Volunteering. Litter picking.

Adding volunteering experience to your CV is invaluable and incredibly appealing to employers. If you don’t have any experience volunteering, then these resources will help you to learn why it is valuable and where/how you can find opportunities. Competition is often high for graduate jobs/schemes, so having volunteering on your CV will certainly help you to stand out. Using your own initiative to source an unpaid opportunity demonstrates that you are proactive, passionate about a cause and able to work as part of a team. So, get started by using these pages to volunteer your way to your perfect graduate job.


What are the benefits of volunteering?

Never underestimate the value of volunteering, there are benefits to everyone and the benefits are instrumental to securing a graduate job.

  • Volunteering enables you to develop and gain some of the practical skills that many employers will deem essential such as communication, organisation and teamwork.
  • It can mean you get to do some of the things you love for free whilst meeting new people. For example you can volunteer at many of the world famous festivals – Glastonbury etc. – through charities such as Oxfam.
  • You will meet new people – increasing your social impact and connections building up your networks to increase future possibilities!
  • Help to gain an insight into future careers and find out what you do and don’t want to do!
  • Extremely rewarding knowing that you are helping those in need.
  • Great way to make use of your spare time.
  • Improve your employability.
  • A way to gain qualifications and training for free!
  • Volunteering is fun!
  • Check out prospects and targetjobs volunteering pages for more amazing ideas.
  • Volunteer to gain work experience in your chosen sector.
  • Volunteer your way to a graduate job.
  • Studies have shown that volunteering can actually increase overall wellbeing, levels of life satisfaction, feeling connected, and feeling less isolated.

Volunteering to gain work experience

As well as all of the wonderful skills you will use and develop, volunteering is a fantastic way to gain work experience in your chosen field. For example, if you are hoping to become a teacher it would be valuable to gain experience in a classroom setting. You could contact your local school, youth group or nursery to arrange some work experience. Not only will this help when applying for employment but it will help to understand the role you would be in and what the day to day responsibilities would look like first hand. This is the case across the board. If you have an idea in mind of what you want to do as a future career, there is no better time than now to arrange the work experience and gain a valuable insight into the field (see also below speculative applications).

Women serving food at soup kitchen
Devon Junior and Minor Football League - student volunteering networking event

What skills will you develop by volunteering?

 Employers look for and value certain skills when recruiting. This is why volunteering experience is essential to build upon your skill set to ultimately make you more employable. There are many skills you will learn and develop whilst volunteering therefore this list is not exhaustive. But some of the important skills include:

  • Prioritisation
  • Organisation
  • Team work/team building/collaboration
  • Self-motivation
  • Initiative
  • Time management
  • Communication.

Volunteer abroad

 Help improve your intercultural interactions and volunteer abroad!

Many students take some time off after University which can be known as a gap year. This is a great way to gain some skills and prepare for further study and for the world of work.

  • Go abroad provides volunteering opportunities all over the globe!
  • Habitat for humanity help to build a home in one of the world’s poorest communities.
  • Oxfam international is a global movement of people, working together to end the injustice of poverty.

How you can volunteer

  • See what opportunities are available through your student union.
  • Join one of your universities societies. Remember you can join at any time of the year. Employers love students who are members of clubs as it shows a lot of initiative and transferable skills.
  • Opportunities through your University.
  • At your local food bank.
  • At your local charity shop.
  • At your local homeless shelter.
  • Looking after animals at your local shelter.
  • Helping the elderly at your local retirement home.
  • With children/young adults at a school/nursery or youth centre.
  • For your local council.
  • Clean your community – help with a local beach clean or litter pick up event.
  • Organise a fundraising event.
  • See what opportunities are available through your student union.
  • Volunteer at a festival. The festival will pay the charity for your time. This way you are able to have fun but at the same time - contributing to a great cause. Here are some of the many charities you can do this for:
  • Mycause
  • Oxfam
  • Crisis

Where to look for volunteering

National databases to search for volunteering opportunities

Responding to crisis charities

  • British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. 
  • Circles South West deliver circles of support and accountability to protect communities from sexual harm and sexual reoffending. 
  • Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. 
  • FoodCycle support people who are hungry and lonely by serving tasty lunches and dinners every single day in towns and cities across the country. 
  • Landworks are an independent charity providing a supported route back into employment and the community for people in prison or at risk of going to prison.
  • Oxfam Great Britain is part of a global movement of millions of people working together to end poverty. 
  • Samaritans works to make sure there's always someone there for anyone who needs someone.
  • Shekinah provides opportunities for people who are experiencing all forms of homelessness and other challenges they may be currently facing.
  • Shelter believes everyone should have a home.
  • St John Ambulance help to raise awareness of first aid and directly educate the public.
  • The Salvation Army is a Christian Church and charity.

