3 days to go. (including today, tomorrow and Saturday for those asking)

It goes without saying a lot of things wouldn’t exist without volunteers. Discounting the charity shops which pay their managing directors hundreds of thousands a year look at the 2012 Olympics. The opening ceremony was the best production I’ve seen in my life. All powered by volunteers (and some paid people, naturally, but mostly volunteers).

Volunteering: Freely offer to do something.

I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve volunteered at NE1fm. Community radio is the only thing I’ve really volunteered with, I used to be part of a large orchestra in my musician days which we did for the love of music – good times! I think most volunteers would love to be paid to do what they do. I know I do, because I still wish to this day that things had of been different and I could be paid to work there 35 hours a week. In a different universe the station would be much, much bigger. But it all comes down to money at the end of the day.

Volunteering can be as rewarding as you want it to be. If you want to turn up, present a show and go home, you can. You should probably do more though. Don’t just take, give back. You almost earn a status after being a long time volunteer. I think you can get away with more, have more say, more influence and you get more respect. I’m proud to be able to say people benefit every single day from the work myself and the other directors of CBIT (who own NE1fm 102.5) do. There’s that saying “if it wasn’t for you…” – if it wasn’t for a small group, a much bigger group would go without.

On a more difficult front, running a project is always best effort. I can say hand on heart that everything we’ve done has been best informed, best decided. There’s no free training on how to run a project. No free training on the legalities, no free training on employment law. And if you end up dealing with a difficult volunteer they can very quickly start to become a pain citing all sorts of laws and rules they think you’ve broken.

My advice on that front? Be fair, professional and open about the actions you do. Always have justification. Use resources like Volunteering England to help you with the other bits. When people they complain to come calling, show them your reasons and you’ll find they’ll agree and walk away. Do all of that and you’re on to a winner.

Here’s what some have achieved volunteering with NE1fm.

  • Barry Wilson
    I’ve met musicians from all over the country, I’ve gained friends internationally, I’ve been backstage at venues across Newcastle upon Tyne and I’ve had people genuinely refer to me as “their favourite DJ”. I’ve interviewed The Levellers and The Lancashire Hotpots, two of my all time favourite bands. I can think of a few more, courtside seats at Newcastle Eagles games, tonnes of CDs for free, getting into Alton Ellis via listening to Gordon Robertson on NE1, getting the lead singer of Groove Armada to shout Slayer, so much more……. This isn’t a “hey, look what I’ve done”, but it’s more “look what’s happened due to NE1”. Hey, the amount of help [the station] gave The Old Ship Music Festival (which in turn got mentioned on the BBC!). Wow, so glad NE1 exists. Oh, and being the PA for Gateshead Thunder. Again, cheers NE1!
  • Gordon Robertson
    I got to interview Christopher Ellis, son of the late reggae legend Alton Ellis and also Dave Hillyard from great US ska band The Slackers. I wanna thank [Barry Wilson], Simon, Kev, Dave T, Hev and sure there’s others I’ve forgotten for giving me a year of doing my thing on FM radio and helping to build my confidence. Now I’ve ended up on one of the internet’s biggest specialist reggae stations and would never have got there without NE1.

If you’ve volunteered with NE1fm and are reading this, please leave a comment on what difference it has made in your life.

How to pay for a project people volunteer with? That’s tomorrow’s blog.

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