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Young volunteers – breaking down barriers

Hello everyone,

My name is Ellie, and I am the Volunteering Development Officer at CCVS. For over 9 years I have worked on an amazing project supporting people from all walks of life into volunteering – Volunteering For All.

It is incredibly rewarding work that puts me right in the middle of community groups and the people who want to help them.

During the time I have worked on this project, I have seen a positive increase in involvement from people from the global majority, those facing barriers, and people with lived experience of mental and physical health problems, in local community projects. I have seen groups becoming more and more inclusive and thriving, thanks to these volunteers.

What I would like to see more of now, is young people getting involved, especially young people with additional needs or facing barriers.

We at CCVS Volunteering For All, know so well how incredibly positive the impact of volunteering is, and how people benefit from getting involved in their community, fighting isolation and improving skills.

But also, we are aware of how new volunteers are a breath of fresh air for organisations, bringing in input and new ideas and we want to see more of that!

I have noticed that most young people have particular areas of interest in which they want to get involved, but what most don’t know is that they can find incredible roles as volunteers that could match those very interests.

For instance, did you know that you could use all your knowledge and passion as a volunteer around music, sport or computing, animals, or campaigning for a better future?

In fact, the first and biggest barrier to young people getting involved is a lack of local knowledge around volunteering opportunities.

Take a look at the Volunteer Cambs website and see what opportunities are already available there for people under 18.

You will see that there are many roles in fundraising and other events, in hospitals and libraries, with Scouts and Girl Guiding, museums and so much more.

You might not find a role directly with animals (apart from Riding for the Disabled) but you could consider volunteering in a charity shop where the profits will go to support rescued animals, like RSPCA, Woodgreen or the Cats Protection, or ask your parent to volunteer with you as a dog walker for Cinnamon Trust.

Are you a strong ally of LGBTQ+ rights and want to help their campaigns and activities? You could volunteer with The Kite Trust.

Do you want to make sure that local young people’s voices are heard and make a difference to decision-making processes? Why not to join Cambridge Youth Panel?

Or you could volunteer in one of the many sports related projects, for example GoalBallUK  or Cambridge United Foundation where people as young as 16 can get involved and support the team and so much more!

The second barrier to volunteering is the lack of time! You are so very busy with education, hobbies and social life you might think you couldn’t possibly fit in volunteering as well. But the beauty of volunteering is that it is very flexible, and you can find a role to fit in with your commitments. Some volunteering opportunities only require as little as an hour every other week, and there are others which are one off opportunities.

The third barrier is transport. I know you may not be able to get everywhere on your bike, but there are plenty of local opportunities very close to you so that you can get involved with something very local. Have a look at the map on the website and see what you can find close to you. Otherwise, do venture out and see what happens in your local community centre, ask the librarian if they are recruiting volunteers, look at the church, the community development group in your ward, or look at the community board in your school! And finally remember that there is so much you can do from home!

The fourth barrier is money. Some people in fact think that they would be out pocket as a volunteer as they have to pay for transport or other expenses, but what they may not realise is that they are entitled to a refund. So, don’t worry, you won’t need to use your pocket money, as you will have transport expenses refunded, and you may even receive free lunches and discounts! If you volunteer at festivals, you could even get to see the shows for free!

The fifth barrier is peer pressure. You might think that you could only volunteer where you already have friends, and that even if it is not the right role for you, you won’t try anything else. But volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people, especially different people from your usual environment, and it will give you a chance to make new friends. You don’t have to consider only options that your friends are already involved in but keep an open mind and see what is out there!

The sixth barrier is a lack of experience and references. The application process might be very daunting and if you see that two references and previous work experience is needed, you might feel very off put. But did you know that anybody over 18 not related to you and who has known you for at least 2 years, can be a referee? Your teacher, your sports coach, your mum’s friend. They’ll be all absolutely fine as referees. Your previous experiences are not as important as your motivation to volunteer, you don’t need to have worked or volunteered before, what really matters is why you want to volunteer now!

