Volunteering Handbook

Introduction

Dot Dot Dot is a social enterprise. This means that we are in business to address social needs, and have a commitment to making communities safer and stronger. 

All of our property guardians volunteer for 16 hours a month for a good cause of their choice, and many do a lot more than this. We want to support you to find fantastic volunteering opportunities that have great benefits for both you personally and the communities around you.

We ask you to submit a Volunteer Report Form each month to tell us about your volunteering. It’s an important part of your guardianship with Dot Dot Dot and allows us to hear your stories about the projects and organisations you’re contributing to.

Whether you are already volunteering, or are new to it, we hope that you will find this handbook a helpful resource.

Why volunteering and what are the benefits?

There are plenty of ways people can choose to make a positive social impact. When Dot Dot Dot was started in 2011 by Katharine Hibbert, she chose volunteering as a way to identify people who would be good guardians, and as something that her social enterprise would encourage.

She believed that if you provided people with safe, affordable housing they would have more time and energy to do other things that mattered to them:

  • Time because not having to pay high rent can enable people to work fewer hours, or people can live closer to their jobs and therefore cut down on commuting time;
  • Energy because reducing anxieties linked to financial hardship, and unsafe or unsuitable housing, would mean people were in a better place emotionally to think about contributing to a cause.

16 hours a month allows our guardians to make a significant difference to a cause, but for most people it is manageable enough to fit around work and other commitments and hobbies.

We surveyed our guardians about their volunteering in November 2020. Highlights of the results included:

  • 81% said volunteering gave them a feeling of making a difference, and 67% said it gave them satisfaction;
  • 48% said it had helped give them new roots and contacts in their community, and 47% said it had improved their mental health and wellbeing;
  • 35% said it had helped them feel less isolated, and 31% said it had improved their confidence.

Katharine wrote a blog in October 2020 about the benefits of volunteering to both individuals and societies:

"The indirect benefits to society as a whole of volunteering, neighbourliness and civic engagement go way beyond the benefits to individuals in need who receive help from volunteers, or to the volunteers themselves who get satisfaction from doing it. People living in societies with more volunteering, more social connections and higher trust tend to be happier and wealthier. 

“We support volunteering because of its positive impacts on good causes and on the volunteers themselves, but by doing so we hope we are also making a small contribution to building a more positive, happier and richer society as a whole."

Types of volunteering

We ask that your volunteering aligns with a charitable purpose as defined in the Charities Act in 2011. A list of relevant purposes is found here. Volunteering can be both in person or remote, as long as it falls under this definition and makes a meaningful contribution to a cause.

Covid-19 shone a spotlight on the importance of local communities, and we know that many of our guardians joined and contributed significantly to local Mutual Aid groups as a result. We recognise this as volunteering and count it as part of the required 16 hours a month. 

We summarise types of volunteering under the following categories:

A: Volunteering for an organisation or charity – this includes any volunteering done through an organisation, including Mutual Aid or other community activities such as a local organised litter pick. We ask that at least eight hours of your total volunteering hours are affiliated with organisations or charities. Volunteering in this category does NOT need to be for a registered charity. You will find details of organisations, charities and community activities included on our volunteering opportunities resource.

B: Unaffiliated volunteering – this includes voluntary activities that are not affiliated with an organisation or charity.. Unaffiliated activities are likely to be ad-hoc or independent contributions that you have made (such as checking on elderly neighbours or tidying a shared garden). You can only include up to eight hours of unaffiliated volunteering in your monthly form, but of course we encourage you to support your community however you can. There are some safety considerations when carrying out unaffiliated volunteering – check below for more advice.


Examples of types of volunteering:

Activity Type of volunteering
Litter picking with a local clean-up group Charity or organisation
Litter picking independently. Unaffiliated
Supporting a neighbour by collecting a prescription as part of a Mutual Aid group. Charity or organisation
Supporting a neighbour by picking up their shopping, independently. Unaffiliated
Gardening in a local park with GoodGym or similar. Charity or organisation
Gardening in a shared space, independently. Unaffiliated
Volunteering remotely for any organisation or charity. Charity or organisation

What does not count as volunteering:

  • Anything that’s paid! Whether in cash or kind
  • Helping out family and / or friends
  • Political work / campaigning

What doesn’t count toward your 16 hours:

  • Travel to / from volunteering location
  • Searching / applying / interviewing for volunteering roles
  • Training for sponsored events, even if the beneficiary is a charity
  • Time spent organising the logistics of a group activity or event with other guardians –  – please check with your Relationship Coordinator – some of the planning hours might not be possible to record, but the event itself would be.

If you are volunteering, we would like you to be able to tell us about it and to count that time toward your goal of 16 hours per month.

If you are unsure if your activities fall under our definition of volunteering, or if you don’t know how to record your volunteering effectively, email us at hello@dotdotdotproperty.com

Volunteering safely

If you are volunteering through an organisation or charity, it is likely that they will provide guidance for keeping safe while you volunteer. 

If your volunteering is not affiliated with an organisation or charity, it is really important that you safeguard both yourself and others from any potential risks of the activities you are undertaking. This is particularly important when you are volunteering alone in the community, handling money, entering other people’s homes, or having contact with vulnerable people.

Use your judgement to think through the risks of any activity you are planning to do, and ensure you are well prepared before setting off. The government has published guidance on keeping safe while you volunteer which can be found here. There is also guidance on this page on what to do if you are concerned about the physical or mental health of someone you are supporting.

