Volunteering in Charity Shops

A guest post by Catherine Andrews, Volunteer Coordinator at Octavia Foundation

According to a survey by the think-tank Demos in 2013, charity shops employ an estimated 17,296 staff across the UK, and have a volunteer workforce of some 213,380. This is not surprising as volunteering provides a great opportunity to gain new skills and experiences whilst meeting new people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Volunteering Richmond is the service provided by the charity Groundwork London for Richmond Council, who aim to ‘inspire and support volunteering’ across the borough and work to connect locals with volunteering opportunities nearby.

There are many reasons why people decide to volunteer; it could be to get work experience, for the social aspects or to feel that they’re helping their local community. As part of a report published by the National Union of Students this week in Student Volunteering Week, 78 per cent of student volunteers surveyed said they wanted to ‘improve things or help people’ and two-thirds said it was a good way to develop skills.

Volunteering in a charity shop in particular has it’s own set of benefits. Volunteers get real work experience through helping with a range of activities, including working on the shop floor, operating the tills, unpacking deliveries, sorting goods and providing warm and friendly customer service.

Volunteering in a charity shop is a really sociable thing to do; you get to know other volunteers and shops staff in your team as well as the local customers. For many volunteers it can be the first step towards getting paid employment, either within the shop or elsewhere, or a welcome activity to keep them busy in retirement.

The research done by Demos to ‘Measure the social value of charity shops’ found that ‘they provide a number of important social and economic benefits to individuals – including customers, donors or volunteers – and local communities across the UK, and are increasingly vital to Britain’s struggling high streets.’ They also felt that ‘Charity shops’ greatest strength lies in their strong link with local communities, which is forged through a large, and overwhelmingly local, pool of staff and volunteers.’

As a local community charity the Octavia Foundation rely on a dedicated volunteering workforce to help keep our charity shops running, as many other charities do both within Richmond and across the UK.


Gita at Octavia Foundation

Gita has been volunteering in the Octavia Foundation charity shops for nearly three years now. She said: ‘I enjoy it – I like to meet other people and to help people. Here I am treated well and treated fairly, the same as a paid member of staff. The team are very friendly – they are part of my family, it’s part of my life. Every day when I come to work I’m happy and when I leave I’m happy. They speak to me kindly and give me good advice when I need it; they are very supportive.’

Volunteering really can help you to change lives through learning new things, meeting new people and helping to make your community stronger.

_MG_4469The Octavia Foundation relies on their 18 charity shops in west and central London to raise funds for their work to support local people during times of personal difficulty or crisis, helping to establish strong and vibrant communities and to improve quality of life for individuals.

But it’s a very competitive field – if you search for volunteer opportunities in charity shops on the Volunteering Richmond website there are 65 pages of charities looking for more volunteers!

The challenge is to stand out from the rest and to show volunteers what they can gain from giving just a little of their time each week – they really are essential to help keep charity shops running.

written by Catherine Andrews, Volunteer Coordinator at Octavia Foundation

The Octavia Foundation urgently need more volunteers for their Richmond charity shop at 394 Richmond Road. Contact the shop on 020 8891 6819 to find out more or visit www.octaviafoundation.org.uk