Volunteer opportunities at Kew
Volunteers have been a vital part of Kew since 1992, supporting the organisation and assisting staff in their work. Our volunteers bring a range of diverse talents and skills to various departments. There are currently over 500 volunteers generously giving a day or half-day per week of their time and talent to support our mission.
Recruitment drives for volunteers are carried out when a number of placements become available. There is no set recruitment period during the year so if you are interested you should keep a regular eye on our jobs and volunteering page. We aim to find the right placement for each volunteer, according to their preferences, and to provide opportunities for a diverse range of people. During our recruitment drives the application forms which we hold on file are matched to the vacancies and those applicants whose availability and interests most closely match will be invited to Kew for an informal discussion. The purpose of the discussion is to explain volunteering opportunities in more detail and to find out more about why applicants would like to volunteer.
Our thriving community of 120 knowledgeable volunteer guides enhance the visitor experience by providing a wealth of interesting information, interpretation and orientation for visitors. There are various volunteer guide opportunities at Kew Gardens.
- Tour guides lead general and specialist tours of the Gardens for the public.
- Information guides offer a wide range of advice and guidance to our visitors at key points around the Gardens.
- Discovery guides lead bus tours for visitors who have additional needs or disabilities.
- Discovery Bus drivers drive buses on our tours for visitors who have additional needs or disabilities.
Our horticulture volunteers support the work of our trained horticulturists by helping out with the basic maintenance of Kew’s plant collections, carrying out tasks such as propagation, planting, weeding, pruning, mulching, tidying and lawn edging. Opportunities are available from Monday to Friday only, both outdoors and in our glasshouses. Horticulture volunteers usually give their time for one day per week, Monday to Friday, starting between 8.30am and 10.30am and then finishing between 3.15pm and 4.15pm. We try to place volunteers according to their preferences.
Volunteers to assist with schools and families
There are a variety of ways to get involved with Kew’s Schools & Families programme which caters for a wide range of educational groups and attracts thousands of children and young people each week. Many participate in our activity tours and workshops provided by a specialist team of Kew Teachers.
Kew also attracts thousands of children who visit with their families. Children aged three to nine can explore a giant world of plants and find out about how they interact with animals in our botanically-themed interactive play zone, Climbers and Creepers. We also run a range of special activities and events across the gardens at weekends and during the school holidays.
Examples of the types of volunteering roles available and the kind of activities you can get involved with.
- Schools Greeters, Explainers and Lunch supporters welcome schools into the gardens, provide lunch, programme and resource support and interact with school groups in the glasshouses and gardens.
- Family Learning Volunteers get hands on in the preparation and delivery of enjoyable craft, horticultural activities and games for Kew's younger visitors and their families.
- Garden Explainers enhance the visitor experience by telling Kew-related stories to our visitors.
Volunteer hours at Kew are flexible, including school term time, weekends and school holidays. We encourage our volunteers to commit to around 24 sessions per year. The roles we offer may suit parents with children at school or people looking for skills development in education, playwork, child care or early years development.
Training is provided, but beneficial skills and experience include:
- volunteering with children in schools or play centres;
- volunteering in public-facing environments such as front of house or visitor services at museums or public attractions;
- applicants should have good communication and team working skills and enjoy being with children
All volunteering placements that work with these groups are subject to the appropriate checks.
Plant shop volunteers
Volunteers help out in the plant shop at Victoria Gate and assist with a range of activities. Opportunities are available every day and volunteers are not required to use a till. Tasks could include the irrigation of outdoor plants and terrace plants, light maintenance of plants (e.g. dead-heading and weeding), helping customers take purchases to the cash desk, giving advice on plants, horticultural goods and answering general customer enquiries. You will enjoy this role if you are a ‘people person’ and team player with some knowledge of plants and their care. You will be customer facing so will need to be confident and have a passion for Kew and its plants.
Herbarium volunteers, working with scientists
The Herbarium at Kew, one of the largest of its kind, was founded in 1853 and houses some seven million dried and mounted plant specimens from almost every geographical region of the world. It plays a vital role in providing training in areas such as plant identification techniques, taxonomic nomenclature and conservation. It also acts as a centre for information exchange and a channel for networking between plant specialists, students and researchers in other related areas of study from around the world.
Kew's Herbarium offers a series of opportunities for volunteers with either its regional teams based in specific geographical areas, or its basic research teams, whose work is centred on systematic botany (i.e. comparative plant biology). Other sections include the GIS Unit which is responsible for mapping (both vegetation and species) and the UK Overseas Territories Programme which carries out conservation and biodiversity research.
The main goals of Kew’s research are to define the units of plant diversity (species and higher categories) and organise them into meaningful classifications that reflect their evolutionary relationships. We then apply that knowledge to conservation science. This work generates vital basic data for habitat and plant conservation and sustainable development strategies.