Tips for befriending volunteers

Befriending someone can be one of the most rewarding volunteering opportunities, you get the chance to connect with someone in a totally unique way, it can be filled with joy and laughter and result in a lasting friendship. 

But befriending can also be difficult, people have down days and as time goes on conversations may dry up and sometimes doubt can creep in about the difference you’re making. These feelings and concerns are totally normal. We are here to help!

Below are some ideas on how to keep your befriending relationship fresh. Please note that it is always sensible to check with your charity before doing any of these given that different befriending programs have different guidelines.

Get to know them better

  • Ask questions - This sounds obvious I know but ask them about themselves, their life, and their family. Listen intently and show them you are listening by asking follow-up questions. Doing this builds trust. You may find that your match takes some time to open up. If so, be ready with plenty of questions. Here are some great lists we have found… Apologies for the title. It’s not what we’d have chosen but the content is good.

  • Be receptive - It is equally important to know what not to ask but you will only pick this up over time. Listen for any hesitation, anger or emotion that suggests you have hit a topic that they may not wish to dig deeper into. 

Use Technology

In the world of Facetime, Youtube, Spotify and Zoom… there are many technologies that can enrich your befriending match. 

  • Help them relive happy memories - Ask them about some of their most exciting moment which may be the greatest football goal they ever saw, the olympic opening ceremony
  • Find and play their favourite songs - Whip out your phone and headphones and enjoy listening to their favourite songs together. 
  • Find their old house on Google Street View - Who knows how long it has been since they have seen their old house or school. This is a powerful gift you can give with the click of a button.
  • Setup Facebook or Instagram - Again, this one we suggest using with caution given the potential for scams etc but allowing them the means to connect with old friends could be hugely so exciting.
  • Help them communicate with others - This may be a stretch and they may not have the necessary hardware but help them to facetime their family or friends.


Sometimes conversation may be strained or your match may be shy. Doing some kind of activity together can ease the burden and begin to create comfort between the two of you.

  • Watch TV together - This is great if you are a telephone befriender. Stick on a channel they are watching… it gives a constantly evolving topic of conversation.
  • Board games - Scrabble, Chess, Rummikub and card games are great activities. Ask them if there are any they particularly like. Even better if you don’t know how to play yourself… People love teaching and imparting wisdom on others
  • Puzzle books - Word searches, crosswords. These are great for passing time together
  • Cooking - Ask for their favourite meal and offer to come and help them cook it with them
  • Drawing or painting - This may not be for everyone but certainly doesn’t hurt to ask if they like to draw or paint. You could laugh over your terrible attempt at drawing a landscape
  • Play music - Did you notice their piano… perhaps ask them to play for you? 
  • Play wordle or another interactive game - If they have a smartphone or means of playing a game remotely with you, this is a great way to help ease their isolation in a less intense way

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