Volunteering: The benefits and what it's really like
A volunteer at our shop in Keighley, Nazia is also our first official guest blogger; this is the first of two stories she is writing.
If I’m honest I personally chose to volunteer for selfish reasons. I had just finished university and the boredom of unemployment and constant rejection from job applications was really getting to me.
The idea of being in a shop selling second hand goods didn’t thrill me at the time but I thought giving up the odd morning to gain a reference, some customer service skills and to avoid having a blank space on my CV would be worth it. Plus it was for charity.
At the time I didn’t even think to research what The Children’s Society did, but my perceptions of what it would be like volunteering in a charity shop changed practically instantly when I learned what it was actually like.
In the shop
The Children’s Society shop is bright and vibrant and smells great. In fact, one of the first things I noticed was the flowery fresh scent and was surprised because it’s not something I’ve ever noticed in other shops, high-end or high street. It’s something our customers also comment on proving the importance of little things that build people’s perceptions.
It also looks enticing, encouraging people passing by to enter and look around for tempting treats. During my time at the shop I have learnt how to merchandise and organise the shop floor as well as the window display to draw in new customers and keep our regulars happy. We do seasonal displays and try to create a quintessential charm for people searching for one of items and vintage clothing, making us different to the high street.
Selecting a role
Volunteers get the option of working on the shop floor serving customers and gaining experience using the till and merchandising, or working behind the scenes organising, pricing, ticketing, and steaming the stock. The goal is the same: to make money for our charity by pleasing our customers and creating an attractive shop that will keep them coming back.
I personally enjoy working on the shop floor because it helps me understand how the shop functions successfully. But like with most workplaces I think the real enjoyment comes from who you are working with. It can be the most worthy cause but if you don’t like your colleagues it can ruin the experience.
I have been very lucky to work in a shop with an atmosphere that is created by great people. The benefits of volunteering come from the positive attitude you have when you enjoy what you do.
'I have gained experience, new skills, worked with people I would never have met otherwise'
The shop has an effective business system but what makes it successful is the volunteers and Richard, our amazing and very lively manager who always keeps us happy and entertained - as a result, we always do our best for the shop. The work tends to stay the same but working on a Monday morning can be completely different to a Wednesday afternoon or a weekend just because you’re working with different people.
There are times when you are rushed off your feet and other times when you’re standing behind the till with no customers but you’re never bored or fed up because you have the other volunteers to help or you can keep yourself busy by rearranging the shop. If it’s a really slow day Richard might even make cupcakes to sell.
On the whole, as a volunteer I find the experience gratifying because I have gained experience, new skills, worked with people I would never have met otherwise and learnt more about what the charity does. I think it has helped me personally because it gave my positivity a boost.