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Guest blog by Fran Riando – Unlocking the Geffrye

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The Geffrye explores the home and the way people live. Our collections show how homes have been used and furnished over the past 400 years, reflecting changes in society and behaviour as well as style, fashion and taste.

The Geffrye is a much-loved gem in the lively and creative Hoxton area of London – historically a centre for furniture-making and market gardening. Set in 18th-century almshouses and surrounded by gardens, it is often described as an oasis in the heart of the city.

People volunteer across the museum leading tours of the restored almshouse, helping maintain the gardens, supporting family learning activities, community sessions and events, collection and documentation activities, helping our development team with research, supporting the communication team supporting the volunteer programme itself.

Volunteering has been steadily growing over the past 5 years, with the number of contributed volunteer hours rising from 2110 in 2013/14 to 3069 in 2016/17. Our volunteers suggested that we should embrace digital technology to help with communication and certain volunteer management functions like rotas.

When researching I came across Volunteer Makers. Instantly struck by the idea of having lots of different ways for people to get involved, including micro volunteering and how technology could support this and help to build the community, I got in touch. Volunteer Makers would really help us to think differently about volunteering, especially moving into a period when the Museum will be closed as part of a transformational redevelopment project, Unlocking the Geffrye.

We have now planned for Volunteer Makers, started to implement the plan and are in a period of consultation with the current team which will be followed by a public launch.

This project has helped us learn a lot so far, here are some of the top things that have helped us get to this point:

1. We have developed our Volunteer Maker’s strategy as part of our wider strategy for volunteering at the museum. During meetings we developed a set of values for the programme, which helped to focus discussions and decision making throughout.
2. We have tried to work collaboratively across the organisation; in practical terms this has meant having a clear idea of time scale and key outcomes at different stages has been really vital. This has helped to make sure that people have the information they need to contribute to decisions, reflect and feedback at each stage, whilst planning time to act on feedback where possible. We used a simple table to help keep track of this which allowed us to adjust the plan as needed. (You can get a copy of the template we created for planning from Volunteer Makers).
3. Getting the whole organisation involved at all levels has been really important. Planning multiple opportunities for people to get involved and think about what aspects of Volunteer Makers might appeal to the motivations of different teams. Do not get disheartened if people don’t immediately get involved, if you have opportunities throughout the project people can get involved more easily when things become less abstract. I have planned to share Volunteer Makers with the whole team including those who haven’t been involved in a staff meeting. I plan to get everyone attending to contribute ideas for challenges in their area of work.
4. It has been beneficial having the communication team and current volunteer team involved. Spending the time to get the communication team is worth it, ensure they know what opportunities they have to feed in, and when decisions will be final, this means they know what meeting they have to be at! This team caught on to the micro volunteering aspects of Volunteer Makers quickly, so having meetings where you mix teams to think about ideas has worked well. Volunteers are the people that you want to be able to use and embrace the site, so working with them is important. One of our volunteers, Maja, attended a meeting about branding, during which she came up with the name and tag line for the site after members of staff had talked about it for quite a while. Volunteers are able to bring fresh perspective which has been really beneficial.

Fran Riando, Audience Development Coordinator: Volunteers & Communities

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Guest blog by Hannah Mather – Volunteer Makers: A Digital Revolution

My Name is Hannah Mather and I’m an emerging museum professional. I recently graduated with my MA in Museum Studies and have been working part time at Jarrow Hall as their Supervisor of Culture and Heritage. I’m also Chair of the North East Emerging Museum Professionals Group, a voluntary group which I founded back in April to encourage peer support for early career professionals like myself.

Managing volunteers can be difficult. People volunteer for different reasons, understanding what motivates your volunteer and working with them can be key to ensuring value exchange. It’s important to manage the expectations of both the organisation and the volunteer from the very start. As an early career professional, I love volunteering. I see many opportunities for self-development by working with more experienced professionals to develop and gain skills. It’s disheartening when you’re left feeling like a ‘spare part’ in a generic role.

The traditional volunteer application process is becoming outdated. It can be off putting when often we find that forms are not very accessible and do not allow people to cover a broad range of interests and skills. People are often asked to explain what they can bring to a role which is so generic that in fact, they don’t even know themselves what they are volunteering for.