Healthcare charities

  • Be My Eyes support a visually impaired individual from your phone.
  • Diabetes UK is the leading charity for people living with diabetes in the UK. Our vision is a world where diabetes can do no harm. 
  • Havencare is a registered charity Providing social care services for people with learning disabilities and autism
  • Mencap is a UK charity for people with a learning disability. 
  • Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) is a charity focused on improving access to care, research and campaigning for people affected by motor neurone disease.
  • NHS volunteering is a great way to get involved in the community.
  • Sense help people with complex disabilities, and who are deafblind, to take part in life.

Mental health charities

  • Mental Health Foundation To help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health
  • Mind the mental health charity. There to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. 
  • Shout 85258 is the UK's first free, confidential, 24/7 text support service. It's a place to go if you're struggling to cope and need mental health support.
  • The calmzone the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide.
  • Togetherall is a 24/7, safe online community for people who are stressed, anxious or feeling low, with self-guided courses and resources.
  • Young Minds are a mental health charity for children, young people and their parents, making sure all young people can get the mental health support they need.

Charities to help older people

  • Age UK and Age UK Plymouth are dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life.
  • Independent Age provide free information and advice for older people and their families on care and support, money and benefits and health and mobility, along with friendship services to relieve loneliness.
  • Reengage is committed to older people being heard, valued and engaged. 
  • The Silver Li ne is a helpline for older people.
  • Elder Tree Befriending is a service that supports over 1,000 people who are over the age of 50 and live in Plymouth to make lasting friendships and continue to live independently in their own homes.

Charities to support children and young people

  • Action for Children aim is to give children and young people the practical and emotional support they need to help them succeed. 
  • Barnardo’s is a children's charity that protects and supports the UK's most vulnerable children and young people. 
  • Beanstalk helps children to read. 
  • Coach Bright making social mobility a reality for disadvantaged pupils
  • Dame Hannahs provides learning, care, support and fun for young adults with a range of disabilities.
  • Go Beyond gives children and young people facing serious challenges breaks that last a lifetime. 
  • Jeremiah’s Journey provides support for children, young people and their families when they are facing grief. 
  • Make a Smile supporting children suffering from illness or disability, helping them to enjoy their childhood. 
  • NSPCC (childline) make a difference to children’s lives by being there when they feel they have no one else to turn to. 
  • Police cadets: Be inspired to develop yourself and others. Enjoy learning new skills and doing something exciting and worthwhile volunteering with the police. 
  • Post Pals The charity helping you to ‘Post a Smile on a Sick Child’s Face’ by the sending of cards, letters, emails and little gifts to seriously ill children and their siblings in the UK
  • Rainbow Trust provides emotional and practical support to families who have a child with life-threatening or terminal illness. 
  • Step Together helps people who are excluded from society to participate in volunteering and build a more positive future.
  • The Access Project supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access top universities, through tuition and in-school mentoring. 
  • The Children’s Society provide specialist support that empowers young people to make positive changes and rediscover their hope.
  • The Mix is a UK based charity that provides free, confidential support for young people under 25 via online, social and mobile. 
  • Whizz Kids provides disabled children and young people with the mobility equipment they need and supports them in learning essential life skills.
  • Young Minds are a mental health charity for children, young people and their parents, making sure all young people can get the mental health support they need.

Environmental charities

  • Environmentjob provides environmental volunteering opportunities. 
  • Greenpeace defend the natural world, and stand for a green and peaceful future.
  • Keep Britain Tidy campaigns to reduce litter, improve local places and prevent waste.
  • Marine Conservation Society is a UK-wide community of ocean lovers. 
  • Moor trees is an independent charity dedicated to restoring native woodland on Dartmoor and in South Devon
  • The Wildlife Trusts are a federation of 46 independent wildlife conservation charities covering the whole of the UK. 
  • WWF is the world's leading independent conservation organisation.
  • Water Aid provides clean water and toilets to communities around the world.

