Volunteering: five sites for angels

If you've wanted to help others but not known where to start, look no further. Celia Dodd has selected five online destinations that just keep giving

No matter what you think of the ‘Big Society’, volunteering really helps people, and it feels good too. If you’re unsure about committing a regular chunk of time, or just want to dip in a tentative toe, look at these different organisations to see which can point you towards flexible opportunities. The same applies if you want to make a radical life change. And for both, you can start here:

Community Service Volunteers I’ve had a soft spot for Community Service Volunteers since they found me a great job with blind kids in Liverpool when I was 19. They’re still going strong, offering volunteering opportunities for people of all ages, including an RSVP programme for 50+ types with more time on their hands (not high50-ers then?!). There is also a range of flexible opportunities, some one-off. Best of all, they have a non-rejection policy and strong European and US links.

Voluntary Services Overseas This is generally the first organisation that comes to mind when you think about volunteering – and for good reason. But it’s only really suitable if you’re thinking of jacking in the day job for a while and dedicating your professional skills to a big challenge far from Blighty. Sectors include communications, community development, teaching and health.

Timebank is less well-known but no less worthy. It has a variety of mentoring schemes, focusing on tackling social issues, and helps to find the right projects for both individual and corporate volunteering.

Also in the matchmaking business is Do-it, a quick way to apply your skills – and the amount of time you want to commit – to people who need your help. Just tap in your postcode, interests and when you’re available, and a range of possibilities pops up. This site can also point volunteers in the direction of tempting residential opportunities, if you want to give up a week or more, from environmental and sustainable technology projects to volunteering as an RSPB warden or working with disabled adults.

Finally, if you favour a particular charity, the obvious place to start is its website, and Oxfam is the classic example. There are not only opportunities in Oxfam shops; you can work at music festivals, take up a volunteer internship, sort stuff in its giant warehouse or get stuck into the local community.