It’s time to ditch our traditional approach to volunteering and embrace a model which can enable expectations to be managed affectively. We increasingly find that more people are wanting to volunteer, they just do not have as much time. This can be a deterrent, we’re unwilling to commit time when we are unsure on how much time we’re able to give.

Digital thinking is a good solution, one which embraces accessibility. In an age where most us have access to the internet museums have the potential to harness these tools and use them to outreach, inviting people to access their collections off site. Organisations like Tyne & Wear Museums, have been embracing this by thinking of ways in which they can blur the lines between community participation and volunteering. Using the Volunteer Makers digital software, they have made their collections more accessible and have been able to encourage people to share their favourite objects from the online collections database across their social media channels.

This digital platform has led to a rise in micro volunteering as people choose to partake in smaller tasks which take less time to complete but can be done much more frequently, creating the ‘long tail effect.’ Many smaller tasks have the potential to drive much larger projects through this. A great example of the micro volunteer challenge is “Take a photo of something you’ve enjoyed on your visit, then share it on social media.” It’s something which a lot of people already like to do, myself included. By sharing a photograph on social media, you’re sharing it with your friends and followers who can, in turn share the post with their friends and followers. The outreach on this can be huge and great for marketing.

There is also the potential, with this digital model to open a wider variation of volunteer opportunities. The tech can help to make these opportunities much more targeted, deciding what opportunities the person would be a good fit for based on the data they input when signing up, data which can be changed at any point. I first came across the model when volunteering for Tyne & Wear Museums. I had previously applied for several volunteering opportunities, and handed in countless forms, each as long and tedious as the other so when TWAM adopted the volunteer makers model it was a relief to know how straight forward the application was and I enjoyed the gamification of the site which allowed me to get started straight away and choose what appealed to me. It was a fun and creative way to volunteer. It wasn’t until sometime after this that I realised that this wasn’t just something TWAM were doing and that in fact there was a platform behind this was something which museums across the country were starting to see the benefit of.

My recent involvement with Volunteer Makers has been a very positive experience, I was invited to be part of the advisory board and my EMP group now have our very own platform which we hope to use to grow and manage our network by sharing opportunities and developing relationships with our regional museums. The Volunteer Makers platform I hope will allow NEEMPG to do what it has already aimed to do in a much more accessible way. Being involved in this project has also given me incredible opportunities, including being able to talk at the Museums Association Conference, giving the volunteer’s perspective on Volunteer Makers.

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Guest blog by Jessica Hartshorn – Doing it Together

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Volunteering plays a significant role in maintaining the heritage sector’s resilience and a week on, I am reflecting on the 2017 Museums Association Conference in relation to this matter.  After 15 years working in galleries and museums, 11 of which have been at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, volunteers have always played a part in supporting our services.  However, it is clear that the way in which we work with these wonderful people, who bring skills, experience and enthusiasm needs to change in response to the changing world in which we live.

I was invited as a Volunteer-Maker pioneer to speak at the Conference about how we can manage this change successfully and gain ‘buy in’.  How do we ‘ Do it Together’?  This was as a result of feedback which I gave to Claire (Claire Sully – Volunteer Makers’ Programme Director) after our initial workshop with her introducing Volunteer-Makers. I said:

Everyone was buzzing and excited after the session, and I can honestly say I have never had such heartfelt positive feedback about a change of system before!

It’s true, I was so surprised at the feedback from our staff, everyone was very excited and keen to move forward.  We had organisational buy in.  But how?  My first thought was ‘Well it just kinda happened.’  But after thinking about it, it wasn’t that simple.

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum is currently still in the early stages of working with Volunteer Makers and its programme, as one of the pioneers, and I am also part of the advisory panel. After having an initial workshop with Claire in the summer, we have now put together the content of our platform, trained staff and consulted with our current volunteers. We have had a soft launch of the site while we are testing it and will be promoting it further over the Christmas period.

But how did we get to this point?  Why did we need to change and how did we encourage others in our team to come on our Volunteer Makers journey with us?

