Launches at all Points East and West for Volunteer Makers in the Summer

The summer months were no holiday for the Volunteer Makers’ team, with demand for the blended volunteering model and tech still high and new organisations and groups signing up to our vision.

The warm weather saw the launch of two major heritage groups’ Volunteer Makers portals.

Colchester and Ipswich Museums operate at six fascinating sites in Suffolk and north Essex. 

Ipswich Museum tells the story of this ancient town, and also has large galleries of exotic fauna, many collected in Victorian times, including one of the most comprehensive collection of British birds in the world.

Sharing the Victorian home with the museum, the town’s art gallery contains several notable works, including a number associated with the Suffolk-based Benton End Group, who were a major influence on 20th Century British art. Beautiful Christchurch Mansion, which dates to Tudor times, is the group’s third attraction in Ipswich.

In Colchester, there is a Natural History Museum, based in a historic church, Hollytrees Museum, an old mansion with some fascinating facts about the town – including that it was where the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was written!

The group also administers Colchester Castle, a grand Norman edifice, containing the largest Keep in England.

Colchester and Ipswich Museums have been Arts Council England supported pioneers in the Volunteer Makers programme, and their new portal showcases a range of imaginative challenges to engage the public in volunteering and supporting their sites.

Turning westward, another multi-site heritage group launch. Eleven organisations in Gloucester have joined together to form the Engage In Gloucester volunteering group.

Members include Gloucester Cathedral; the city’s museums and archives; its Civic trust and History Festival, and the ruined abbey of Llanthony Secunda.

Also in the group is the National Waterways Museum, which tells the story of Britain’s canal network and its crucial role in the economic development of the country, from a dockside setting.

Like their eastern counterparts, the Gloucester group has been a pioneer body, supported by Arts Council England, to develop and refine Volunteer Makers through feedback and trialling, working with our developers Tickbox Marketing.

Engage In Gloucester has a wide array of volunteer challenges and opportunities on its portal, fully engaging with the Micro-Volunteering revolution.

Spreading the word on micro and blended volunteering was Programme Director Claire’s task, when she joined Pippa Smith, Project Manager of the acclaimed Snapping the Stiletto project, at the GEM conference in Nottingham.

Snapping the Stiletto aims to counter the negative clichés surrounding “Essex Girls” by highlighting the positive and inspirational stories of women in the county.

Based on a collaborative and co-production approach, and utilising the stories, research and hard-work of 130 volunteers, it has been a major success, and was recently featured on BBC News.

The broadcaster noted the stories of these remarkable women “are being told not by the museums but by the volunteers. It is led by the women of Essex themselves”.

Claire and Pippa told the Conference that getting wise with how volunteers were used is essential for the heritage sector in the 21st Century.

But it isn’t just heritage organisations, that Volunteer Makers works with.

Recently, Claire carried out a training programme for the Cri du Chat Syndrome Support Group. Cri du Chat is a rare, but devastating genetic condition that affects 1 in 50,000 babies.  Its Volunteer Makers portal will bring carers and other supporters together to raise money, and donate practical help.

Also outside the museum and gallery hub of Volunteer Makers groups is Carymoor Environmental Trust in Somerset.

The trust has worked to “green” and encourage wildlife back to 100 acres of capped landfill site near Castle Cary.

As well as conservation work, it is a major educational destination for school groups wanting to find out about nature, land use and sustainability. Volunteers are at the heart of Carymoor’s work. Volunteer Makers’ training with the Trust spread the word on the new, smart approach to managing volunteer time.

So, a busy summer – and lots more in the calendar – for Volunteer Makers.

 

Before You Launch – Consider These 5 Tips

Here at Volunteer Makers we are always looking for ways to improve the success of our pioneers in engaging with volunteers and supporters in flexible and inspiring ways. Here are our top tips to consider before launch.