The seventh barrier is that you might think that if you have a disability, you could not volunteer, but you’d be wrong! As I said earlier, I have worked with many people in the past and a good number of them lived with disabilities, but that hadn’t stopped them, and it shouldn’t stop you! You need to find the right role, one that is interesting and fun, one that allows you to use all the skills you already have and develop new ones. Be open and tell the volunteer manager how they can support you best to make the role suitable for you, help them understand how best to support you. It will be great opportunity for you to experiment with how to make your voice heard and learn how to support staff working with volunteers to make adjustments and ensure the environment is very inclusive.

I hope this blog made you a bit more curious about getting involved in volunteering! It will be such a great opportunity for you, but also your community needs your help so much. You can really support local organisations to make it a better place for everyone!

For any more info or support contact ellie@cambridgecvs.org.uk

Volunteer Cambs! A New Website

Hello! It’s Amy here and I’m going to tell you about a new website which I think you will find useful when looking for voluntary work. I think that a volunteer platform is needed because it shows what opportunities are out there (which people might not know about otherwise). There are other websites (but the ones that I know of are not easy to use and it takes a long time to find volunteering roles that are specific to what people are interested in).

You can access this new platform by typing www.volunteercambs.org.uk into your browser. There are lots of opportunities on this website and the first thing to do is to click on the Volunteers bit where it asks you if you’re looking for volunteering opportunities (and you click on the bit that says More Information).

Next, you’ll see a page that says For volunteers and Ways to Find Opportunities. Then you’ll get a chance to create your account and do the quiz and search for a match. Doing the quiz is a great way to find out what kind of voluntary roles might suit you best and will show some opportunities that you might be interested in. You can do the quiz again or change your search by choosing a different cause or activity that you’re interested in (if you don’t see anything that suits you the first time).

I know this looks like a lot of instructions (but I’ve done this myself and it only takes a couple of minutes). I especially like the way this website is so colourful and eye-catching! I like the size of the font (not too big, not too small). It’s great that it shows how volunteering has helped people and how they’ve benefitted from volunteering (which might inspire others). Have a look at all these volunteer stories and just think that one day it could be you writing your own blog!

Volunteering is such a great opportunity to help others and feel better and proud of yourself! It’s great that we finally have a special website for our county which everyone can access and find fantastic ways to get involved!

If you still don’t know what you‘d like to do, or you haven’t got much time to offer, then do have a look at the Volunteer Pool and Emergency volunteering sections; you might want to register your name in the general pool and charities that match with your particular interests can get in touch directly and tell you about new and exciting opportunities as soon as they need volunteers! And if you sign up in the emergency section, you’ll be able to help the community when they need it the most, (just like during the pandemic when people were helping their neighbours through mutual aid groups)!

You might want to ask for help if you have difficulty with reading or need any kind of support with using the volunteer platform. You can contact Ellie if you need extra support and you can’t find the right opportunity in Cambridge or contact Rima for Fenland. You can email them at ellie@cambridgecvs.org.uk, rima@cambridgecvs.org.uk. And if you have any questions about the website you can email info@volunteercambs.org.uk  

Let us know how you get on!

Navigating Frustrations: A Young Volunteer’s Perspective

I am 27 years old and recently moved from the private sector to the charity sector. Here are a few things I have learned and some personal frustrations I’ve encountered.  

Firstly, there is a significant lack of volunteering opportunities for young people. It often feels like we are not given a fair chance, and this leaves an impression of mistrust and undervaluation of our skills. This sentiment is shared by many others in the same situation. 

My concerns began while researching opportunities to become a young trustee, as well as looking for simple volunteering opportunities within my community. It is frustrating to see that some volunteer processes are not favourable to young people. Surprisingly, there are few opportunities available, especially for those under 18. These are the very individuals the sector aims to engage, as they will be the new generation shaping future volunteer efforts and community support. 

However, I want to do more for the sector and lend a helping hand through volunteering. Unfortunately, this is challenging because many charities promote volunteer roles in a long-winded manner, often unclear about what they want. Some opportunities do not seem friendly and treat young people as if they lack experience. This is even though many of us have volunteered before, though not always long-term due to various reasons or simply because the fit wasn’t right. 

This is not an attack on organisations or the sector, but it is a daily frustration for me and many other young people who care about their communities and want to volunteer without feeling undervalued. It is particularly disheartening when reading articles where long-established individuals or organisations describe the younger generation as ‘lazy,’ ‘addicted to their phones,’ or ‘disinterested in volunteering.’ This stereotype is simply not true. 

