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Listen without judging

We are a volunteer-led charity. Could you be one of our volunteers?

We have only two paid members of staff (part-time administrators). We are nothing without our volunteers. They are our greatest asset.

Volunteering for Switchboard

  • Do you want to give something back?

  • Can you commit to six hours on the Switchboard every month?

  • Are you able to listen?

At the moment we have only two paid members of staff (part-time administrators). All the other work that needs doing at Switchboard is done by our volunteers. Switchboard volunteers are our lifeblood – both on the phone and behind the scenes. They are our greatest asset.

Would you like to join us? We are always looking for new support. When people think of Switchboard they think of volunteers answering phones. But we also need volunteers behind the scene, helping to run Switchboard with skills such as training, PR, Marketing or IT.

For more information, read our FAQ below.

Listening Volunteer

To be one of our Listening Volunteers ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to give something back to the LGBT+ communities?

  • Can you commit to at least six hours for Switchboard every month?

  • Are you able to listen with empathy and without judging?

  • Are you interested in empowering others to make decisions for themselves?

If the answer to these is ‘yes’, then we would love to hear from you.

If you’re accepted, you take part in training sessions to develop your active listening skills. Through role plays and case studies as part of a guided course, you will learn in a supportive and fun environment. At the end of the course there’s an assessment, before you are allocated a mentor to assist you in taking calls in the phone room.

Being a volunteer for Switchboard is a hugely rewarding and fulfilling experience where no two shifts are ever quite the same. Volunteering with us allows you to make a real difference to the lives of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans people – and their families and friends. The interpersonal skills you acquire during the training aren’t just valuable in the phone room, you’ll probably find them coming in useful in other aspects of your life. You’ll also meet new people, learn from their experience and make an active contribution to the wider LGBT+ communities.

Apply for Switchboard’s Volunteer Class of 2020

You can apply to become a volunteer at Switchboard by clicking the button below and filling out the subsequent form.

Apply Now

Support Volunteer

To be one of our Support Volunteers ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to give something back to the LGBT+ communities?

  • Do you have a specialised skill – for example Training, PR, Marketing, Legal or IT?

  • Are you able to make a regular commitment to Switchboard?

If the answer to these is ‘yes’, then we would love to hear from you.

Being a Support Volunteer is just as important and valuable as being a Listening Volunteer. In order to keep answering calls, Switchboard needs to run efficiently and effectively. Perhaps you have a technical skill, 
or corporate experience, or have recently been on a course for professional development – and can apply some of those skills and experience to the successful running of Switchboard, now and for the future.

Historically, this has often been a more challenging area for us at Switchboard, so right now we want to actively encourage all of you who want to contribute behind the scenes. Please let us get to know you and the skills you have to offer. We’d be thrilled to welcome you!

All Support Volunteers are taken through an induction process with a mentor to familiarise themselves in how Switchboard operates.

Support Volunteer Applications

We have recently overhauled how we look for volunteers who’ll help us with administrative work. We’ll be placing specific volunteering opportunities on our page at do-it.org, starting with someone to help us co-ordinate the new work that needs to be done.


FAQ

  • We want volunteers from all walks of life and all backgrounds. However, we are looking for people who:

    • are non-judgemental
    • are able to limit their own experiences when taking calls

    The first seems obvious but the second is, in our experience, far more challenging, because naturally when someone tells you what’s worrying them we usually draw on what we know, from our own lives.

    So volunteers have to be non-directive. They also have to be adaptable. A call from a 15 year old just ‘coming out’ might be immediately followed by a call from a 50 year old man looking for a local bar, followed by a married woman who has just had her first lesbian experience and is wondering, ‘Does that make me gay?’

    When the phone rings, you don’t know what to expect. And although we don’t assume volunteers know everything about gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans life in the UK – we do look for people who have an appreciation of the diversity of life experiences, and who are comfortable talking about whatever our callers want to talk about. We want our volunteers to be curious when they pick up the phone or answer an Instant Message session and to be interested in finding out what the caller or messenger has to say.

    We are looking for volunteers committed to taking shifts on a regular basis. If you have daytime, late evening and weekend availability we would be especially interested, as these can be difficult periods to cover.

  • Well, just like you. There really isn’t a typical volunteer. Each one of our volunteers is different. What we want is to have as diverse a group of volunteers as is possible, to better reflect the incredible diversity of the calls we take.

    If you think you come from a group less well-represented in the LGBT+ communities – lesbian, bi, trans, black and ethnic minorities and also people with disabilities – we would especially like to hear from you.

  • Yes, it’s Switchboard policy that all volunteers self-identify as part of the LGBT+ communities.

  • The training is fun and informative, but clearly there is a serious agenda. We want you to feel confident in meeting the required standard to speak to callers.

    At the end of the course there is an assessment using role plays, but no written test.

  • Switchboard operates a flexible shift system. There are no fixed shifts. You can fit us around your work, study or life commitments, depending on what best suits you.

    Most shifts are 3-4 hours long. Some people do 5-6 hour shifts and some people sign up for a little as one hour.
    Shifts are booked in advance through our electronic system.

    If you book in for an Instant Messaging shift, you can even do this at home.

  • The minimum commitment for volunteers is 6 hours a month, which you can organise however you like. For most volunteers, that means a 3-hour shift either on the phones or instant messaging once a fortnight, often at a regular time.

    As Switchboard is a volunteer-led organisation, everyone is asked to get involved in ‘back-up’ work each year – this could be anything from taking part in a fundraising bucket rattle to running a social event, helping train other volunteers or getting involved in an IT project.

    It is expected that volunteers be able to commit for at least two years. This is due to the huge amount of volunteer time that goes into the training programme.

  • All unwaged volunteers, those with a disability and/or incurring childcare costs, are actively encouraged to claim back expenses such as travel costs, in order to allow them to attend training.

  • We’re based in North London and all volunteers must be able to travel here for shifts on a regular basis. The nearest tube stations are Angel or Kings Cross.

  • Yes please.

    We have operational teams which support and develop the valuable work Switchboard does. If you have a specialised skill which could benefit one of these, please let us know. Your talents and experience are our greatest asset!

  • Once you submit your initial application, you’ll normally hear from us within about 5-10 days. If successful, you’re invited to attend an Information Session where you’ll learn more about Switchboard, our values and what to expect from being a volunteer with us. These sessions are usually held once a month.

    If you like what you hear at the Information Session and feel that you are a good match for Switchboard (and vice versa), then you’ll book yourself a telephone or Skype interview with us.

    Following a successful interview, you’ll be invited to book onto one of our training courses. By this point, it could have been 3 months since you submitted your initial application so please do bare this in mind when applying…of course this all depends on your availability and on how quickly the Information Sessions, Interviews and courses get booked up.

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