Tip 1
Think strategically about why you want to use Volunteer Makers to engage with your supporters. Is it a way of opening up new opportunities to regular volunteers? Do you want to encourage new and different types of supporters to join you? Do you want to offer flexible opportunities? Do you want supporters to help deliver a business objective (e.g. a redevelopment)?
Thinking about challenges including micro ones has completely made us rethink how we use volunteers. Before we were in a situation where we would recruit volunteers and think how we would use them. Now we look at the programme coming up and think about how to use volunteers on and off site. Fundamental shift for us” (Amanda, Corinium Museum)
The answers to this question will help shape your plan…

Tip 2
Devise and work to an action plan, including how to roll out Volunteer Makers and how to work together. Name people in the plan! Make it SMART.
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. [We have] 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” (Jess, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum)
This plan must embed working organisation-wide…

Tip 3
Engage leadership in championing Volunteer Makers as part of your strategic engagement objectives. Get buy in across the whole organisation. An organisation-wide engagement culture helps to mitigate changes in staff that can impact roll out. Work across the whole organisation (including volunteers) to provide inspiring, flexible challenges that help deliver the organisation’s business need, understanding that almost anything can be framed as volunteering, engagement or support of your organisation.
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” (Fran, Geffrye Museum of the Home)
And for this to happen you need to set aside time…

Tip 4
Make sure you commit the time, and are supported to do that, to make rolling out and developing Volunteer Makers a success. Although Volunteer Makers doesn’t replace your approach or existing volunteer programmes, you do need time to make it as effective as possible in engaging your audience.
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 [which] 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” (Fran, Geffrye Museum of the Home)
And effective engagement means engaging digitally too…

Tip 5
How you are going to communicate your challenges is as important as coming up with them in the first place. Ensuring those responsible for marketing/social media are part of your organisation-wide buy in is essential. Engaging digitally is key, and you need to be social (e.g. a blog, social media) if you are going to diversify your volunteers and reach a broader range of people.

Anna Bryant, MA, AMA, Marketing and Engagement Manager, Volunteer Makers
Anna has worked in and for museums of all shapes and sizes across curatorial, interpretation, audience development and marketing roles during the last 18 years.

What Makes a Good Challenge Great?

Here’s something to ponder – what makes some Volunteer Makers’ challenges stand out from the crowd, while others fade away? Why do some pull you in while others have the opposite effect? In an attempt to answer that question, I’ve been delving into our pioneers’ platforms and have distilled my answer into 5 top tips.

Tip 1
Be humorous, and if you can’t be humorous give your challenge some personality – Volunteer Makers doesn’t need to be too formal, taking as it does its cues from social digital – where people come together on digital platforms. This translates well to engaging on social media, which is where you need to be talking about your opportunities to diversify your volunteers.
Tip 2
Give a compelling or inspiring reason to get involved. Why should they do this challenge? It might be because it helps deliver your cause – one they can get behind. Or it could be access to ‘behind the scenes’ opportunities.
Tip 3
Be specific in what you are asking people to do and ensure it’s appropriate for the time category. If people are looking for an hour or two, then let them see it can be done!
Tip 4
Appeal to a broad range of skills and interests in your challenges by thinking laterally. This too will help to diversify your volunteers and engage more people.
Tip 5
Make the whole experience frictionless for your volunteers. You’ve led them this far, don’t fall at the last hurdle by adding extra layers. Volunteer Makers captures your volunteer data and preferences on sign up, so get them to sign up/sign in, be clear about what will happen next and let them get on with completing the challenge!

Summary
So how does this look in practice?

http://museumofoxford.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/hour-or-two/spread-the-word/7/
• This challenge uses humour (‘help us change this sorry state of affairs!’)
• It gives a good reason to get involved (‘the more people we have attending our events and visiting, the better reason to develop the museum’)
• It’s specific and would fit in the one-two hours slot (‘Drop off 20 leaflets with a local café, take 10 to your local library or give a leaflet to a friend!’)
• There’s no friction to getting involved (‘Sign up here, get an email from the Museum Team and simply arrange a time to pick up some leaflets. We will discuss with you where you intend to distribute them so there aren’t any wasted journeys.’)

http://southamptonartsandheritage.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/hour-or-two/clock-tower-tour-assistant/11/
• This challenge is specific and timebound (‘The tours last an hour, start at reception and run at 10:30 and 11:30am. You’ll be required to climb 215 steps for each tour and to help ensure that the group stays together’).
• It’s intriguing (‘get a behind the scenes look at one of Southampton’s most iconic buildings’).
• It has some lateral thinking in the Skills and Interests that could appeal to a broad range of people (e.g. Conservation, Event Stewarding, Architecture and Building Management, Visitor Services)

