When I wanted to do some volunteer work a few years ago I found it really hard to find out how to contact the charities I wanted to work for. When I did contact them the response was less than the "Wow, someone wants to volunteer to work for us!! Great! When can you start?" attitude I expected :o)
Irish NGOs are modernising in terms of the way they manage volunteers. There was an interesting article in the Sunday Tribune today about the ways in which volunteers in the 21st century are different from 20th century volunteers and the challenges facing people who make a new year's resolution to volunteer with an organisation.
In the 20th century volunteers were people with a lot of free time who were willing to give their time to do a job without expecting much and without questioning how the job was done. In the 21st century volunteers are time-poor and demand professionalism from the organisations they volunteer for. They are also more interested in what they can get out of the volunteer role and want to do interesting and challenging work, not staffing a charity clothes shop. At least that's according to a study done by a think-tank in the UK for the British Scout Association.
For willing volunteers the volunteering business can be tough too, they can find that charities may already be over-subscribed with volunteering offers or only hire volunteers at particular times of year. Also, sticking with a volunteering commitment is at least as challenging as any other new year's commitment.
Volunteering Ireland is a great site if you want to look at the various volunteering opportunities available within Ireland and abroad.