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Positively addictive

23 January 2013

BIG is running a campaign to encourage volunteering to beat the winter blues and help others. In this blog, BIG Scotland chair Maureen McGinn explains how volunteering, even in a small way, can be hugely rewarding.

BIG's Maureen McGinn

BIG’s Maureen McGinn

“Mary was the person who showed me that volunteering wasn’t just about giving. I worked in an office with a vibrant community centre nearby. I lived outside the area so used lunchtimes to volunteer as a befriender in the centre’s dementia project.

After training, I was introduced to Mary, who didn’t have dementia but, lived alone with no close family or friends, and who was isolated and almost housebound.

After my first visit to her home, I shot back to the office for a sandwich before restarting work. For the second visit, Mary had made me a sandwich for my lunch and, by the third visit, she’d visited the local shops to get us a sausage roll and cake.

As the weeks passed, more thought and effort went into planning what we would do together such as outings to the local shopping centre. Mary seemed to enjoy looking after me which pleased and moved me. Making a difference to someone else, even in a small way, is hugely rewarding.

This kind of volunteering became quite addictive and over time I’ve been involved with befriending older people, mentoring school pupils and younger workers. At present I am mentoring two younger women employed in other organisations.

One relationship is informal (she just asked me to do it) and the other is with someone on a leadership development programme which requires her to find a mentor. A meeting might take an hour over coffee every few weeks. We discuss their challenges and opportunities and I enjoy being able to help, encourage and support people starting out in a new role or promoted post.

As I learned more about voluntary and community organisations through the world of grant making and funding, I saw the skills required of trustees overlapped with many I was using in my day jobs. That meant becoming involved as a charity trustee was a fairly easy move and demands on time generally quite modest, with scope to do more, if wanted. It’s been a good way to meet new people from very different backgrounds and it’s also given me real insight into the challenges and opportunities involved in running a charity. 

Since becoming Chair of the Scotland Committee of BIG I’ve started to step away from some trustee roles to prevent conflicts of interest with Lottery business. So my next challenge is learning to be a Justice of the Peace in Scotland because I always wondered how that worked. I am still in training, have sat in on a number of courts and was visiting a prison last week. It’s a different form of community service but, if I’m appointed, it doesn’t look as though it’ll ever be dull!”

Interested in volunteering? Visit our website to find out how to go about it.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 January 2013 2:41 pm

    Great to see Big running a campaign to encourage volunteering – can you say how you will be monitoring the campaign to see if there is any increased take up in volunteering?
    Also will you be increasing/broadening out your grant funding to encourage more volunteering in the community?



    • Big Lottery Fund permalink*
      24 January 2013 2:55 pm

      Hi there Pete,

      Thanks for visiting the blog and for commenting. Our funding supports a wide range of volunteering activities, from grants to charities to enable them to recruit and train volunteers, to schemes that encourage people to become more involved in improving their communities – for instance our Village SOS and Big Local programmes.

      BIG’s Spirit of 2012 Trust is another good example to mention here. It will seek to support volunteering, including helping volunteers involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games to maintain their commitment and energy for the benefit of their local communities. We’ll be making more announcements about this in the months to come.

      As for the evaluation of our initiative to encourage volunteering, we’ll be directly liaising with all of the projects on our interactive map to gauge the results of that outreach exercise.

      Thanks again.

  2. pressteamscotland permalink
    23 January 2013 3:10 pm

    Reblogged this on The Big Lottery Fund Scotland Blog.

  3. 24 January 2013 5:10 pm

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the reply. Can you send me a link for interactive map please?

    As for my question on monitoring the campaign to see the take up on volunteering – I don’t think you actually answered my question. Liaising with the projects is not the same as monitoring – I am pushing the point slightly as these questions often get asked by grant funders and they are very difficult to answer!

  4. 31 January 2013 1:54 pm

    Please please please add to your list of volunteering sources. (And if you have the capacity

    Managed by Volunteer Developmetn Scotland it is the primary source for volunteering opportunites in Scotland – where all the Volunteer Centres/Third Sector Interfaces and Scotland wide volunteering organsitions post opportunities.

    As a volunteer in Scotland being signposted out to primarily English opportunities is deeply frustrating

    Harriet Eadie – CEO -Volunteer Centre Edinburgh

    • Big Lottery Fund permalink*
      1 February 2013 1:29 pm

      Hi Harriet,

      Thanks for your comment on the blog. Some of the links to volunteering sources are UK-wide but we will look into adding those that you suggest for Scotland.

      Best wishes.

  5. 20 March 2013 12:01 am

    I loved this message and I quote “Mary was the person who showed me that volunteering wasn’t just about giving.” Volunteering have many sacrifices and I salute all people doing this! Someday I want to show my help on your advocacy!

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