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/give-a-day/uncover-katherine-mina-courtauldas-involvement-in-the-suffragette-movement/38/
• This challenge is specific (‘Uncover Katherine Mina Courtauld’s involvement in the Suffragette Movement’)
• It’s inspiring (they’ve provided enough history to motivate you)
• There’s no friction to getting involved (Sign in/sign up, accept the challenge and ‘Visit the Essex Record Office to search for information and email Claire Willetts at Braintree Museum with anything that you uncover’)

Have you seen or created any challenges that are great, not just good? If so, share them with @volunteermakers

Anna Bryant, MA, AMA, Marketing and Engagement Manager, Volunteer Makers
Anna has worked in and for museums of all shapes and sizes across curatorial, interpretation, audience development and marketing roles during the last 18 years.

Meetings – and the Mersey: Volunteer Makers summer schedule

Hot sun was matched by hot demand for Volunteer Makers blend of micro-volunteering and digital engagement.

Love Falmouth Volunteer Makers have been spreading the word at Cornwall’s Brilliant Things conference.

Tamsin Bough and Sarah Scot, of Falmouth Art Gallery, spoke to the meeting on growing relationships with volunteers.

The conference – organised by the Cornish Museum Partnership – heard how Love Falmouth Volunteers (a partnership of cultural organisations led by Falmouth Art Gallery) use of the Volunteer Makers platform has not only brought new supporters to its members, but strengthened institutions’ links with the local community.

Early July saw a regular event in the VM calendar: attendance at the South West Fed’s annual conference in Exeter.

Volunteer Makers were among the sponsors of the event and had a trade stand at it. VM founder Claire Sully also gave a presentation on the VM concept to delegates.

South Wed Fed is a community of independent heritage organisations throughout South West England.

Claire Sully said: “Volunteer Makers, as an Arts Council England supported programme, first got lift off at the South West Fed Conference 2015 after a networking chat.

“We’re now working with over 70 organisations and love returning to where it all began, starting new conversations to see where they might take us next.”

One place they took Claire was from the south-west to the north-west, with a visit to Liverpool for the latest in Volunteer Makers’ rolling programme of training workshops.

Volunteer Makers worked with University of Liverpool Museums & Galleries to spread the word on how its digital and blended volunteering approach can manage, evaluate and enhance working with volunteers and supporters.

The group includes a quirky museum and well-regarded gallery in the Victoria Building – an architectural icon in itself, as well as a world-class museum of archaeology at Garstang.

Volunteer Makers Gets the Abbey Habit!

Although many of Volunteer Makers’ users are traditional city museums, some are not – the apps blending of micro-volunteering with social benefits for supporters has applications in a variety of organisations.

A busy early June for the VM team was capped by the launch of a Volunteer Makers portal by a spectacular heritage destination, Glastonbury Abbey.

Launching, appropriately, in national Volunteers’ Week, the new portal aims to grow, diversify and engage volunteers with work at the 1,300-year-old Abbey – a site linked with Arthurian legend as well as Medieval monasticism and Henry VIII’s brutal Dissolution of The Monasteries.

Across the country from Somerset, another portal launched for a heritage group in Milton Keynes.

The VM model has proved to be very successful for heritage and arts organisations working as a consortia, and early indications are that the pattern could be repeated for HeritageMK.

HeritageMK includes sites showcasing the Roman and Saxon history of the area, as well as the home of Georgian poet William Cowper. It was there that Cowper’s friend John Newton wrote Amazing Grace.

The consortium also features the world-famous Bletchley Park, the stately home that became the centre for crucial Allied codebreaking in WWII.

Earlier in June, VM launched further South, with a portal at Southampton Heritage and Arts

This group includes not only one of the port’s oldest surviving structures, the Tudor House, but SeasCity Museum where Southampton’s maritime history is explored, including a fascinating Titanic exhibition.

The city’s highly regarded Art Gallery is another organisation that will benefit from VM’s two-way model of volunteer engagement.

Volunteer Makers has proved a hit with organisations in Essex, and Chelmsford Museum became the latest to launch a VM portal.

The museum operates on three sites in the bustling county town, telling the archaeological, military and industrial history of the region and much more.