We also recommend that you check your local council’s website for more guidance and useful links and contacts.

Finding volunteering that's right for you

We encourage you to find volunteering opportunities that are right for you, fit around your work and other commitments, and are for a cause, organisation or group that you are passionate about. Here are a few tips if you are looking for new opportunities:

  1. Think about the causes that you feel passionate about.
  2. Think about what skills you have, what you would like to learn and what you enjoy doing (e.g. being outside, talking to people, organising projects, getting creative and making things etc). Volunteering can be more rewarding and impactful if you’re doing what you’re good at!
  3. Think about your availability and lifestyle. Where can you travel to, or does it need to be remote? Can you commit to a regular weekly slot, or do you need something more flexible? All of these things might guide your choice of volunteering.
  4. Begin doing research online or over the phone. Look for opportunities that line up with your preferences. Start making applications or arranging your first volunteering as soon as you can, it can take time to get signed up for a role.

We share volunteering opportunities in our monthly volunteering newsletter, and via the Guardian Facebook page. Here are also a few to get you started:

Resources

  • Do-it – search for all sorts of volunteering opportunities across the UK, including remote opportunities. 
  • Reach – great for more desk-based roles.
  • Team London – London specific volunteering page.
  • whatCharity – you can search by location, mission, impact and more.

We have also compiled a list of opportunities that we are aware of here. Please note that while we try to keep this as up to date as possible, we cannot guarantee that all opportunities are live or have a requirement for new volunteers.

Our top tips:

  • Think about the challenges that communities in general are facing at the moment and if there is something that you can do to help. It might be combating social isolation by speaking on the phone to people who live alone, or supporting your local food bank to help those in need. Reach out to the relevant organisations and see how you can support them.
  • Speak to other guardians about the volunteering that they do.
  • Research what’s happening in your area that you could get involved with – most areas have a Facebook group where local charities and organisations promote events or ask for help from volunteers.

Let us know about your volunteering and we can promote it and you! The best way to do this is via the Guardian Facebook page.

Telling us about your volunteering

Every month we will email you a Volunteer Report Form asking you to provide details on the volunteering you have completed that month.

We love to hear about the volunteering you’re doing, as do the owners of the properties you live in. It strengthens our case to use empty properties for good, so please do take a few minutes each month to give us some details about what you do, how it’s made you feel, and any benefits for you or the cause you support. 

We ask you to submit this before the fifth of the month of the next month so we can collect the data and follow-up where appropriate.

We require the following evidence of your volunteering activities each month, in order of preference:

    1. The name of the charity or organisation and the name and telephone number and/or email address of your point of contact.
    2. Where the above is not possible:
        • A contact name and number and/or email of a fellow volunteer / coordinator e.g. from a Mutual Aid Group, or
        • A screenshot or link showing that you signed up and/or completed your volunteering activities.
    3. Where none of the above is possible, e.g. for unaffiliated volunteering, photo(s) of the activity e.g. before and after photos of a litter pick, or shopping on a doorstep. Please do not include photos of anyone without their permission.

 

Examples of preferred evidence:

Activity Type of volunteering Preferred evidence
Litter picking with a local clean-up group. You can also organise a litter pick yourself and register it here. Charity or organisation Contact name and number of organiser or fellow volunteer OR screenshot of litter pick registration.
Litter picking independently (not registered online). Unaffiliated Photo(s), e.g before and after.
Supporting a neighbour by collecting a prescription, as part of a Mutual Aid group. Charity or organisation Contact name and number of coordinator or fellow volunteer
Supporting a neighbour by picking up their shopping, independently. Unaffiliated Photo(s) e.g shopping on the doorstep.
Gardening in a local park with GoodGym or similar. Charity or organisation Contact name and number of organiser or fellow volunteer OR screenshot of GoodGym event registration.
Gardening in a shared space, independently. Unaffiliated Photo(s), e.g before and after
Volunteering remotely for any organisation or charity. Charity or organisation Screenshot of registration or log hours OR contact name and number of organiser.

 

Filling out the form

Here, you can find a video showing an example of the form being completed. If you still have any questions about filling out the form, contact us at hello@dotdotdotproperty.com

What happens once you’ve told us about your volunteering

We check all submissions, and carry out spot checks on a small number of forms each month. Submitting the form is a requirement of your guardianship and so we have procedures in place to follow up with you if you have not completed the form.

We ask that you still complete the form even if you did not manage to reach 16 hours during the previous month. You can let us know via the form if there were circumstances that affected your ability to reach 16 hours, or if you have already found opportunities to increase your volunteering hours. 

We understand that this may particularly be the case in your first three months as a guardian with us. However, beyond that we will be in touch to see how we can help if your volunteering hours are consistently under 16 each month. Please note that completing 16 hours of volunteering each month is part of your license agreement with us and repeatedly failing to complete forms or your volunteering hours may result in us terminating this agreement.

We are in awe of the great volunteering that our guardians do and regularly celebrate their efforts.  We also nominate a Guardian of the Month via Points of Light. We may therefore get in touch if we have read a story we think is great to see if you would be happy for us to share it. For a look at some recent stories and to be inspired take a look at our social media:

https://www.instagram.com/dddproperty/

https://www.facebook.com/DotDotDotPropertyGuardians/

We look forward to hearing about the great causes that you contribute your time to. If you have any further questions, please reach out to your Relationship Coordinator.