To the sector: reach out to the community, youth groups, and schools. Pitch your volunteering opportunities and engage with young people. Ask them about their concerns and fears. Inquire why they might not volunteer and how you can help. Actively seek feedback and listen intently to young voices, as we can all learn from them. As time moves on, so should your approaches. Otherwise, many organisations may find themselves struggling. 

My message:

  1. We are here, and keen to volunteer 
  2. We are a generation that use short and snappy content across all platforms – make it clear with what message you want our generation to deliver 
  3. Time is of the essence – unfortunately, we can’t volunteer out of school or work hours, however, we want to support but how can we get your help? 

Over time, it’s natural for some organisations to struggle with adapting to change. Embracing modern technologies and understanding the evolving attitudes of new generations can be challenging. However, this is an opportunity to grow and connect with the next wave of volunteers, who bring fresh perspectives, skills, and new talents. By adapting our volunteering opportunities to meet their needs, we can attract eager individuals and create enriching experiences for everyone involved. This will create a feeling of fulfilment and increase the chance to volunteer again.  

We’ve observed a rise in young people taking initiative and leading their projects, often utilising social media to share engaging and inclusive content. This trend highlights the importance of adapting our approaches to meet their expectations and inspire them to join our efforts. By understanding and embracing these changes, we can encourage a vibrant and dynamic volunteering community. 

Reflections on ‘Coming up for air’ report, Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson Senior Development Worker at Hunts Forum

When Covid silenced our streets and threatened to overwhelm our health services, charities and community groups were amongst the first to step forward and offer support to our communities. Many funding bodies worked with organisations to allow funds to be used to help with the pandemic response rather than simply for the intended purpose and new funds came into being to support and extend those offers.

The local State of the Sector survey highlights how Cambridgeshire charities, community groups and social enterprises have weathered the pandemic better than was expected in the early days. Many, particularly larger organisations have even seen their reserves grow.

However, it has not been good for all, with many being negatively affected by the pandemic and some charities closing their doors or facing a financially uncertain future.

In much the same way as business, the third sector has been busy adapting, changing and responding, not simply to the needs presented by the pandemic, but also through the other ways of working we all confronted and the opportunities and challenges these presented. Were we entering a period of calm after the storm, the sector would have a great chance of coming out of Covid stronger, more digitally aware and more effective. But we aren’t.

Instead of calm, we are moving headlong into a cost-of-living crisis. The quake of the pandemic may have sent a tidal wave our way, but the quakes of Brexit, untamed energy price rises, food price rises, rampant inflation, rising rents and mortgage interest rates, the value of wages being ripped apart and more have turned this into a tsunami facing society and threatening the lives and livelihoods of vast swathes of society.

It has long been the role of charity to mitigate the worst impact and excesses of political and economic choices, but can a sector that is still trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic do much more than offer solace to a few, rather than protect many?

The survey highlights the concern of many in the sector locally about the levels of funding before the current cost of living crisis slapped us all in the face like a wet mackerel. These rising costs not only affect us as individuals but also impact on the ability of charities, community groups and social enterprises to operate. As much as it is a frustration within the sector that most funding bodies operate this way, typically, funding is received to deliver a project, this could be for a few months or a few years, but within this there is little room for rising costs as these agreements came about after years of low inflationary pressures. Already, in this developing economic crisis, many organisations are beginning to see budget forecasts falling apart and no recourse to improve on the income for the agreed project from the funder.

‘Get additional funding from another funder, may be thought from those outside the sector, but just try finding a funding body willing to provide funding to continue a previous project, let alone add funding to an existing project funded by someone else.

Many charities and community groups, as the survey shows, have also seen volunteers leave and not return. Staff are stretched with many burnt out. Recruiting for vacant posts- paid and unpaid- is becoming increasingly difficult.

The inevitable increase in calls upon the services of the Voluntary and Community that the latest crisis brings with it risks colliding with the dearth of staff- paid and unpaid- to meet that demand. Funding always helps, but when the people are not there to do what needs to be done, the money means little. It is unlikely that funding will be available to improve the salaries, terms and conditions of paid staff to encourage people into the sector and a contracting economy will further reduce the potential pool of volunteers. With more people having to work longer hours they personally will have less time to give, the retired, once the bedrock of charity volunteering, will be called upon to give their time to their struggling families and to their own needs.

