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

Micro-volunteeringDigital technology makes it easy for volunteers to actively engage with museums, the arts 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 micro-volunteering. Although it is worth pointing out that micro-volunteering doesn’t always require digital technology, see the examples below, but it is an important impetus behind the popularity of micro-volunteering.   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 is often done 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.  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 an illustration to design a bookplate design that we can use in our books, which will go on open display in the Library.
Get involved: Here
What’s involved: As Wardown undergoes an exciting transformation the museum is keen to create a digital archive of the building and its interior. They are looking for old photographs of the interior of Wardown, so they can track the changes of the building over the decades.
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

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Pioneering Volunteer Makers goes national with Arts Council England support

Diverse People Friendship Togetherness Connection Rear View ConceptInnovative volunteering programme Volunteer Makers has been given Arts Council England backing to deliver its programme to museums across the UK.

The company behind Volunteer Makers, Bristol-based Tickbox, have been awarded £100,000 from the Museum Resilience Fund to deliver training, support and a national conference to support more than 300 museums in adopting a new model of management and relationship building with their volunteers. Read more

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Volunteer Makers programme looks to roll out nationally

3532598208_29c2140acb_zBuilding on an extensive digital museum training programme in the South West and a pilot volunteer engagement programme, a museum-specialist digital company are looking to roll-out a national Volunteer Makers Engagement Training and Support Programme.

Tickbox, based in Bristol, will be building on their Volunteer Makers training and development pilot programme they ran from Jan-April 2016. Read more

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Volunteer Makers Workshop Notes – For Pilot Programme Partners

The Volunteer Revolution – Volunteer Makers

Aims:

  • Build upon your volunteer engagement
  • Understand sustainable volunteering
  • Understanding a Volunteer Makers model
  • Create a volunteer engagement plan
  • The Volunteer Revolution?

42% of people questioned in a survey reported volunteering formally (i.e. through a group, club or organisation) at least once in the previous year in England. 27%

Read more

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The Volunteer Revolution

crowd-image-largeVolunteer Makers (VM) is a training and technology programme for arts, heritage and charities that is a rethinking of how organisations are working with volunteers.

It is driven by the principles of the digital revolution, but taking this virtual engagement into the reality of real-world working together.

From January to March we are running a pilot programme, giving free support and training to a limited number of organisations to create or build on their volunteer engagement and work with the Volunteer Makers online platform.

This is part of a Volunteer Makers pilot project to inform demand for the platform before a national roll-out from July 2016.  Our results will be shared with the sector.

As a new model of volunteer engagement, Volunteer Makers is presenting the value of volunteering in perhaps a different way, which is making some organisations shift their thinking about how they work.  It is based on research and development work we have carried out during the past 4 years. Read more