Volunteering

This page features our volunteering resources. To choose a different resource, choose from the options below.​

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Information about volunteering

Most government departments allow employees to take some days of paid special leave each year to volunteer. This can vary between 3-5 days, so please check your own departmental policies.

Volunteering days can usually be used in whatever way suits you and your wider team (all together, a day at a time, or a few hours at a time).

Why volunteer?

Volunteering is a terrific way to give something back to the communities and causes that mean the most to you. It provides an opportunity to learn new skills (such as coaching and mentoring), develop professional goals, gain new perspectives, and get a better understanding of the public we serve. Taking time to volunteer can also improve personal wellbeing by helping to grow confidence and combat stress.

We would encourage CSEN members to seek opportunities that positively support the environment and climate change initiatives.

Volunteering opportunities

Here are a few examples of climate and environment-related opportunities that are open to Civil Service volunteers.

Opportunities across the UK:

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)

Join thousands of people and communities across the UK connecting to nature on their doorsteps and contributing to its protection. Find a TCV activity near you.

Trees for cities

The UK charity working at a national and international scale to improve lives by planting trees in cities. Join the mailing list to discover opportunities in your area.

Do-IT

The Do-IT website connects people with volunteering opportunities across the UK.

 

London-based opportunities:

City Harvest 

City Harvest London puts surplus food to good use in a sustainable way, distributing to organisations that feed the hungry across the capital city. Book a shift.

London Wildlife Trust

Volunteers help London's wildlife thrive. Without them, we wouldn't be able to continue protecting and enhancing nature. Email to register your interest.

Other ways to find volunteering opportunities:

You can also contact National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)Volunteer ScotlandVolunteering WalesJersey CharitiesGuernsey Charities, Mayor of London volunteering site or Volunteering Matters to find opportunities in your area.

 

Guidance

Thank you for using your precious time to volunteer! We have pulled together some guidance to help get you started, including an email template to help you agree volunteering leave with your line manager.

Please get in touch with CSEN if you would like to see anything else added to this page.

Note: This guidance is not comprehensive, and each government department, and/or volunteering opportunity may provide their own. It is our understanding that most government departments allow employees to take some days of paid special leave each year to volunteer, but this can vary. Please check your own departmental policies.

Some general advice

  1. You are representing CSEN if you volunteer through our corporate partners and/or choose to mention us when applying to volunteer. Please carry out the volunteer activities as agreed and give sufficient warning if you are unable to attend a volunteering session.

  2. Please treat everyone you meet at the volunteering opportunity equally, fairly, and with respect.

  3. Comply with any agreed standards, policies and processes.

  4. Act in a trustworthy and loyal way.

 

Volunteering practices have changed during COVID-19, please see some guidance from gov.uk 

  1. Do not attend a volunteering opportunity if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

  2. Make sure the organisation has carried out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risks relating to COVID-19 (they have a duty to do this).

  3. The organisation/group you are volunteering with may encourage you to:

    • take regular rapid lateral flow tests, even if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms (Find out how to order rapid lateral flow tests)

    • get vaccinated (Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines)

    • wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day

    • make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated with fresh air, or meet outdoors where possible

    • consider wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded settings where they come into contact with people you do not normally meet

    • be aware that not everyone will want close contact with others

    • minimise the number of contacts you have with people from outside of their household

 

If you have any concerns or queries about your volunteering opportunity, you can utilise the resources from your local volunteering organisation. Check the advice on what to do it volunteering goes wrong.


 

Getting permission

If you have not volunteered before, you may wonder how to approach your line manager to ask for the special leave time to do so. Try using the below template to approach your civil service line manager in person or to email them to request your allowed volunteering time.

 

Hi [manager’s name],

 

I have come across a great opportunity to volunteer my time via the Civil Service Environment Network. It takes [XX hours] of my time and I would really like the opportunity to use some of my volunteering leave to [tell them how this will aid your development e.g. develop my communication and understanding of environmental and climate issues in practice]. [add more details on specific opportunities if required]

 

I understand that [name of your department] offers [X] days volunteering leave days per person per year and I would like to use some of this to pursue this opportunity. [You may want to add that you’ve considered the timing of when you’ll volunteer and see now impact on the rest of the team (or explain how you’ll mitigate any impact on them e.g. bringing forward work, handover note etc.)]. Can you please confirm whether there is any formal process that I need to go through, or if this email is sufficient to confirm you’re happy with this?

 

Please let me know if you would like to discuss.

 

Many thanks,

[Your Name]

 
 

Testimonials

Below are some testimonials from volunteers. If you have recently used a volunteer day and would like to share your experience, please get in touch via environment.network@faststream.civilservice.gov.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

Volunteering with City Harvest

Our day with City Harvest was brilliant – a welcome change of pace from the recent monotony of working from home.

 

When we arrived in the morning, we were immediately greeted with warmth and enthusiasm by the office team. They gave us a quick tour of the site, before setting us up in one of their two warehouses, packed to the rafters with food supplies, all donated by supermarkets and Amazon Fresh.

 

There, our main task for the day was putting together meal boxes containing a variety of foods – basics like pasta and tinned vegetables, but also some more niche donated items like Nando’s hot sauce! We chatted and had the radio on while putting together the meal boxes, getting to know more about City Harvest’s work by speaking to staff and some of the regular volunteers.

CityHarvest.jpg

I had the opportunity to help one of the drivers, Alwin, with a delivery run to food banks and homes nearby. It was rewarding to see first-hand the difference our efforts that day were making. I was shocked by how many food banks there were in just one small area of London, but also inspired by the amazing people running them. I couldn’t help but feel, though, that their work should not be necessary in a society as wealthy as ours.

If you want a change of scenery from your home office and to spend a day doing something impactful in the capital, I definitely recommend volunteering with City Harvest!

- Julian, CSEN member

Leave a Testimonial

Volunteering is an excellent opportunity to take a break from work, learn new skills or find a community. If you have volunteered in the past and want to share your experiences with other CSEN members, you can send these to us using the form below. 

Leave a Testimonial