Where is LLGS based?
LLGS's offices are based in Islington (North London), and volunteers must be able to travel to the office on a regular basis for shifts in the phone room, where the calls are answered. If you aren't able to get to London regularly, there may be another helpline closer to you that needs volunteers. You can search for your nearest helpline on Turing Network.
Do you have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans to volunteer?
Yes. LLGS's policy is that all volunteers must self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.
What do you look for in a volunteer?
Someone with the ability to listen to callers in a non-judgemental manner and limit their own experiences when taking calls. Volunteers must be able to be non-directive and adaptable: a call from a 15-year-old just 'coming out' might be followed by a call from a 50-year-old man looking for a local bar. Though we don't expect volunteers to know everything about gay, lesbian and bisexual life in the UK, we do look for people with a general perception of the diversity of people's life experiences.
Volunteers with daytime, late evening and weekend availability are particularly sought after, as these periods can be difficult to cover.
Volunteers must also be able to offer a commitment to taking calls on a regular basis. The initial training programme is conducted over 4 consecutive Saturdays or 8 weeknights (usually Wednesdays), and all volunteers must be available to complete this before being allowed to answer the phones.
What's your typical volunteer like?
There isn't a typical volunteer. LLGS volunteers come from a range of backgrounds and age groups and all have something different to offer, so they're as diverse a group as our callers. You might encounter a 60-year-old male lecturer working alongside a 20-year-old female electrician in the phone room.
Applications are welcome from all members of the LGBT community, particularly those from groups generally less well-represented.
What happens next?
You will be informed that your application hasn't been successful this time or invited for an interview if your application has been successful.
If you aren't successful you can reapply, and any previous applications won't affect future ones, but we do ask that you wait 6 months before re-applying. If you are successful and are also accepted at interview, you will be invited to participate in the training course.
What does the training consist of?
After interview you may be invited on to a Core Acceptance Training (CAT) course. The training will equip you to deal with the range of LLGS's callers and will consist of role-plays, group exercises and other activities. It takes place over 4 consecutive Saturdays or 8 weeknights (usually Wednesdays), and volunteers must be able to attend all sessions.
After passing the CAT assessment, you will be able to start working on shifts with your personal trainer, with whom you will do 12 hours on the phones. You will then do another 21 hours with other ratified volunteers before being able to take calls completely on your own.
On completion of your formal training, you will have a training review to consolidate your learning. More informal sessions are sometimes organised on a variety of topics for all volunteers, and refresher training takes place once every two years.
How are shifts organised?
LLGS operates a flexible shift system and there are currently no fixed shifts, meaning that you can come in after work, or before work, depending on what suits you, and stay for 3 hours or 5 hours, for example. Most shifts are 3-4 hours in length and whilst many volunteers work regular shifts, others prefer to vary. Shifts are booked in advance through our electronic system.
What commitment is expected of me?
The minimum commitment is currently 6 hours a month, which can be organised however you like. Most volunteers come in for a shift once a week or once a fortnight. Although you are generally expected to come in for a shift twice a month, we understand that this may not always be possible, and LLGS accommodates for illness, holidays and other changes of circumstances. Feel free to contact our office if you have any worries about this.
I'm unwaged/need to pay for childcare; is it possible to be reimbursed for expenses?
All unwaged volunteers, those with a disability and those incurring childcare costs can claim back their expenses, such as travel costs, and are actively encouraged to do so.
I used to be a volunteer for London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard; do I need to re-train?
Not usually. Ex-volunteers who have completed the entire CAT training process and worked on the phones will be assigned a personal trainer and will be required to do between 10 and 18 supervised hours before being allowed to answer calls on their own again. Ex-volunteers are always welcome back. Just
or call the office on 020 7837 6768 to discuss returning.
What other facilities are there for volunteers?
LLGS volunteers can borrow books from our LGBT library and read from a wide range of LGBT-related magazines. Some food and drinks are provided in the phone-room for volunteers who are on shift. Social events are regularly organised and volunteers are also entitled to a membership card which offers discounts at a range of gay venues across London. Support is available in various forms from other volunteers as well as from external counsellors if necessary.
Can I do other work for LLGS as well as answering the phones?
LLGS is a volunteer-led organisation and all volunteers are encouraged to do some 'backup work' for one of the working groups (Human Resources & Training, Public Relations & Fundraising, Information Group). This may take the form of bucket-rattling round Soho, designing some leaflets, helping to interview potential applicants or updating LLGS's extensive database. Many volunteers enjoy this just as much as answering the phones. There are also trustees positions elected by all volunteers at general meetings.
I don't think I can commit to volunteering right now; how else can I support LLGS?
Much of LLGS's work is dependent on donations and these are vital for ensuring we can offer the best possible service to our volunteers and callers. You can become a Friend of LLGS for as little as £5 per quarter. Organisations can also help out by holding events in aid of LLGS or displaying a collection tin or other publicity.
Who do I contact if I have any more questions?
or call the office on 020 7837 6768 if you have any questions about the application process or would like to discuss any additional needs you may have.