With volunteering on the rise in this country, a large majority of people have already taken part in some sort of charitable work. So why is volunteering so vital to charities?

Volunteering is, essentially, free help for charities who, without it, would often otherwise struggle to fulfil their charitable purpose. Volunteers perform vital roles by taking charity to those who need it most - like serving food at a homeless shelter, for example. In fact, without volunteers, many charities would simply cease to exist. According to a study by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, 91% of charities registered in the UK have no paid staff and are run solely by volunteers.

Volunteering is not just something that you can put on your CV to make you stand out from the crowd, it gives an enormous sense of wellbeing and a sense of achievement that you have done something good in giving back to the community. Not only is your time incredibly precious to a charity but you might find you're sitting on some skills that would be immensely beneficial to them, too. For instance, the marketing degree that you haven't used since graduation could help a small charity in a big way, utilising your knowledge to assist with gaining the media coverage they need and developing future campaigns. Or, if the charity is providing a service and you are pretty handy with a tool box, there will constantly be things that need maintaining! 

One of the world’s largest voluntary movements is the Scouts and Girl Guides associations. Here in the UK, thousands of people give up their time to help young boys and girls build key life and personal skills, learn new and exciting things and make a positive difference in their community. Perhaps you were a Scout or a Girl Guide and remember one particular leader who became a role model for you? That person gave up their own time completely for free to help bring out the best in you. 

Outside of the UK, volunteers board airplanes and travel around the world to help with relief work following a natural disaster, building schools in African villages or helping to protect endangered animals. Each experience is completely different and not only is it incredibly rewarding for the individual, it is fundamental to the charity that you are supporting. 

Not everyone has vast amounts of free time available, but even just a few hours a month can make a huge difference to the charity and the lives of those they help. Serving teas at a day centre for the elderly or delivering hot lunches to those who are housebound; whatever you do, giving up even a small amount of your time can make a huge, positive impact.  And it’s not just your free time that can help make a difference. If you don't work, or work from home and you love animals, you could always foster a cat for a local animal charity until they can find it a new home. Volunteering isn't just about putting on a name badge and working in a charity shop, the smallest of gestures can make the world of difference.

There are ways to thank volunteers for the work that they do, too. Many award ceremonies take place each year like the Guardian Volunteer of the Year or the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. These provide an opportunity to spotlight the work of an individual or a group for the work that they do to help others. 

The 1st to the 7th June is ‘Volunteers Week’, now in its 31st year. The week aims to encourage more people to get involved with charities big or small, local or national, and it celebrates the achievements of volunteers in this country. You too could run your own event such as organising a tea party for the local retirement home, or you can attend one of the many volunteers’ fairs up and down the country to see how you can get involved.

However you are involved with a charity, be it sending an anonymous donation or volunteering directly, you are making a positive difference to the future of that charity in ensuring it can continue for many years to come.