From dog walking to van driving, from data entry to campaigning on animal welfare issues - the RSPCA offers a tremendous variety of roles for aspiring volunteers to get stuck into. The animal charity has enjoyed a boom in volunteer numbers in recent months, helped by over 1,000 people signing up to be a Wildlife Friend as part of the Big Help Out. In all, around 1,500 people applied for volunteer roles with the society in a two-month period.

And as the RSPCA marked Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) by celebrating the superb contribution of its existing volunteer base, it is looking for even more people who can help make a difference to the lives of animals.

Experience and time does not have to be a barrier to volunteering as there are roles that can suit all types of people and those who can only spare a couple of hours across the week, such as the charity’s microvolunteering scheme and Super Campaigners.

Richard Clark, from Buckingham, recently signed up as a volunteer dog walker and he devotes five or six hours on one day a week helping out at RSPCA Blackberry Farm Animal Centre. He collects around five or six of the centre’s dogs and takes them out for stimulating strolls in the countryside, while he is also completing a course to expand his canine knowledge. 

“It’s the time spent with the dogs that is important as my assistance frees up the permanent staff at Blackberry Farm so they can concentrate on the animals that need special attention,” said Richard. “But it just doesn’t mean that I simply walk them and I have received additional training to compliment the work already done with each dog - I am doing a ‘Gold’ badge course which will help me to work with dogs that have more complex needs.

“I have also completed an on-line training course to assist with maintenance at the centre when an extra pair of hands are needed. I retired last summer and was looking for volunteer work to expand my horizons and provide some exercise in a pleasant countryside setting. As a family, we welcomed four rehomed dogs in the past and it is nice to play a small part in preparing a dog for rehoming.

“I get a real buzz when a timid dog willingly climbs on my lap for some fuss, or I get them to simply play with a toy or chase a ball.” Volunteer talk coordinator Wendy Harris (pictured with her dogs, Denzil and Ginny) is the first point of contact for requests from schools who are looking to book RSPCA Inspectors for educational talks.

Cornwall-based Wendy enjoys the opportunity the role affords her to use her data-handling skills. “I coordinate between schools and inspectors and maintain progress for each request in a spreadsheet to ensure it is easily visible,” she said.

“I originally enquired about a different role, but this suits me better and I can do it from home over a few hours a week. I enjoy gathering and manipulating data, and figuring out alternative ways of presenting the data in order to save time and improve visual presentation so that it can be followed easily.

“I feel useful and appreciated by the rest of the team and I feel like I am giving back something to the animals who give us so much.” Sue Boon once dressed up as a dog on a fundraising carnival float during her 30 years of volunteering efforts.

“She volunteers as a receptionist at RSPCA Hillingdon Clinic and is currently a trustee of the RSPCA’s South Central Regional Board, which she chairs. My volunteering skills have also included acting in a murder mystery fundraising dinner, Christmas carol-singing and administration. In recent years I have worked with branch trustees and I have been volunteering as a receptionist at my branch’s veterinary clinic for over twenty years.

“It helps to be a juggler as you are dealing with a number of issues at the same time, from helping the public with their queries, booking veterinary appointments and animals for rehoming, while liaising with vets and vet nurses. Just being there for those having a tough time is important and the role gives me the opportunity to work on the frontline.

“It is satisfying seeing the recovery of an animal which has been severely neglected and it’s given me the opportunity to work with a great team of veterinary staff and volunteers. I’ve made some lifelong friends along the way.” Volunteers’ Week, run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and its partners, aims to open up volunteering opportunities for everyone by increasing diversity.

As well as celebrating the work of existing volunteers the week-long event aims to raise awareness about the benefits of volunteering and how it can help people gain new skills and at the same time boost their self-esteem. RSPCA head of volunteering Brian Reeves said: “Volunteers' Week is an opportunity to celebrate our fantastic volunteers here at the RSPCA.

“The time they give willingly, along with their commitment and dedication to animals and animal welfare is phenomenal. Every volunteer in every role is appreciated, and should take pride in the fact that they are changing the lives of animals.

“On behalf of all of us at the RSPCA and the animals they volunteer for we say thank you!” The RSPCA is still recruiting for Wildlife Friends to help protect and nurture wildlife by carrying out a variety of simple tasks in their gardens and local communities. The charity’s volunteering hub also has a range of interesting roles.