1. It’s fun.
When I was a kid I used to fantasize about working in a shop. I imagined dressing up, looking glamourous behind the till and making eyes at cute customers. You can do all these things whilst volunteering, though I would recommend wearing low-heeled shoes, because you will not always be sitting behind a till, and don’t wear your best clothes because things do get dusty sometimes. You get to meet new people, do jigsaw puzzles to check all the pieces are there, laugh at the bizarre items that get donated sometimes, and tell customers how much you loved the book they’re buying. If you’ve worked in retail, volunteering is much less stressful.
2. It’s a relatively easy way to ‘give back’.
Altruism is good for you and volunteering is a win win, as donating your time is free. In the UK at least, there are charity shops all over the place, so there should be little travelling involved.
3. It’s work experience.
Yes, it does count as retail experience. After volunteering for a few months I got a paid job with a company that only takes on staff that already have retail experience. Even if you don’t want to work in retail, volunteering in a charity shop can provide you with experience of:
- Customer service
- Working in a team
- Working for a charity/non-profit organisation
- Answering telephones/dealing with enquiries
- Displaying merchandise
- Handling cash.
If you’re currently unemployed, volunteering can help fill the time gap in your CV. If you’re at school, college or university, volunteering in a charity shop can give you access to more opportunities, which I will go into in my next point. I think volunteering in a charity shop is a great thing to do whilst studying for A Levels, if you plan to go to university, as the work experience will help you get a part-time job in whatever town or city you will be studying in.
4. It opens doors to other opportunities within charities.
Why would you want do this? Well, lots of the big UK charities offer internships in their head offices, and if you’ve volunteered for them before, it shows that you are really interested in and enthusiastic about their work. Even if you don’t want a charity internship there are other perks. For example, Oxfam runs a scheme for volunteers to steward at several big UK music festivals – which means free entry, separate camping, and food in return for work – and people who already volunteer for them (ie. in shops) get priority.
5. You get first look at the donations!
Now this is a bit of a controversial one. Every now and then I hear or read people saying that they don’t think it’s fair that volunteers get first pick of the donations. Well, how else is it supposed to work? Should we put items out on the shop floor for a certain amount of time just to sit and collect dust before anyone is allowed to buy them? Why should customers have more of a right to the things we sell than volunteers? In a non-charity shop the staff would be allowed to put aside and then buy anything they like. If a volunteer decides they want to buy something before it goes out, great! That’s money to the charity and space on the shop floor for something else to occupy instead.
6. Your expenses are usually paid.
That’s travel, and lunch if you’re there all day. One more meal you don’t have to pay for, and it means volunteering doesn’t actually cost you anything.
Have you ever volunteered? What did you enjoy about it? Did it help you get paid work?