Volunteers described many different pathways into volunteering. There was no common pathway, instead a combination of work, other volunteering, interests and hobbies as well as experience with friends and family led people to volunteer with people with dementia. Some people wanted to volunteer but had no specific volunteering opportunities in mind and were guided towards volunteering in dementia care following personal recommendations or hearing about it through the promotional activities of organisations working in this area. Others were at a point in their lives where they were looking for something new to do, they had more time on their hands, often following retirement or a move to a new place.
Volunteers were influenced by their own experiences of dementia and the skills and knowledge they had acquired. This was a common characteristic of pathways into volunteering. Several participants volunteered in different settings and their move into volunteering with people with dementia was part of a wider volunteering career. Others became involved in volunteering as young people through school projects and volunteering remained a part of their life into adulthood. Some got involved through other aspects of their lives, for example, through their church or community group. One younger volunteer spoke about a drive to volunteer as a route to do something useful for somebody else and as a way of coping with ill health in her own life. Others reported that they got into volunteering as a way of paying forward, that by helping people with dementia it might ensure that they get help when they need it.
These varied pathways into volunteering provide useful information for organisations thinking about recruitment. The significant number of our participants who came into volunteering in the dementia field through other volunteering roles suggests that as one possible route for recruitment. The high number of volunteers from health and social work backgrounds might also provide a route for recruitment.
I ended up in the kitchen so we were, sort of, at the [singing] group but I ended up making the tea and then something else and something else and then it just sort of…it came from there. Then I just, sort of, joined up. They just asked me and said, would you like to be a proper volunteer rather than just doing it (Female carer, Cumbria)
And I think I saw a poster for it in the library and I just decided that I wanted to do something. I wasn’t very well in myself at the time. I was quite depressed and I’d done social care at university and I’d worked with adults with a disability, so I just absolutely loved it. And I was looking for that kind of belief, that going out and just doing something for somebody else and really enjoying it, and not worrying about myself. (Female volunteer, Stirling)
I keep saying to people, well, it’s my insurance policy? If I am putting work into supporting dementia perhaps there’ll be some support for me when I go down that road, so that’s it really. (Female volunteer, Stirling)