Animal charities

  • Animals Asia is devoted to ending bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals across Asia. 
  • Bluecross an animal charity who have been helping sick, injured and homeless pets since 1897. 
  • Cats Protection is the UK’s leading cat welfare charity.
  • Dogs Trust is the UK's largest Dog Welfare Charity. 
  • Gables is a non euthanasia rescue and rehoming centre that has been helping the region’s unwanted and abandoned dogs and cats since 1907.
  • RSPCA specialise in animal rescue and furthering the welfare cause for all animals.

Local charities

  • Improving Lives Plymouth is a charity at the heart of our community, supporting and inspiring people to improve their health and wellbeing. You can find more information about volunteering with Improving Lives Plymouth on the UPSU website.
  • Livewell Southwest is an independent, award winning social enterprise providing integrated health and social care services for people across Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon. 
  • Our Plymouth volunteering opportunities in Plymouth. 
  • Plymouth Hospitals. As a Trust volunteer you’ll gain a unique insight into hospital life, receive relevant training (both of which will be great for your cv or life experience), as well as being a valuable part of the #1BigTeam.
  • Plymouth Octopus (POP) supports and leads real, purposeful and lasting change in Plymouth.​ 
  • Plymouth soup run is a community and faith driven service providing free food and hot drinks to homeless, hungry and vulnerable people 365 days a year.
  • Volunteer Cornwall.
  • Volunteer Connect Devon is our new online dedicated volunteer recruitment system for volunteer roles in Devon only with a firm focus on local roles.
  • The Zone are a charity which provide free confidential information & support to young people always.

Virtual volunteering

Many companies are now offering volunteering opportunities from the comfort of your own home. For example, you can volunteer for ‘Crisis’ or ‘Shout’ to offer support for 4 hours per week by taking calls from those in need. Other charities such as Oxfam offer volunteering positions such as ‘online listers’ and ‘customer care advisers’ for their online shops. There are so many opportunities like this available you just need to some searching.

Social media

Don’t forget to use your social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to follow volunteering organisations to find out the latest opportunities. LinkedIn is also a great way to keep in the loop.

Shout out!

Remember to let people know about your volunteering experience. Add it to your cv, LinkedIn profile and tell your friends, peers and course mates about the opportunities you have experienced. Spread the word about how valuable your volunteering experience was to you. 

Speculative applications

Want to gain experience for a particular organisation but they aren’t advertising volunteering positions? Contact them directly! This is called sending a speculative application.

Why not book an information and advice appointment with one of our advisers to help explain more about what to include in a speculative application.

Hands volunteering

  • CV360 – upload your CV to our CV360 tool and receive instant feedback and suggestions
  • Practice aptitude and psychometric tests – try out a wide variety of commonly used assessments and get feedback on your performance
  • Interview 360 - practise your interview technique and get instant feedback with our online simulator; browse commonly asked questions.

Careers CV interviews

UPSU Volunteering

There are many volunteering opportunities available through your student union here at the University of Plymouth. Find out what is available to you and sign up to the monthly newsletters to keep up to date with the latest opportunities.


Lianne Ottewell cuddling a dog
Lea Scott volunteering page - text and image use only 

"Volunteering gives you the opportunity to give back to your community. I have managed to become a leader and an effective team worker through my diverse volunteering history. I have made connections and built my network (crucial for future career prospects) and bagged a placement through this. You do it for free because it’s your passion and money could not buy the experiences you gain helping others in a society that need it. It gives you a buzz and something to be proud of."

Lea Scott, 2nd year criminal justice student

"Volunteering as one of the dance coaches with the University of Plymouth Dance Club (UPDC) has improved my confidence, especially when talking in front of large groups of people. It has also improved my organisational and time management skills, having to balance teaching two classes a week plus planning time around my studies. I have loved having a creative outlet at university as well as meeting some amazing new members and being a part of running the club that gave me so much during my first year! The role has been challenging, especially with the problems Covid has presented, but I'm really happy to have had something positive to focus on throughout this academic year! It also gave me a sense of pride seeing my classes progress and perform dances I'd choreographed!”

Jennifer Matcham, BSc (Hons) Psychology Stage 2.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities with UPSU.

Jennifer Matcham
Lauren Fidler

“These experiences have made me much more confident in myself and my abilities as well as improving the chance of me getting a job within my chosen career.”

Lauren Fidler, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography graduate now working as Data Officer at The Marine Biological Association. 

Find out more about Sea Watch.

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