Like many cultural venues, we had been through many changes over recent years and to strengthen our position, in 2015, we were successful in receiving an Arts Council grant to work on our resilience.  The grant enabled us to take part in a programme of training focusing on working together as a team.  During this process, it was apparent we needed to see and accept changes in order to move forward.  This was our first stage for helping with ‘Buy in’.  We were ready for change.

But what was our volunteer status?   Before 2015, we had 2 volunteers, no strategy or policy or way of recruiting volunteers.  In 2015, as part of the Rugby World Cup, being the home of the game, we ran an official purpose-built Fanzone venue and ran a schools’ programme and events.  As a result the Visitor Centre manager started to put together a policy and recruited and trained around 50 volunteers.  After this we managed to keep many of these volunteers to support the gallery and museum and trained them to work particularly with the education programme.  This transformed what we did and we saw a huge value in these fantastic people, who brought new ideas and skills to the team.  However, two years down the line, our programme has expanded and we require more volunteers.  But we had not updated the policy and we hadn’t looked at how we were going to continue to recruit.  Our volunteers were mostly white and over 50 and we wanted to attract a broader demographic from our community.

Volunteer Makers seems to be an answer to our needs.  A new way of attracting younger audiences and offering micro-volunteering (small pockets of time which can be on or off site) was an exciting way forward.  It would also give us an opportunity to review our policies and engage more staff in supporting volunteering as they could set smaller more manageable challenges.

So, returning to making a change in your organisation.   My initial thought was, well why wouldn’t you have buy in? This sounds fantastic and offers an answer to the problems we had.  But as you know in this sector there are always barriers.  What are the challenges?  This led to a tool which I had recently come across in a training session.  I think it explains what is needed to encourage change, therefore helping people to buy in:

OPM (Object Process Methodology) – Change model shows what is needed for successful change and the effect when one is missing.

Pressure for change – if there is no pressure it goes to the bottom of the tray.  Capacity for change – lacking in resources and staff time leads to anxiety and frustration.  Clear shared vision – with this enthusiasm starts to fizzle out.  Actionable first step – without a clear plan it can lead to haphazard efforts and false starts.  At Rugby, we have used this model as a method to move the Volunteer Makers programme forward.

Pressure for change – Why was it important?  We needed to recruit new volunteers, particularly younger people.  We needed to diversify our demographic of volunteers and we wanted to support engagement and develop ideas.  To do this we needed a new way of working and we needed it ASAP.

Clear shared vision – I think Volunteer Makers presentation really sold itself to the team, it demonstrated a clear vision.  The team could see the opportunities and during the workshop, Claire helped us to think about our aims for volunteers and where we wanted to be in the future.  It helped us to have a shared vision.

But also key for buy in was to invite all members of the team as everyone plays a part.  To encourage those who are resistant by speaking their language and appealing to how they will personally benefit.

The other important preparation was to pre-empt questions from the team and resolve these with Claire before the meeting where possible.  This meant questions and challenges brought up in the meeting could be resolved there and then, meaning staff left the meeting with a clear vision without too many holes.

Capacity for change – Time and staff, is for many organisations the biggest barrier.  As my manager could see so much potential in this project we agreed that I would dedicate time to this project.  We needed to make time for this project but also the whole team believed in Volunteer Makers enough to put a small portion of time aside.  We are also looking at having a volunteer to support and help us move the programme forward.

Actionable first Step – Claire helped us to set an action plan during the workshop with a vision and aims.  This so, far has enabled the project to move forward.  Regular group meetings looking at our progress and working with the team and our current volunteers to overcome any challenges.  Our officers are setting challenges, front of house staff are selling Volunteer makers, volunteers are currently testing it.  Everyone plays a part.

I very much valued my opportunity to share our experiences and also to listen to other pioneers at the conference.  It was really interesting to hear different and similar perspectives regarding volunteers and support each other.  After all, we are a caring, sharing sector, ‘Doing It Together’.

