How to become a Conservation Volunteer? Part One

If you want to be a conservation volunteer, there are many different types of experiences available for budding nature enthusiasts. Conservation Careers Blogger Sarashka King reveals some of the main types of voluntary work available in this first in a three-part topic…

Left to Right: Kate Smith, Derek Niemann, Caroline Mead, Hannah Grayat, RSPB reserve; The Lodge 2013, taken by Katy Blanchard

Volunteers working for a local group. Left to Right: Kate Smith, Derek Niemann, Caroline Mead, Hannah Grayat, RSPB reserve; The Lodge 2013, taken by Katy Blanchard.

Join your Local Group

Local groups are usually run by volunteers and can involve taking part in event programs, or you can get more stuck in with the everyday running of the group organising talks, walks, helping out at reserves, fundraising, or looking after the group’s finances. You can be as involved as you like be that once a month or every week.

Example: Conservation volunteer university groups or the RSPB have many local groups – find one near you here.

Cost: Sometimes a small membership fee may be required but other local groups are completely free to join.

Length: Ongoing: You can attend as much or as little as you can or would like to.

Skills Developed: Depending on what responsibilities you choose to take on, you can gain a vast amount of experience including group work, fundraising, building on your conservation knowledge of the local area, practical hands-on skills, admin including finance, organisation, giving talks or guided walks etc.

Training Offered: This will depend on the local group. If you wish for example to give guided walks training should be provided.

Qualifications offered: Again, depends on the local group although gaining qualifications through your local group would be unlikely! They are usually best for gaining skills and experience.

Pros

o    Networking: They can be a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area, while learning more about the nature in your area.

o    You can be as involved as you like with your local group

o    It should be fairly close to where you live

o    Develop your skills and knowledge

o    It shows enthusiasm and experience on your CV

Cons

o    Hard to gain official qualifications

o    If you find it hard to motivate yourself it’s easy not to go to things

o    There may be a fee involved

 

Join a Working Group

These are usually organised by a ranger and involve lots of physical work, helping to maintain a particular reserve in your area.

Example: Your local Wildlife Trust should offer a Work Party; click here to see an example of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust.

Cost: None

Length: Ongoing, although some working groups carry on throughout the year where as others may stop during the winter; it really depends on the ranger and reserve

Skills Developed: Knowledge of local wildlife, fauna and flora,

Training Offered: Identifying plants and wildlife and how to manage a reserve

Qualifications offered: None usually

Pros:

o    Other opportunities may arise and information on how to get more involved with certain areas of conservation

o    Great for networking!

o    Keeps you fit and a great way to socialise!

o    Opportunity to see your local wildlife

Cons:

o    No official qualifications

o    Can be hard physical work

o    If it ceases in the winter you may need to find a different area of volunteering

 

Youth Groups

This is an opportunity to enthuse and inspire young people about wildlife, the environment and conservation. You would work with young people (the age range can vary) and assist with such activities as nature walks and help to educate them in their local wildlife.

How to apply for a conservation job - free eBook

Example: Click here for an example from the RSPB website

Cost: None

Length: Usually continuous

Skills Developed: Organisation, ability to communicate with young people and knowledge of local wildlife

Training Offered: Working with young people and training in local wildlife

Qualifications offered: No official qualifications

Pros:

o    Fantastic experience to have if you’d like to get into the area of working with young people and educating them about conservation work and our environment

o    Knowledge of local wildlife will increase

o    Lots of fun!

o    Networking

Cons:

o    A lot of responsibility as it involved

o    Can be time consuming

 

Corporate

If you work for a corporation you could suggest taking part in one of the many corporate volunteering events held by NGOs/charities. This can vary from doing a 10K run to just getting stuck in and helping out on a reserve for the day. It’s a great way to promote team bonding whilst having fun, gain some valuable partners in conservation, gain a good reputation for your company, enhance corporate responsibility and is a chance to escape the office and enjoy learning new skills with your team.

Example: WWF have various options for corporations to get involved with them. Click here for more information.

Cost: Charities may charge to become a corporate member of their organisation which comes with benefits such as your logo on their website and your company name mentioned in their communications. Or if it’s just a one off this can cost less. Fees may be for food, and other such amenities.

Length: Can be an on-going relationship or just a one off

Skills Developed: Team bonding and knowledge of conservation

Training Offered: Depends on the event! Could be training in your local wildlife if you’re helping out on a reserve.

Qualifications offered: No official qualifications

Pros

o    Great team bonding

o    Opportunity for good business relationships that can help both sides

o    Enhances corporate social responsibility

o    Good for staff’s mental health to get outside!

Cons

o    Not all members of your staff may be happy with this idea

o    Note for NGOs/charities: pick companies wisely and avoid those with dubious environmental reputations

About the author

Sarashka King in Romania, credit Philip King

This post was written by Conservation Careers Blogger Sarashka King. Sarashka is passionate about nature and conservation. She used to work for the RSPB and is now waiting to start her Postgraduate Diploma in Ecology at the University of East Anglia to go along side her degree in Marketing and Advertising. She hopes to then take this forward to do a Masters in an area of interest. She also has a passion for travel and would love to combine the three elements of conservation, marketing/communications and the travel industry to concentrate on ecotourism in her future career.

If you’re interested in becoming a Conservation Careers Blogger, please click here.

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