FAQ: Volunteer Makers

Question 1: What is Volunteer Makers and why should it be of interest to our museum?

Volunteer Makers is a volunteer engagement model that can be supported by digital (including our own Volunteer Makers app). This model blends volunteering with public participation, marketing and digital and encourages an organisation-wide approach to creating ideas that will engage, grow and inspire your volunteers.

The numbers of volunteers increase because this model suits people from different backgrounds who want to offer different commitment levels to volunteering, rather than just being aimed at volunteers who commit time regularly.

Using digital to drive Volunteer Makers means you can personalise engagement with your volunteers, matching activities with the skills, interests and time commitment of what people have to offer.

Having larger numbers of volunteers, who give smaller amounts of volunteering time (called micro-volunteering), can add up to considerable support for your organisation. This provides real value of not only people giving their time, but a potential to generate direct and in-direct revenue for your museum. Volunteer Makers helps you maintain and develop relationships with volunteers through effective engagement. This creates a meaningful value exchange for you and your volunteers.

Changes in funding models leading to questions about long-term sustainability for museums, shifting volunteer profiles/demographics and digital technology are creating a need for museums to think differently about the role and value of their volunteers.

Digital is a key engagement tool for museums and digital is at the heart of Volunteer Makers. With Volunteer Makers, the volunteer activity is gamified as well as personalised. Gamification is achieved by presenting the volunteering activity as challenges and allowing volunteers to bank their challenges in their own personalised control panel.

Question 2: Volunteer Makers can help me grow my volunteers by increasing numbers of volunteers who can commit smaller amounts of volunteering time, but how does it affect those who regularly volunteer who we already depend on?

Because Volunteer Makers is a management tool for your volunteer activity, it is useful for existing volunteers. It can help manage your regular volunteers as well as extending numbers of volunteers who wish to give different levels of commitment to your organisation.

Volunteer Makers personalises volunteering activity, including personalising activity for your existing volunteers who regularly volunteer with you. For example, with Volunteer Makers volunteer activity is categorised as:

  • Just a minute (volunteers can give just minutes of their time)
  • Give a day (one off projects to support your museum)
  • Regular help (your regular volunteers)
  • Work as a team (bringing in groups of people)

As you can see, the volunteer activity is bundled in a way to match the time commitment of the volunteer, while also attracting regular help. Organisations who are using the Volunteer Makers model and technology have found that regular volunteers often help drive the Volunteer Makers model by getting involved with the ideas for challenges or volunteer activities.

Volunteer Makers shouldn’t be treated as being another system for volunteers to use, it is simply the engagement tool that helps you find volunteers suitable for your volunteer activity – benefiting you and your volunteers. Volunteer Makers brings people through your museum door, this can be a virtual door as well through remote volunteering.

Question 3: Volunteer Makers is also an app, is it available and how much does it cost?

Volunteer Makers is currently only available as part of a national programme supported by Arts Council England with further investment from Creative England.

While we are running the programme the Volunteer Makers app is free to use for at least 12 months for Museums based in England. Following the programme we will provide you with the following options:

 Export all your data (volunteer details and activity) to use with any open source compatible system

 Upgrade for free to Volunteer Makers cloud based system with small monthly fee based on numbers of volunteers using the system. Volunteer Makers is like any other technology platform, it needs a technical team behind it to maintain, support and evolve the technology. The pricing model is not designed to be a barrier to smaller organisations. For small numbers of volunteers (approximately 30 or below) museums will pay no monthly fee. The price points are being decided as we roll out our national programme so we can ensure museums are helping us drive our pricing as well as technology decisions. Monthly fees will be based on active Volunteers only. The system provides reports on your volunteer activity in real-time and calculates the revenue your volunteering activity is creating (based on the type of activity).

Estimated Monthly costs (based on numbers of volunteers signed-up to your Volunteer Makers platform)


75 to 150£7.50
151 – 300

301 – 500

501 to 1000

1001 to 2000


4001 to 6000

Additionally, premium features, including advanced rota system and volunteer team online meeting spaces will be available for an additional monthly cost of est. £20.

Following the release of the cloud-based Volunteer Makers API (Application Programming Interface), we can create an Enterprise System for museums that would enable museums to deliver Volunteer Makers functionality through either an existing web platform or a stand-alone website. API technology enables Volunteer Makers to interact with other compatible programmes e.g. Your own website.

This allows full customisation of the system to your design specifications, with the Volunteer Makers platform fully embedded in your web platforms. Costs for an Enterprise are subject to the system specification.

Question 4: If I use a Volunteer Makers model, increasing my volunteer base, doesn’t that ultimately mean the loss of museum jobs?

We have found that when museums grow their volunteer base with a Volunteer Makers model they are also increasing visitors to the museum, events, café and shop etc.

This equates to actual income and can also create opportunities for match funding as you are developing and you building your audience. In our experience Volunteer Makers sustains jobs, rather than replaces jobs.

