An hour in the life of a charity shop volunteer

Mellissa Oliver and other charity shop volunteers share their experiences of volunteering with the British Red Cross. Spoiler: it's very rewarding and lots of fun! 

Last updated 10 November 2023

As a recent volunteer at my local British Red Cross charity shop, I want to share my experience. Above all, I want to encourage others to join me in volunteering for a fantastic cause! Like many, I work full time so finding the time to volunteer can be challenging.

Fortunately, the British Red Cross is extremely accommodating and there is no minimum commitment time-wise. For example, I volunteered during my lunch hour at my local furniture and electrical shop in Redhill, Surrey.

As a passionate writer, I also blog for the British Red Cross. Through my writing, I help to connect readers to the cause and what the British Red Cross does.

I have always loved writing, and it’s great that I can use my passion to contribute to something so important.

What did I decide to volunteer in a charity shop? 

The wide range of volunteering opportunities at the British Red Cross was a key motivator for me.  Using my passion to make an impact and be a part of something big is exciting.

Plus, volunteering is great for your mental health! Doing something positive for the local community, in addition to learning new skills and meeting new people, has been very rewarding for me.

It’s important that you volunteer for a charity or cause that is close to your heart. If you are truly passionate and enthusiastic about the cause, that will shine through.

I feel really good when I’m volunteering. I understand how it feels to need help. I got help when I needed it so it is good to be able to give back, to help people.
Hassan, 20, a person seeking asylum who has also been volunteering with the Red Cross in Northern Ireland.

What does an hour of volunteering in a charity shop look like?

The team was warm and welcoming, and I got stuck right away in the busy shop. I covered a wide range of roles including serving customers (I’m now a pro on the till!), pricing stock, visual merchandising, and sorting through donated items.

Having worked before in a variety of retail environments, it was lovely to see how kind the customers were towards volunteers. It was also fun to chat with those who came in to donate their books, crockery, and other household items.

I enjoyed learning new skills such as using the till. You don’t need to be trained to work in any of the charity shops, as you can learn new skills quickly as well as using existing ones.

I came away feeling inspired by the like-minded, motivated, and positive volunteers around me. It was interesting to talk to some of the other charity shop volunteers about their backgrounds and interests. It became clear that volunteering with the British Red Cross really is for everyone, no matter what your lifestyle or preference is. Whether you are a student, a full-time professional, or a retiree (to name a few examples), there is a role to suit everyone!


What does a charity shop volunteer do? 

You don’t need any experience and committing even as little as one hour per week can have a profound benefit to both the charity and to your own mental health and wellbeing.

Alongside jobs in charity shops, the British Red Cross offers a wide range of volunteering opportunities.

For example:

  • Fashion students could help to merchandise their local shop and create eye-catching window displays.
  • Someone with a graphic design background could create point-of-sale materials.
  • Interested in photography? You could use your skills to take and edit photos of stock.
  • Keen writers can help to tell the British Red Cross story by writing blog posts to promote Red Cross Retail or articles for the internal newsletter.

Find out more about charity shop volunteering

Mellissa Oliver is a British Red Cross retail communications and marketing volunteer.