Volunteer Makers – a tool for the savvy Accredited museum by Vicky Dawson

Vicky Dawson_Heritage ConsultantVicky Dawson explains how, through the organisation-wide adoption of Volunteer Makers, museums can achieve and evidence their core strategic aims of improving how they are run and the experience of their users.  These two aims are cornerstones of Museum Accreditation, the national standard scheme for museums in which over 2,500 public museums of all sizes across the United Kingdom participate.

 

Volunteer Makers is a national programme – supported by Arts Council England – which is pioneering a model of audience engagement using digital and blending volunteering with public participation. Accreditation is operated by Arts Council England and partner organisations in the home countries.  It provides a framework against which museums benchmark their governance and resource deployment, collections management and public services.  In order to become Accredited a museum must evidence that it meets the required standards across its operation and demonstrate how it identifies and plans improvements.

Volunteers play an important part in the operation of most museums today.  In South West England over 30% of Accredited museums are completely run by volunteers.  Even in museums with paid staff volunteers take on roles as Trustees, front of house staff, learning officers, fundraisers, exhibition developers, collections assistants, website managers – you name it, there will be a volunteer doing it.  The management of this highly valuable resource is therefore essential and is one of the activities assessed in Accreditation (sections 1.4 Forward Planning and 1.7 Workforce) where Volunteer Makers can help museums deliver.

Volunteer Makers facilitates the recruitment of volunteers to carry out the activities set out in the museum’s Forward Plan.  It encourages all departments within the museum to identify the skills needed and the activities involved in delivering its objectives and to break them down into  ‘challenges’ which volunteers can sign up to.  The customer relationship management features of the platform enable the museum not just to manage the promotion of volunteer opportunities or organise its records on individual volunteers, but also to quantify and put a value to their volunteers’ contribution – valuable data to support funding applications as well as business planning.

For the new or existing volunteer the online platform improves their experience too: it creates an accessible and efficient hub where they can find out about the opportunities available, match their skills, read up on roles and responsibilities and apply if they are interested.  Once signed up, they can keep track of and evidence their involvement – a definite advantage if they are volunteering to enhance their CV and employment prospects.

By harnessing techniques more familiar to digital engagement, marketing and social media (including personalisation and gamification) to improve the experience of its users, the  museum is also addressing one of the other key requirements of Accreditation and a core strategic aim of most museums: to broaden the diversity of its users (Accreditation requirement 3.1.3).

The most successful museums today are no longer regarded purely as the guardians of the nation’s or community’s heritage but also as the inspiration for personal expression and a conduit for civic involvement.  Opportunities for participation, co-creation and debate bring in more diverse visitors: younger people, people who thought museums were stuffy, people from marginalised communities.

Volunteer Makers enables museums to capitalise on this trend by blending volunteering with public participation through digital engagement.  It allows museums to promote and manage micro-volunteering and seamlessly encourage people to become more deeply involved as volunteers as their available time increases.  This concept of the ‘long tail of volunteering’ makes museums think about volunteering in a more creative and agile manner in the face of changing demographics and increased financial pressures.

These are the two main areas where Volunteer Makers is helping museums improve and evidence their compliance with the Accreditation standard, thereby achieving core strategic aims and contributing to their resilience.  To do this Volunteer Makers and Accreditation need to be firmly understood and applied across the whole museum – from the Governing Body to the cleaner, volunteer and paid staff.  The recent re-launch of Wardown House Museum in Luton is testament to this.

These are exciting times for museums where the responsive will flourish, delivering with more relevant and vibrant programmes.  They lead the vanguard to ensure museums are recognised once more by communities and funders as being an active and essential part of cultural life.

 

 

Vicky Dawson is a freelance museum and heritage consultant based in South West England.
@dawsonheritage

 

Guest Blog by Caroline Morris – The return effect on me

I first saw the Corinium Volunteer Makers site when I was casually looking for volunteering opportunities in local museums. Most sites were singularly unhelpful in this search but the access to the Corinium Museum’s Volunteer Maker site was very easy. Once I started at the museum, I was bowled over by the welcome I received and their appreciation of the skills I could bring.

I was asked to document the contents of the loans and resource boxes and later update their database. I have carefully photographed replica and ‘real’ objects associated with, amongst others, the Bronze Age, Anglo Saxons, Romans, and my particular favourite box, a Tailor’s Shop. Although clearly many of these objects are replicas, I still found the experience of handling museum objects exciting. I have spent a number of years studying museums and now I was getting to experience the real deal.

This photography task has its challenges, even lighting for one. These simple images were to be used as documentation but they also needed to be used to illustrate the written material contained in the boxes. I therefore needed to make sure the images truly reflected the originals as much as possible, only occasionally assisted by Photoshop. Some of them also need cutting out and inserting into documents. I have enjoyed the challenge.

I have photographed other less conventional objects. A local knit and natter group made a series of woolly monks to help celebrate the 900th anniversary of Cirencester Abbey. These were to be placed around the museum as a trail for children to follow. I was asked to create the trail sheet and images for advertising it. I took my twelve little woolly chums around the museum and found appropriate places to ‘shoot’ them in. I also did a little research to find out their proper names within a monastic community. The resulting trail turned out to be the most successful children’s trail to date.

In addition, I have been able to combine my part time job with Waterstones with the museum volunteering. With my events management hat on, I initiated a collaboration with the museum to bring authors to do workshops and give talks – I am particularly excited about the talk by Andrew Taylor taking place in April 2018.

Clearly the museum are getting something out of my weekly visits but I was unprepared for the return effect it would have on me. I had spent a number of years in research where I have not used my photographic skills or visual creativity (despite my background as an artist), and although this role may not sound like it, actually it woke up that dormant part of my brain. Since I started I have been able to create work again and I have all sorts of ideas flowing around my mind again. Some of which are directly inspired by my experience – I have begun to think about how I could create some work responding to the museum’s collection, or to the forthcoming changes to some of the galleries in the museum. I would also like to get into the museum stores at some point and get my hands on ‘real’ artefacts. This has definitely been a mutually beneficial relationship which I  want to continue.

Caroline Morris, Volunteer Maker, Corinium Museum @CoriniumMuseum 

TWAM Volunteer Makers

Guest blog by Hannah Rose Mather – How much time do you have?

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums is a regional museum, art gallery and archives service which manages 9 museums and galleries across Tyneside and the Archives for Tyne and Wear.  They have recently launched a new, creative, way to make volunteering with them much simpler and I love it!  By clicking this link you can now register online to be a volunteer.

Once registered you can browse their listed volunteer roles or challenges and choose to accept those which appeal to you. The sign up is simple and you can get started straight away.

The outreach for this is genius, it means that you can choose how much time you want to give and this can be anything from as little as a minute, an hour or a day as well as signing up to do regular volunteer work. One of the most recent challenges I accepted was taking a photo of something I enjoyed on my visit to one of their museums, I then simply had to share it on social media. I completed this challenge after finding that I enjoyed quite a few things from my visit to the Discovery Museum and shared it on Twitter.

This was a great visit and I wouldn’t expect anything less. However, the beauty of this new approach to volunteering means that you don’t even need physical access to a site in order to do some of these challenges. We live in a digital age and museums certainly know it, TWAM have created a great way to explore their collections from home.

You can “Dive” into their collections via their collections dive. This allows you to find things you probably didn’t even know existed and when you find something you like, you can share it with your friends on social media!

Volunteering can make a real difference not only to the organization which you are supporting but it can also have a positive impact on your own life. I know from my own experience how rewarding it can be to give a little. It’s a great way to fill those gaps in your work experience and gain skills. It will also make you stand out to employers as it looks great on a CV.

The Arts and Culture sector are always welcoming volunteers with a diverse skill range to work towards their own missions and vision.

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A volunteer revolution – an unsung hero of the UK economy

My prediction is that 2017 might just be the year of micro-volunteering and data donation, with cheap technologies allowing everyone to volunteer from home for short and sweet periods of time, no matter how much time they have to give.”  NESTA

Around one in three of us volunteers in the UK.  This ratio could be even higher if you include informal (and unrecorded) volunteering.  Those acts involving our time, skills, expertise or just our sheer enthusiasm aren’t always measured.  We gain skills, experience and we benefit from the social aspects of volunteering.  Possibly many of us don’t consider this volunteering because we do it ad hoc, when it suits us fitting around our busy lives.  We feel compelled to join in, with others, resulting in something we can all enjoy and often results in tangible benefits.  There is a cultural mindset of doing good together through volunteering affecting our wellbeing and general health.  This benefits our wider society in the UK- economically, it is valued in the billions.

While working across the country for Volunteer Makers, meeting and training museum teams who wish to build communities of volunteers – and the benefits that creates including diversity and sustainability – it never ceases to amaze me that amongst those professionals I work with, there is also a high percentage who volunteer themselves, in the areas they are interested in. Volunteering is ubiquitous and those working with volunteers often understand a volunteer’s perspective.

Museums, charities and arts organisations have come to understand at first-hand that finding volunteers (and keeping them) is challenging due to shifts in demographics – meaning those who come forward have different needs.  Digital technology is key to finding and engaging volunteers, but requires a new approach.  The old model of engaging volunteers – simply inviting someone to volunteer, then managing to match the volunteer with the activity isn’t scalable, it’s resource intensive, especially in the context that volunteers are often vital to the financial sustainability of organisations and numbers of volunteers need to increase.

The results of the mass movement of volunteering (a volunteer revolution you could say) in the UK is valued at over 25 billion pounds, an economic value comparable to significant UK PLC industries. Yet there isn’t a unifying UK-wide strategy and arguably the recognition that volunteering deserves.  The opportunity is there for museums, arts and charities to learn from each other about harnessing the power of 21st century volunteering.  It has changed, and organisations have to change to keep up.

Volunteer Makers is well placed to share such learning, from a national programme of training with our tools and frameworks evolved over the past five years.  Alongside this, we have been rolling out a technology platform to support organisations with the aim of growing their volunteers in a scalable and manageable way.  The crucial stage is making the step to an organisational-wide engagement culture which creates the conditions for building up a substantial community of volunteers who sustain organisations now and into the future.  With many Volunteer Makers Pioneers making this step, we feel this a good point in our Arts Council England supported national programme to share the learning.

Claire Sully, Volunteer Makers Programme Director

About Volunteer Makers – a National Programme for Museums supported by Arts Council England (ACE)

Volunteer Makers is a technology-driven model for engaging audiences.  For those working within Arts, Charities, Heritage and Education, Volunteer Makers is a significant and sustainable way to manage, grow and inspire volunteers by blending volunteering with public participation through effective engagement.

Digital is a driver, as technology has the capacity to bring people together, gamifying engagement and rewarding and creating a value exchange for the organisation and for the volunteer.  Each week, millions of people come together to run around parks across the world.  These Park Runs use of technology to gamify the experience of coming together to run has a similar underlying principle to Volunteer Makers.

It is necessary for museums to find a new model to engage volunteers because the current traditional model is not sustainable.  Shifts in demographics; digital transforming how organisations reach and maintain relationships with volunteers; and the need to find sustainable financial models driven by added value from volunteers are the impetuses for the new model.

Museums recognise that to be sustainable they must take an organisation-wide approach to creating an engagement culture e.g. engaging volunteers goes beyond the volunteer co-ordination/management function.

This is a museum-led idea that will have a wider impact on other sectors including libraries, arts, charities, communities and health.  The museums themselves have called it Blended Volunteering – blending your volunteering with public participation, marketing and digital.  Seeing volunteering beyond traditional roles, blending regular volunteering with micro-volunteering.  Seeing your audience as supporter as visitor and volunteer.

Overall Aims of the ACE Volunteer Makers National Programme for Museums:

– Inspire and support museums to maximise impact of their engagement with volunteers.

– Encourage leadership and workforce in museums to be creative and highly skilled in their strategic volunteer engagement thinking.

– Introduce a model of sustainable volunteering leading to cultural transformation in resilience, fundraising and volunteer diversity.

– Provide training tools, a volunteer engagement-planning framework and digital technology to support volunteer activity going forward.

Learning from Volunteer Makers – a national conference in 2017

Volunteer Makers national conference is a fringe conference on November 17th, 2017, part of Museums Association Conference at Manchester Central Convention Centre.  The conference is called: Pioneering Volunteering Makers
– A new era for engaging audiences.

A third of people in the UK are volunteering and the value of volunteering is worth billions.  With shifts in demographics, digital and funding models a new way of thinking is necessary if museums are to engage volunteers in a way to sustain and diversify their audiences.

This is a chance for museums to further participate in Volunteer Makers and understand the benefits of Blended and Micro-Volunteering and how this affects the workforce now and into the future.

The Volunteer Makers conference will hear from the museums themselves who are pioneering Volunteering Makers and the steps they have taken to create an organisational-wide engagement culture and implement new thinking in volunteer engagement.  If you wish to attend the conference, please get in touch.

 


Testimonials

 ‘We know that people still want to give their time to volunteer, but also that that time needs to give something back.  Museums need to offer more than just operations or events.  They need to offer support, interaction and sustainability across the range of their activities. Volunteer Makers offers an intelligent answer to this problem. The app in particular not only makes it easier for people to find out how they can help, but addresses their interests or availability so that everybody wins.  It’s volunteering for the modern world.  And it’s going to have massive benefits in communities across the country’.

John Orna-Ornstein, previous Director of Museums, ACE

The implementation of a more publicly engaged volunteer strategy is already taking root. The strategy is being formulated by the Visitor and Volunteer Officer in collaboration with relevant colleagues and seeks to create a more joined up approach by utilising the Marketing and Engagement Team. For instance, one recent press released asked visitors ‘Can you help Chelmsford Museum’s search for Florence Attridge?’ and asked residents to respond with any information regarding a recent Museum acquisition of a British Empire Medal (civil division), which was awarded in 1946 to Florence Attridge of Chelmsford for services as head of the winding shop at Marconi’s New Street Factory during WWII. This initiative came after two members of the museum staff attended the Volunteer Makers London and South-East Seminar, which has caused the Museum to reassess its perception of the role of volunteers in the museum. We now recognise that a volunteer is not only someone who gives one day a week to help with regular activities, but can be anyone who gives their time – however small – to help with museum projects, promotion and engagement’.

Will Boisseau, Chelmsford Museum

‘Everyone was buzzing and excited after the session, and I can honestly say I have never had such heart felt positive feedback about a change of system before!’

Jessica Hartshorn, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum

 

The rise of micro-volunteering and a very British volunteer revolution

Micro-volunteeringDigital and social media makes it easy for volunteers to actively engage with their favourite museums, arts organisations and charities, while many more people are prepared to give short bursts of time rather than a longer term commitment to volunteering.  Put the two together (digital and short bursts of volunteering activity) you have the rise of micro-volunteering.

Micro-volunteering doesn’t always require digital technology however, see the examples below, but it is an important impetus behind the popularity of micro-volunteering in the UK.   Engaging volunteers in this way can create a  long tail effect, simply driving the numbers up with many more people giving shorter periods of time creating more volunteering time overall.

Micro-volunteering can be performed remotely and is particularly attractive to younger volunteers.  Stats show that more and more young people want to volunteer, but in a way that suits their lifestyle.  The UK really is the champion of micro-volunteering.  More than half of all micro-volunteering activities took place in the UK during 2015.  Australia (33%) saw the next highest interest in micro-volunteering in 2015, while in the US it is growing, but from the low base of 3%.

Innovation foundation Nesta has predicted 2017 to be “the year of microvolunteering” – and lots of organisations are keen to use this flexible approach to 21st century volunteering.  In England, 15.9m individuals volunteer frequently from an overall population of 53.9m. The value of this has been estimated to be between £23.9 billion (The Office for National Statistics) and £53 billion (DWP).  The potential of effectively engaging volunteers is clear, while it can be argued that in this country we are experiencing a volunteer revolution.

Volunteer Makers is currently running a national programme promoting Blended Volunteering, supported by Arts Council England.  Our own technology can deliver both regular long-term volunteering with micro-volunteering.  We are looking to prove a link between growing a community through micro-volunteering and increasing the numbers of people giving a more long-term commitment to supporting organisations.

To celebrate micro-volunteering day here is our shout-out to micro-volunteering champions we are working with and who are connecting with and experiencing a real value exchange with their volunteers.

Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums run nine galleries and museums across the North East.  They launched their Volunteer Maker platform just a few weeks ago and are already seeing micro-volunteer numbers grow rapidly into the hundreds.  We particularly like these inspired micro-volunteering challenges:

Activity: Fact of the day
What’s involved: Help their History team by contributing to a crowdsourced collection of interesting historical facts about the North East which they will use to create new and distinct content for their social media channels.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Log a wildlife sighting
What’s involved: Record and submit local wildlife sightings while out and about.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Donate your junk!
What’s involved: A call out for your recyclables and old, useless tech!
Get involved: Here

Corinium Museum is located at the heart of Cirencester, the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. Their principal collection consists of the highly significant finds from the Roman town of Corinium. Growing their community of volunteers is at the heart of the museum’s vision and here is how they are doing it, on their recently launched Volunteer Makers platform.

Activity Research a Mystery Object
What’s involved:  The museum is looking for researchers to help identify mystery objects in their collection. Your research will help spread new light on the collections, create a better understanding of the material the museum holds and give you an opportunity to practise your research skills
Get involved: Here 

Activity: Be a garden volunteer
What’s involved: The museums is looking for a volunteer to help maintain and develop our Roman Garden.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Trial a trail
What’s involved: The challenge is to help he museum trial a new gallery trail at the design stage for museum families and schools.
Get involved: Here

Wardown House Museum and Art Gallery has been pioneering micro-volunteering for many years. After setting up their Museum Makers platform over 5 years ago, in the first two years the museum grew from having 40 occasional volunteers to having more than 120 active volunteers that work on direct museum projects involving the collections, events, talks and tours. Added to that they built up a community of 1500 online Museum Makers who support and advocate the museum through mainly microvolunteering activities.  Having a successful community-driven museum has helped this museum secure £3.5m capital funding and refurbished the museum.

Activity: Create a Pinterest board for all your ideas for the museum
What’s involved: What would you put in your ideal exhibition? Hats? Toys? Luton life? Build your dream museum exhibition on Pinterest and then share it with Museum Makers Pinterest account.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Bookplate Illustration
What’s involved: A bookplate is a small print or decorative label pasted into the inside cover of a book, to indicate its owner. The museum is looking for a bookplate design that  will go on open display in the Library.
Get involved: Here

ActivitySign up as a School Museum Maker
What’s involved: Schools can become Museum Makers to, so sign up today. There are lots of ways to get involved as a Museum Maker:

  • Visiting the museum as a class or whole school
  • Inform the shape of our schools offer to keep it relevant and fresh
  • Supporting the development of new sessions by being a pilot school
  • Taking part in educational sessions at the museum
  • Attending our Schools Museum Maker forum
  • Fundraising

    Get involved:  Here

Microvolunteering under the spotlight

Innovation foundation Nesta has predicted 2017 to be “the year of microvolunteering” – and more and more organisations are now using this flexible approach to 21st century volunteering.

With National Microvolunteering Day coming up this Sunday, the topic is covered in an article in today’s Guardian – with some handy advice on what to think about when using microvolunteering in your organisation.

Microvolunteering is a key component of the Volunteer Makers model – though we see it as something you can seamlessly blend with more traditional volunteering rather than a stand-alone activity.

With the UK leading the way in microvolunteering (more than half of all microvolunteering worldwide happens here) it is a strategy that needs serious consideration as the demands of volunteers change and new generations bring different expectations of how they engage with you.

We’ll be writing more on microvolunteering in the coming days, or get in touch with us direct if you have any questions about how Volunteer Makers and microvolunteering can work for your organisation.

Museum trends show need for blended, digital volunteer approach

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 14.50.11A major report into the state of the museum sector shows mixed picture of rising visitor numbers but falling funding – with a shifting relationship between museums and their audiences, the digital revolution and a move towards socially-engaged practice shaping the sector’s future.

The Museum Association’s Museums in the UK Report 2017 shows that trends that led to the development of the Volunteer Makers approach are continuing to impact museums. Read more