Elsewhere, one of VM’s smallest pioneering operations, the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham, has been recognised for its forward-thinking approach to volunteering.

The museum houses a fascinating archive on the composer Gustav Holst, who despite his Germanic name was a Gloucestershire lad.

Its active and innovative approach to supporters, now supported by its established Volunteer Makers portal, won it the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

As the Summer presses on, more and more organisations are finding through Volunteer Makers added value from engaging Volunteers in a 21st century way!

Volunteer Makers rises to university’s challenge

Oxford and Cambridge have long been associated with students – but it was Volunteer Makers’ message that was being studied there in a busy month for Volunteer Makers and the Tickbox team.

May began with a training day for staff at University of Cambridge Museums.  The organisation runs eight separate highly regarded museums as well as a world-famous botanical garden.

The collections receive many millions of visitors, but the forward-thinking organisation has recently begun planning how Volunteer Makers can help them strategically engage their volunteers and supporters, creating a tangible value exchange and impact.

This aims to increase the reach of the museums; diversify the community visiting and working with them; support volunteer recruitment; and cut unnecessary paperwork, whilst beginning to collect anonymised data in a sensitive manner.  This data includes analysis of volunteers’ skill sets.

Volunteer Makers’ Claire Sully headed to Cambridge’s twin university town Oxford for her next assignment.

Innovative gallery Modern Art Oxford tried Volunteer Makers and liked what it could do to help them manage and grow their community of supporters and helpers.

Claire guided staff through the next phase, training them to use the app and make best use of it. The gallery will enjoy 6 months of free usage and is looking forward to an ongoing relationship with Volunteer Makers.

David Juler_Claire Sully at M and H ShowDavid Juler, of the Museum of Oxford, explained how his organisation had been working with Volunteer Makers, and as a Volunteer Makers pioneer, they help shape the platform’s development. It’s a collaborative effort, with Tickbox actively seeking users’ feedback.

Some very positive feedback came from one Volunteer Maker user this month.

Snapping the Stiletto – a collaborative project run by multiple museums in Essex have recruited more than 100 volunteers since launch in March.

The project, which aims to smash the cliched “Essex Girl” view of women in the county, has been active users of Volunteer Makers. Manager Pippa Smith has been delighted with how the micro-volunteering it has encouraged, adds up to give real momentum to the project.SnappingtheStiletto

“It’s really interesting to see how the minutes add up. Our Just a Minute challenges have been popular and people who have signed up to share information on social media have spent around 16 hours on this- it may not feel like you are doing much at the time but every tweet or Facebook share really adds up!” she said.

Another breakthrough was achieved by the Volunteer Makers team with the production of a case studies booklet, which was launched at the Museums & Heritage Show.

Find out how others have used Volunteers Makers to aid and target volunteer recruitment and make that precious budget go further. Get in touch if you want a copy, or want to discuss training options.

Here are some more photos from this month’s activities:

Falmouth Art Gallery with Volunteer Makers recognised in Cornish award for its innovation

Love Falmouth VolunteersVolunteer Makers is becoming used to getting great feedback from partner organisations and users, but it is always pleasing to be recognised by external judges.

We are therefore very proud to announce that Love Falmouth Volunteers has been recognised for its use of the Volunteer Makers platform by Falmouth Art Gallery and partner organisations.  Love Falmouth Volunteers was Highly Commended in the Innovation category of the Cornwall Heritage Awards.

The Gallery also won awards for Audience Initiative and Cornish Heritage.

The awards were presented by South West Museum Development in collaboration with Cornwall Museums Partnership. They come with a cash prize, courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Henrietta Boex, Director of Falmouth Cultural Services, commented: “There are so many wonderful projects happening in Cornwall’s museums and it is encouraging to see all of these achievements being recognised and celebrated.”

Volunteer Makers model and tech enables the Gallery and other cultural bodies involved to grow, manage and inspire a volunteer and supporter community by blending volunteering with public participation through effective digital engagement.  The small team behind Love Famouth Volunteers is led by Tamsin Bough, who commented:

“We were really keen to implement the Volunteer Makers initiative after an enthusiastic workshop with Claire. We had recently started a new collaboration across our different cultural services venues and wanted to change the way we engaged with our visitors and potential volunteers. Lovefalmouth volunteers evolved from an already successful #lovefalmouth campaign.

