This week (February 12th – 18th) is Student Volunteering Week and universities, colleges and schools across the country are taking part and organising opportunities and events to encourage their students to volunteer and help their local communities.  

80,000 students’ study in Birmingham across eight universities. Many of them look to volunteer during their time here to get to know the city, meet people and gain skills and experience. This Student Volunteers Week, Sam from Birmingham City University (BCU) gives some thoughts on what students look for from volunteering and how you can effectively engaging students with your volunteering opportunities.  

Tell us a bit about
yourself, your role and how you encourage students to volunteer

As part of my role as Volunteering Officer at Birmingham City University, I support students and graduates to connect with volunteering activities within the third sector. This includes regular volunteering roles, as well as volunteering days or micro-volunteering opportunities.  

We hold lots of exciting events and activities across the academic year for students to find out more about volunteering opportunities, including webinars, social media, newsletters and stands on campus. 

I am also part of the steering group for the Birmingham Volunteer Network, and the Vision for Volunteering strategic group. In my spare time I also volunteer, having been the Lead Volunteer for my local Crohn’s and Colitis UK network for the past six years! 

What do students look for from volunteering? 

Volunteering is a great opportunity for students to meet new people, make friends and increase their network. It is also a useful way for students to gain crucial experience to enhance their CVs and stand out in a competitive labour market.  

Volunteering provides the opportunity to ‘try out’ different career paths and to gain an insight into various roles and different sectors. It also helps to build confidence and increase wellbeing, all while making a positive different to the community! 

How can organisations effectively involve students and make volunteering accessible to them? 

Although many students express an interest in volunteering, sometimes busy schedules, financial pressures, and lack of awareness of volunteering opportunities can often create barriers to participation.  

The tips below may be useful when considering ways of making volunteering accessible to students: 

  • Offer Meaningful Opportunities 

Experiences should provide real responsibility, autonomy, and the chance to use existing skills or develop new ones. Students want to know their time is spent meaningfully and relates to their career goals or interests. Providing clear role descriptions also ensures that students are aware of what the role entails, as well as appropriate supervision to help students feel confident in their role. 

  • Offer Flexibility 

Volunteer shifts that accommodate students’ availability are key. Most students balance courses, jobs, extracurriculars and social lives. Making evenings, weekends, and remote options available allows students to volunteer when they can and maintain a good balance. Remote volunteering also opens opportunities to students who lack transportation. 

  • Minimise Costs 

Additional costs like travel can prevent students from volunteering. By covering travel or lunch expenses where possible, as well as providing free training and materials, also helps to minimise financial barriers.  

  • Creative Communication Channels 

A great way to make volunteering more accessible to students is to approach the Careers teams at universities to discuss ways of sharing volunteering opportunities with students.  

This may be through a variety of opportunities such as webinars, talks, stands on campus or any online resources. If your organisation also offers other opportunities such as placements, this is a great way to develop working relationships with partner universities. 

  • Volunteering Recognition 

Students are more likely to make time for volunteering when they understand the benefits. It’s important to communicate how volunteering expands networks, develops transferable skills for their future career and can lead to job opportunities. Organisations should think about development opportunities they can offer volunteers, such as training or additional responsibility to develop skills. 

Volunteering is also more appealing to students when their efforts are recognised. Find ways to celebrate their impact, like thank you events, certificates, acting as a reference, LinkedIn recommendations or even get-togethers to celebrate volunteers. A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way! 

How can organisations promote their volunteering roles to students at Birmingham City University (BCU)? 

Our online volunteering board portal, Careers+, provides a communication link between students, graduates and charitable organisations. All students and graduates at BCU have access to the site and regularly use it to view organisations’ profiles, and search and apply for a range of volunteering opportunities. 

We also run volunteering days and micro-volunteering activities. 

If you are interested and you would like further information or to discuss possible collaboration, please do get in touch. Contact [email protected] 

If you would like to learn more about Birmingham’s Vision for Volunteering or need support to involve volunteers, take a look at the resources available on our website: