Is volunteering selfish?

01 June 2020

Covid-19 has turned our world upside down, making volunteers in our communities key workers.To celebrate Volunteers Week 2020 which runs from 1-7th June, we thank all volunteers for keeping our communities going and here to share their experience is Leah Furniss, Development Officer at Community First Yorkshire and Volunteer for the Two Ridings Community Foundation.

Is volunteering selfish”?

Ok maybe not all volunteering is selfish, but mine is, or at least was until very recently.

Just over a year ago I started a new job at Community First Yorkshire. In relation to one aspect of my new role, funding and funding applications, I knew I did not have enough knowledge and experience. Years of working in the voluntary sector, supporting volunteers in numerous charities in a variety of volunteering roles, meant that that the first place I looked to gain some additional knowledge and skills was not my workplace or on an expensive training course; but volunteering. I became a volunteer funding assessor for Two Ridings Community Foundation.

People volunteer for all sorts of reasons, some are passionate about a particular cause or charity, some want to make a difference in their local area, some do it to meet others and some, like the thousands of people who have stepped up recently, react to a specific challenge or crisis. And some like me do it to gain extra skills and experience. Often people think about younger people when they think of volunteering to gain experience, those who are fresh out of school or university – well that is definitely not a category I fit into anymore!

I needed my volunteering to fit in with a new job and young children – to be flexible and on my terms, and my volunteering is. I do it on my own from home at a time that suits me. I can do as much or as little as I like – and yes it has grown my confidence, knowledge and experience and made me better at my job.

I have volunteered in the past, but this is the volunteer role I have found most fulfilling. However, on reflection this is not because of what I have gained from volunteering in relation to my professional development. It is because I have been able to strike a balance between volunteering that meets my needs and volunteering that supports something I know is important; and to be able to do so meaningfully. My years working in the voluntary sector meant that I went into volunteering with lots of knowledge that benefits the charity I volunteer for – I can develop new skills but also utilise those related skills I already have.

Two months ago I also signed up to be a community volunteer. I’ve collected shopping and run errands, supported and promoted local initiatives and business, donated to the NHS and clapped on my doorstep. But the area where I feel I have made a difference is the volunteering I already do. Like lots of charities the one I volunteer for has had to meet a significant increase in demand, as more organisations than ever are applying for funding support. I am better placed to support this charity because of the experience I bring to my volunteering; I recognise that using the skills I have is the best way that I can help people, and I want to help – desperately so.

Like many people I see what is happening around me and want to do something. My volunteering started out as selfish but it has become something else. I want to use whatever tools I have at my disposal to try in some small way to help others, and I know from the many conversations I’ve had with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours that I am not the only one who feels like this.

In a recent Yorkshire Evening Post article they looked at the psychology behind pandemic kindness and why so many people are volunteering for the first time.

“In times of crisis, helping others is a way of helping ourselves. It is partially a coping mechanism, it is a reaction to crisis. Kindness brings connection which makes us feel less isolated, it unites people and brings the community to a higher level of integration.”


So is volunteering selfish? Yes, for some people it is and that is great, you’ll bring commitment, reason and will to your role. You’ll gain new skills and your charity will love having you on board!

However, if you can find a volunteer role that not only expands your skills, but also and perhaps most importantly uses those skills that you already have; then perhaps both you and your charity will gain so much more from volunteering.

Volunteer your way – you can find out more about the volunteering opportunities on offer across North Yorkshire, from telephone befriending to being a trustee, by visiting Community First Yorkshire’s dedicated volunteering directory or by contacting one of our volunteer support team on 01904 704177 or [email protected]


For more information on activities during Volunteer’s Week 2020, visit

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