We ‘soft’ launched our platform last year and within a few months have reached over 80 new sign ups. We have been pleased with the positive response and look forward to developing our digital engagement offer over the coming months.”

Volunteer Makers’ Claire Sully said: “Falmouth Art Gallery ‘got’ the concept straight away, and it is great to see how enthusiastic they have been in using Volunteer Makers – work that has now been recognised with this award.”

Volunteer Makers – use the technology for free and join our pioneering programme, if you sign up for our training workshops.

Volunteer Makers is currently working with over 60 organisations UK wide, including Councils. If you are interested in trying Volunteer Makers we can provide the technology platform for 6 months with free digital support if you book a 4-hour training course before the end of February.  The training is a way of understanding the thinking behind creating a value exchange with your community of volunteers.  It is also a chance to get hands-on with the technology.  The training course is £600 + vat for the following:


You will take away:

  • An understanding of 21st century volunteering
  • What Volunteer Makers is, what blended and micro-volunteering is and how this can support your organisation
  • How you can engage a wider group of volunteers for your organisation
  • Create an organisation-wide plan for implementing Volunteer Makers
  • Next steps – the step-change you need to make as a project team
  • Begin to set-up your Volunteer Makers platform to deliver your project aims

Volunteer Makers agree to:

  • Be available for phone support and advice for the duration of your free 6 months
  • Provide training on how to use the Volunteer Makers technology
  • Upload your branding, following permission, to personalise the technology for your organisation
  • Seek approval from your organisation before publishing information about its activities or participants generated via the Volunteer Makers technology platform and training

    Here is a recent testimonial for our Volunteer Makers training:

    “The training was really useful in bringing together the partners and giving us the time and space to reflect on where we all are with volunteering in our various organisations and how we can move forward.
    “For me personally it showed me how the platform can work really well to provide a framework for what is quite a complicated project with a lot of partners.”
    Museum Project Officer at Essex Council,  Pippa Smith

Costs for using Volunteer Makers can be found in our FAQ no 3.

If you want to join our Volunteer Makers Pioneering Programme, get in touch.

Volunteer Makers start the year with stilettos, armour and dreaming spires

If 2017 was a busy year for Claire Sully and the Tickbox team as Volunteer Makers caught imaginations up and down the country, so 2018 has continued to build on that momentum.

Claire led Volunteer Makers workshops at the Royal Armories Leeds and with  Snapping the Stiletto, an Essex County Council inter-museum project.

These popular workshops explore how organisations can tap into the micro-volunteering revolution and how they can use the Volunteer Makers platform to achieve this for free for 6 months, followed after by low monthly fees.

Royal Armories is the home of the national arms and armour collection and is a must for militaria buffs as well as all those with an interest in our nation’s history.

Opened in 1996, the Leeds museum complements other Royal Armories’ sites at the Tower of London, and Fort Nelson, near Fareham.

From the weapons of yore to destroying the stereotypes of “Essex Girls”, the next assignment could not have been more different!

Snapping The Stiletto is a project that helps rebuff the “white mini-dress and high heels” cliché attached to Essex, by bringing the county’s museums together to uncover the real stories of strong and pioneering women.

Bringing these hidden stories to the public involved many volunteers, and this is where Volunteer Makers came in.

Museum Project Officer Pippa Smith said: “The training was really useful in bringing together the partners and giving us the time and space to reflect on where we all are with volunteering in our various organisations and how we can move forward.

“For me personally it showed me how the platform can work really well to provide a framework for what is quite a complicated project with a lot of partners.”

Another January highlight was when the Museum of Oxford launched its Volunteer Makers’ platform.

Its volunteer challenge scheme is designed to gamify working with the museum and encourages volunteers to fulfil a number of different roles and engage more closely with the institution’s work.

Cllr Dee Sinclair, who is on the board that runs the museum, summed up the Volunteer Makers’ ethos succinctly: “This is the perfect opportunity to expand volunteering to those who may not be able to regularly be involved. Volunteering can be flexible and can easily fit around your life.“

For more information on Volunteer Makers workshops with free use of the Volunteer Makers technology, get in touch.

Guest blog by Fran Riando – Unlocking the Geffrye

Geffrye vols

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