The types of activity bringing in larger numbers of supporters are not the same as full or part-time jobs, often the activity can be done away from the museum using digital.

Digital micro-volunteering is known to attract younger volunteers, which we know is important to museums’ long term sustainability and meeting targets to diversity their audience.

Question 5: Volunteer Makers is a national programme, what does that involve? Is the programme free for Museums?

Our Arts Council England supported Volunteer Makers programme is running from October 2016 to March 2018 for Museums based England. We are holding 8 regional seminars to demonstrate the ideas of the Volunteer Makers Model and show how digital technology can drive it.

The seminars are usually around 3 hours, they are free to attend and they cover the following areas: Seminar topics: – Introduction to Volunteer Makers model and technology – Developing an effective organisation-wide approach to engaging volunteers – The long tail – how to target hard to reach volunteers – Beyond volunteering – how everyone who connects to you can become a volunteer – Value exchange – how to get the next generation of volunteers on your side – Different voices – increasing diversity in your supporter base – Get connected – how technology can increase engagement – The role of digital with engaging volunteers

All seminar dates are published here

Following the seminars, we will be working directly with 30 accredited museums (from April 2017 to March 2018) to provide practical support in understanding the Volunteer Makers engagement model. This can include using our Volunteer Makers technology as well, if desired. Our training encourages an organisation-wide approach to strategy and delivery of volunteer engagement and growing volunteers, including those involved in your organisation in the following areas:

  • Leadership
  • Curators/creative
  • Finance
  • Digital
  • Marketing
  • Volunteer Managers
  • Learning

Our workshop training is tailored to support the museums we are working with and covers:

  • An organisation-wide overview of Volunteer Makers
  • How to make a step-change with engaging your volunteers through Volunteer Makers
  • Planning Volunteer Makers – strategy and delivery: Setting goals, Targeting volunteers, Integrating with marketing communications and digital platforms, Planning resource to manage a Volunteer Makers model
  • Setting up and using Volunteer Makers – the platform
  • Evaluating Volunteer MakersOur one-to-one  Volunteer Makers workshop training for accredited museums in England is not open to major partners of Arts Council England.  If you are a major partner of Arts Council England and interested in Volunteer Makers we do however offer training as part of our Pioneers Programme.  Do contact us for more information.

Question 6: Does Volunteer Makers work better for larger museums than smaller museums?

We have been working with many types of museums, including larger (national) and smaller museums, local authority-led, independent and volunteer-led. Volunteer Makers works for all these museums. Smaller museums have dedicated people who cover many functions in the museums, this can sometimes be a benefit when adopting an organisation-wide approach.

Our Volunteer Makers pioneer programme, which is working alongside the Arts Council England funded programme, is testing the platform with larger and smaller museums. This will allow us to assess if there is any difference with museums depending on their size. Volunteer Makers is an efficient way of managing, growing and engaging volunteers and has been shown to work well with organisations who are have resource limitations. Question 7: How does Volunteer Makers tie in with Museum Accreditation.

Volunteer Makers helps museums work in ways that meet several of the requirements of Arts Council England’s Accreditation Scheme for museums.

1.4 Forward Planning: the Volunteer Makers platform allows museums to record volunteer input (hours, activity and value) at the museum consistently and accurately – essential data to include in the review of your museum’s operating environment. The Volunteer Makers model supports the recruitment of volunteers to carry out the activities set out in the Forward Plan. It encourages the museum to identify the skills needed and activities involved in delivering its objectives and to break them down into ‘challenges’ which volunteers can sign up to.

1.7 An appropriate workforce: The Volunteer Makers platform gives museums accurate data on the numbers of volunteers they have, the hours they work and the value of their input. By encouraging an organisation-wide approach the model helps museums identify skills gaps and improve recruitment, induction and training.

3.1 Users: through the systematic gathering of information on the people who volunteer for it Volunteer Makers model and platform provides the museum with great data on its users and helps museums devise plans to increase and diversify volunteer involvement through re-energised and targeted volunteer recruitment. Do you have a question for us? Please e-mail hello@volunteermakers.org.

Question 7: Does it comply with data protection rules?

Where relevant, Volunteer Makers follows the guidelines laid down by the ICO for data protection https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection

However, in practical terms the majority of the data protection responsibility lies with the client as it concerns the use to which data is put and you own and control this data.

In the ICO guide, the two areas that usually apply to Volunteer Makers are Principle 7 (security) and Principle 8 (international).

In terms of security, we ensure personal information input into a site is encrypted through use of SSL Certification on appropriate areas of the site.

The physical hosting of data takes place on our dedicated servers, with:

  • 24/7 server side support
  • Brute force and cyber attack detection/prevention
  • Hosting is locked down to authorised personnel/office staff

We work with one of the leading hosting partners in Europe and they have some of the most stringent security measures in place.

In terms of Principle 8, we are required to ensure ”personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the EEA unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.” All data is hosted with our hosting partner on UK -based servers and is fully compliant with this regulation.