily accessible tool to be able to find activities in their local area that fit with their availability and interests.  We have an average of 258 searches each month for opportunities, with 5412 searches in total since we took on the feed in November 2008.  The feed has been a great tool for our employees. The statistics we receive each month inform us of the interest in volunteering throughout the year, which enables us to provide more timely campaigns and relevant opportunities.”


Do-it Volunteer Satisfaction Survey 2010

News Research

Between 12 November 2009 and 5 January 2010, 2,332 registered users of Do-it completed YouthNet’s Volunteer Satisfaction Survey.

  • Almost a quarter (22%) of respondents said they had been inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to volunteer
  • The most popular reasons for volunteering were “to help others” (71%) and “to do something positive with spare time” (71%)
  • Volunteers were most interested in “using volunteering to improve listening and communication skills (55%), interpersonal skills (50%), team working (48%) and problem-solving skills” (45%)
  • The most popular types of opportunity were those involving children (38%), those related to education (38%), followed by health, hospitals or hospices (34%)
  • Nearly half (48%) wanted to get involved in administrative tasks
  • 42% were interested in providing advice, information and support
  • Over a third (39%) would like to get involved in befriending, buddying and mentoring.

Download Do-it Volunteer Satisfaction Report 2009-2010

v – the youth volunteering charity

Current partners News

v exists to champion youth volunteering in England and inspire a new generation of young volunteers aged 16-25.  In July 2008, the Lifetracks consortium (Foyer Federation, Rathbone, Skill and YouthNet) was awarded a grant of £1.48m from the v Match Fund for a three-year programme of work.

Thanks to v and co-funder The Vodafone Foundation, Lifetracks is in the process of recruiting and training 4000 young volunteers over the 2008 – 2011 period, who will inspire a network of peers across England to (re)engage with employment, education and training. Young volunteers have the opportunity to choose from a range of roles, including:

  • Peer mentors – who will support young people who are offending or at risk of offending through Rathbone’s Engagement Teams;
  • Ambassadors – who will use their experiences of homelessness to mentor and coach young people across the Foyer Federation network;
  • Virtual Volunteers – who will create audio, video and written advice for the Lifetracks website;
  • Community Champions – who will campaign for change in support services offered in their local area.

The programme also focuses on removing barriers to volunteering for young people; Skill support and empower disabled young people to volunteer by working directly with 100 volunteer-involving organisations.

v and The Vodafone Foundation have enabled the Lifetracks consortium to bring together a truly diverse range of volunteering opportunities. The programme will engage young people from a range of backgrounds and give them the opportunity to use new technology, mentoring, campaigning and advocacy to support their peers.

Terry Ryall, Chief Executive, v, says:

“v is delighted to be able to provide financial support to Lifetracks through our Match Fund programme for this project which will inspire young people to volunteer across England.”

v is an independent charity using an innovative new model which allows funds raised from the private sector to be matched by the Government. Up to £50 million has been allocated by the Government for this purpose. v wants to enable a lasting change in the quality, quantity and diversity of youth volunteering.

BAA Communities Trust and the Do-it Tour

Current partners News

What is the project about?

In 2008 the BAA Communities Trust generously donated £55,000 to YouthNet, to fund the London region of the Do-it Tour.

Launched in 2000, Do-it is the most diverse and comprehensive national database of volunteering opportunities in the UK. The opportunities are provided by over 350 Volunteer Centres in England and more than 200 national and regional charities throughout the UK.

With BAA’s support the Do-it Tour will train volunteer-involving organisations on YouthNet’s new volunteer management software, V-Base 3.0. This sophisticated technology provides simple systems and tools to support volunteer-involving organisations and brokers of volunteering in recruiting and placing volunteers.

What do we aim to achieve from the partnership?

To ensure that they get the very best from Do-it’s software, YouthNet’s partners crucially require training and ongoing technical support to guarantee that they are giving volunteers the best possible experience. Some 240 volunteer-involving organisations (volunteer centres as well as local and national charities) from London and the South East will be trained by YouthNet on how to use the new software, ensuring that Do-it remains the key website for volunteering.

Caroline Nicholls, Director, BAA Communities Trust says:

“Through  our  partnership  we aim to help many organisations local to our airports build on their capacity to attract the extra support they need by  inspiring  more  people  to  volunteer their time and skills.”

BBC No Home Season

Past projects and partners

YouthNet and BBC “No Home” Season –  using the power of Do-it to inspire and engage BBC viewers in volunteering.

What was the project all about?

Launched on 18th November 2006, the No Home season coincided with the 40th anniversary of Cathy Come Home, a ground-breaking documentary that examined homelessness and social inequality in Britain during the 60s. The new season aimed to update the public’s view of social inequality and homelessness in the 21st Century, and they viewed YouthNet as a perfect partner to help deliver on one aspect of the campaign, volunteering.

How did YouthNet support the campaign?

The BBC wanted to use the season to engage and inspire viewers to help those affected by homelessness through a multitude of interesting and creative volunteering opportunities.  With more than 5000 opportunities to volunteer with homeless organisations on Do-it, the BBC recognised that YouthNet could provide them with the perfect platform to provide public access to these opportunities during the season.

YouthNet delivered an XML feed of homeless and housing volunteering opportunities from Do-it directly to the BBC No Homes Season website. This ensured visitors to the BBC site could easily search and apply for local volunteering opportunities to help homeless organisations in their local area, all without leaving the BBC site.

YouthNet also created registration pages that were branded with both the BBC and Do-it logos, which meant that volunteers experienced a seamless journey from searching for opportunities on the BBC site, to registering their interest for the opportunity, then back to the BBC No Home site when they had applied.

Partnership achievements

YouthNet provided reports to the BBC on the success of the Do-it feed for the two weeks of the Season. Highlights included:

  • 31,000 searches for volunteering opportunities
  • 691 applications to volunteer
  • 498 new registered volunteers on Do-it

Paul Manners, BBC, said:

“A key ambition of the BBC’s No Home season was not just to raise awareness about homelessness in the UK – but to make it easy for people inspired by the programmes to get involved in volunteering at local projects. provided an XML feed solution of relevant opportunities straight to our season website, and in the process a one stop shop for any visitor to our website to find out how to get more involved.

The Do-it’s team expertise made a difference to what we could offer our audience, and resulted in a season that had much more impact.”