Yet, without funding for the sector that not only provides services to those in need but also reverses the decade-long cut in salaries and terms and conditions for the majority of charity workers, it is likely that in an attempt to step up and help people where government and enterprise have failed, many charities, community groups and social enterprises will become dangerously overstretched. This is likely to lead to potentially dangerous levels of service delivery, greater staffing collapse and an increased reliance on an ever dwindling pool of potential volunteers (who may themselves suffer burnout) and pushed to breaking point charity finances.

Political and economic choices will be made as to who is and isn’t protected from the worst of this crisis and how that protection is provided. Much of this will be based upon how the decision makers view what is important to the economy and society.

As always, charity will do what it can and amaze us all with its innovation and passion, but what emerges from the current crisis may herald a bleak future for charity, many individuals and society at large depending upon those choices made.

Reflections on ‘Coming up for air’ report, Mark Freeman


What the 2022 State of the Sector Survey tells us about the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in Cambridgeshire

A great deal has been written about the impact of the pandemic on the VCS over the last years. We carried out research in both 2020 and 2021 that showed that groups were adapting and growing but they had concerns about funding and burnout. Many of our findings have been backed up by national surveys[1].

This survey was carried out over February and March 2022 and shows that locally groups have weathered the storm relatively well. The impact of the pandemic has been more negative than positive, with groups on average scoring the impact as 4 out of 10.

Green survey with the title overall how has the pandemic impacted your organisations.

It is however debatable as to whether the storm has come to an end. Even as we learn to live with Covid and we return to a more ‘normal’ life, the sector and those that they support are caught up in the next wave of circumstances that impact on them. There will be a fallout from the last two years that we will need to understand and navigate, this will be complicated by the environment we all work in. We are all now grappling with the impact of the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine. At the same time many experts are predicting significant health impacts over next winter due to flu and possible new Covid variants.

What we have learnt is that although there are issues of concern that need to be addressed, overall the sector remains resilient and forward-thinking.

Trust in charities is rising according to government figures[2] and the last two years have demonstrated the ability of small charities and community groups to deliver essential services and support at a local level. Couple this with the optimism that the survey showed, 59% of respondents believed 2022 was going to be better for their organisation than 2021, and we believe that we are at a point where the role of small organisations and the communities they work in is recognised as the best way of reducing inequalities and providing opportunities.

More people are seeing this, and the Commission on Civil Society[3] write:

“With their unique combination of trust, agility, community, purpose and prevention, the charity sector is a powerful part of the public services ecosystem, with the potential to do even more than it does today. From mental health to social care, children’s and youth services to housing, a large proportion of the UK’s 160,000 charities and the 910,000 people who work for them play a fundamental role in providing or supplementing public services”

Locally we are seeing statutory services looking at how they work with the sector and communities. Local councils are looking at full system thinking and co-producing services with the sector. The new Integrated Care Systems in health have working with communities and the sector embedded in their core principles. We know that these changes will not happen overnight and that they will be hard to implement, we also know that the sector has its issues and is not fully ready to help, but it is there and there is a willingness to learn, engage and adapt. The whole system from a national to a local level has to work hard to find ways to support charities and especially those local small charities that are embedded in and engaged with communities.

The two big issues from the survey

Two big issues arose from the survey, these were funding and volunteering.



Volunteers are essential to the work of the sector and by our calculations could be worth over £117million to Cambridgeshire in a year. Over the pandemic many people signed up to volunteer but these were often short term opportunities and numbers were increased by the emergency nature of what was needed and by the number of people on furlough or working from home. The survey showed that over 70% of those responding were experiencing some issue with recruiting volunteers, and 56% were having issues retaining existing volunteers.

“All our members are elderly, frail. Since covid we have lost some, some are reluctant to come out. Present volunteers are not getting any younger either and commitment and time are difficult. We are considering bringing our group to a close.”

