Volunteers talk about their experiences
Our volunteers contribute their skills in a variety of ways, and sometimes we even can create a role to match someone’s area of expertise.
For example, our office plants are currently under the watchful eye and care of a volunteer and have never looked better!
However, there are key areas in which the majority of our volunteers are involved so please do read on to find out more to see which area seems right for you!
Reaching new people within our community is crucial, and building strong relationships to enable us to promote our services and give effective emotional and practical support is essential.
A vital part of the Community Engagment Volunteer role involves taking information and resources to LGB&T people across the community, promoting the work of the LGF and carrying out research.
You’ll be approaching and talking to lots of new people so this role is perfect for people who are naturally outgoing, chatty and who are able to engage strangers in conversation. Our engagement activities are largely outside of office hours, so you’ll need to be flexible and able to volunteer during evenings and weekends.
“I first started volunteering as for The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (LGF) in November 2011. I wanted to meet new friends and do my bit my bit to help stop homophobia.
“I was one of the first volunteer ‘ Village Angels’ and went out the very first night it launched, on Good Friday, 6 April. I decided to get involved with the Village Angels because the village is not a as safe as it used to be and a lot of people go out there. I believe the Village Angels can help them be safer.
“The best bit about the angels is when we help someone, the worst is seeing people upset and crying – which can happen alot!
“As well as being a Village Angel I have also spoke about homophobia in schools, cheered on the LGF runners in the BUPA Manchester 10k and helped out with fundraising.
“I won the ‘New Volunteer of the Year’ in June 2012 as part of the Volunteer’s Week Celebrations for the work I have done for the LGF. I feel the award is not just for me it’s on behalf of all the LGF volunteers.
“If anyone is interested in Community Engagement volunteering, I’d say GIVE IT A GO!”
The LGF is accessed by thousands of people a year in person, by telephone, by email and by post. Our Helpdesk volunteers provide a front-line service to everybody who accesses the LGF, and ensures that they receive a friendly, helpful and supportive service. Helpdesk volunteers could be answering a helpline call from a mother whose son has just come out, or providing a ‘pop-in’ session with someone who has recently been diagnosed HIV positive, or helping to sign people in and out of the building who are accessing one of our support groups.
Although this role includes a variety of activities, it is really well-suited to volunteers who are compassionate, great listeners and able to provide non-judgemental and impartial advice and guidance. The hours for this role are very flexible as we are open between 10am and 10pm, we only ask that volunteers commit to getting involved for at least 8 hours a month.
“I started volunteering on the Helpdesk for the LGF in 2010 and I now work here full-time as a Funding Officer. I’ve continued to volunteer on the Helpdesk in my free time. Being president of my university's LGB&T society inspired me to pursue a career in working with LGB&T people.
“I started volunteering to meet new people and gain insight into Manchester's LGB&T community. Taking my first helpline call was a memorable experience; nerve-wracking, but incredibly rewarding. It made me aware that it is easy to take being out and happy for granted.
“I saw an advert for the Funding Officer position in the volunteer newsletter. Now I get to see vital services develop from an initial idea to being implemented in the community.”
Face to Face Counselling
The face to face counselling service we offer at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation is key to our mission statement of Empowering People. We have a large team of volunteer counsellors and currently offer counselling to individuals between 10am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.
The Face-to-Face counselling service welcomes volunteer counsellors from a wide range of theoretical models and with varying skills and experience. We would expect you to be in your second year of a BACP accredited Diploma, BA or MA or have considerable previous experience of providing counselling. We would ask you to commit to a minimum of a year and work with a minimum of 2 clients.
“I currently volunteer as a Senior Counsellor; helping people to deal with specific problems or crisis, and helping people improve their relationships with others and developing better ways of living.
“I’ve volunteered with the LGF for almost 10 years. During this time, I’ve been Chair of the Board of Trustees as well as a Counsellor.
“I joined the LGF because I wanted to give something back to the gay community and was particularly impressed by the work of LGF. I initially got involved as a ‘Poster Boy’ for some of the LGF’s sexual health campaigns, and I haven’t looked back since!
“Just the ability to help people carry on with their daily lives is all the motivation I need. In two or three cases my interventions have probably prevented people from committing suicide.”
Befrienders meet with service users on a regular basis over 10 sessions, to support them with feelings of isolation, low confidence and low self esteem.
Volunteers are fully trained, but knowledge of mental health issues, coming out, LGB issues and other support services are an advantage.
People who are involved must be willing to meet with their befriendee in public places away from the LGF office, and be able to dedicate at around 2 hours a week to meet with them.
“I’ve volunteered as a befriender for a few months now. I am really enjoying being part of the befriending project and I’d recommend it really highly to others.
“It’s giving me a real opportunity to make a difference to my community, while having a lot of fun myself. This must be the only volunteering opportunity in Manchester where I get to make a difference while drinking tea and eating cake!!
“I’d never accessed services at the LGF before volunteering but an added bonus of being involved is that I always come away from meetings feeling positive and really relaxed which I think must be down to how nice and welcoming everyone is.”
Working as part of a team of other volunteers, group volunteers plan and facilitate one of our popular LGF groups, whilst ensuring all members are welcomed and comfortable in a group work environment.
Knowledge and experience of group work is advantageous, but we do provide full training. Experience of LGB issues and mental health is also beneficial.
Volunteers are asked to commit to around 4 hours per month facilitating a group, plus extra planning time.
“I volunteer for Carousel and I enjoy the fact that I am helping others for a variety of reasons and that in particular with the LGF that it is creating a space for individuals to be themselves.
“I like to think if I make a small increase in a persons’ confidence it has been worth it.”
Office Support & Library
There are times of the year when we require a bit of extra support from volunteers to help us out with office-based roles. This could be anything from creating information packs to be mailed out, data input of email addresses for one of our campaigns to helping us phone through a list of contacts.
We have also had a huge number of books and magazines, newspapers and videos donated to us over the years, and we want to make sure they are accessible to the LGB&T community. We need volunteers who are keen to play a role in making the history, culture and media of LGB&T communities accessible to all through our library space.
This type of role tends to go ahead during usual office hours (Monday-Friday 9am – 5pm) and in the early evening. It would suit people who enjoy administrative tasks, who are logical and methodical and also those who are seeking employment in this field.
“I initially volunteered in data entry, and from this have progressed onto HR-based volunteering, including reviewing all internal policies. Getting experience in this area has made me realise I’m interested in this as a career.
“I’ve always wanted to contribute to the LGB&T community, and volunteering for the LGF has enabled me to do this as well as meeting new people.
“Doing office support volunteering has also made me aware of the level of detail involved in the LGF campaigns.”