As a sector and a society we need to address these issues. Locally Cambridgeshire needs a county portal that allows groups to reach potential new volunteers, and that allows interested people to find volunteering opportunities that excite and interest them. We need to ensure that groups are offering people the support and flexibility they need to give volunteering a go. Volunteering opportunities need to be flexible and safe; they need to fit with the way people live and work.

We don’t need a national system, we need local investment into a system and the structures that make local volunteering easier and more accessible. We need to work with the business sector to look at how they can support their staff to volunteer. We must create the opportunity to volunteer in schools so that people get the bug early. We need to create volunteering opportunities that appeal to people at all stages of their lives.


The survey shows there has been a mixed impact on local groups due to the pandemic but 80% of groups see a lack of funds as an issue. The survey has also shown that there have been different impacts on finances for organisations, whilst most reported a neutral impact a higher number reported a negative impact than reported a positive one.

We know that many foundations ‘opened their coffers’ over the pandemic to fund additional support to enable groups to adapt, grow and deliver more. We know that government both locally and nationally also found money to support the sector and the work it did. The upshot of this will be the tightening of funders’ belts in the next few years. This will have a dramatic impact on organisations who will (along with everyone else) be faced with rising costs to deliver their work.

The nature of a national emergency meant that many funders relaxed their funding criteria and their need for monitoring. This was welcomed as it gave groups the space to adapt delivery to suit a changing environment. It also meant groups concentrated more on delivery and less on applying or monitoring. We also know that a lot of funding was short-term and needed to be spent quickly. This is difficult for smaller organisations to manage who need time to ramp up delivery, it has also resulted in a lot of organisations growing quickly with little hope of maintaining that growth.

We need a new type of funding. It has to be flexible and it has to fund outcomes and not projects. Funders must be less prescriptive about monitoring. Most charities monitor their work as they want to know what is and isn’t working and trustees need to be able to govern. We need to work together to ensure that one monitoring report can meet all stakeholder’s needs.

We need to look at core cost funding that will allow charity to deliver on its mission. Projects can’t run without the core of an organisation, so we need to move away from funding projects. Lloyds Foundation[4] state they

“Trust charities to spend the funding we give them as they judge best to achieve the greatest impact.”

We need to see more of this. Charities are best placed to know what is going to work and have an impact. A move to more collaborative funding will increase the impact and enable charities to spend more time and money delivering their services.

Charities need to plan, real impact takes time to happen, and sustainability is not about constantly replacing short-term funding. We need funding to be longer-term. Three years as a minimum but 5 or 10 years if funders are looking at addressing complex issues that rely on building trust and relationships.

The importance of infrastructure

The work of infrastructure (those organisations who work to support the sector) at local and national levels has to be recognised and supported. If there is a need for charities, and those that work with and fund them, to do things differently, they will need support to accomplish that.

“A lot of what we have done locally won’t make the papers, but we have laughed and cried with staff and volunteers over the pandemic. We have informed, advised and supported them. We have helped them gain new skills, build new relationships, and find new resources. We have worked with partners to ensure that the sector was recognised and supported.”

Infrastructure has shown its value over the pandemic and investment has flowed into it. However, locally and nationally, this has not been uniform which has led to different levels of support to groups across different areas. This has inevitably resulted in people being offered very different service levels as the number of local charities and their ability to deliver services, t, is better where the charities have had more support. One respondent wrote:

“They offer the best possible support to the sector – they are pro-active, professional, experienced, thoughtful, kind and considerate.”

To conclude

We have a vibrant and diverse voluntary and community sector in Cambridgeshire. On the whole there is optimism for the future. 59% of respondents think that 2022 will be a better year than 2021 for their organisation.

We have seen the sector working with other partners to make the pandemic as bearable as possible.

We have seen incredible efforts put in by staff, volunteers and trustees.

We have seen groups adapting and learning to ensure services were continued and improved.

We know that there are challenges ahead but we have seen positive changes starting to happen. We need to build on what we have, learn from our mistakes and celebrate our successes.



[1] https://www.lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk/we-influence/the-value-of-small-in-a-big-crisis


[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-trust-in-charities-and-trustees-experience-of-their-role/public-trust-in-charities-2021-web-version

[3] https://civilsocietycommission.org/conversation/understanding-the-ecosystem-charities-and-public-services/

[4] https://www.lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk/we-fund