© Museum of London

Case Study: Museum of London

The Museum of London is one of our Volunteer Makers pilot partners. We have been working with the museum ahead of our national programme and talked to HR Training and Volunteer Adviser Vanessa Theed about how the Museum of London was already using elements of our blended volunteering approach and how they could develop the approach further

How many volunteers do you currently have?

“We have 280 registered active volunteers – volunteers  who the museum are in regular contact with.    At present only 140 are actively engaged in a specific project, but this  figure will change over the year and we are expecting it to grow over the next 12 months to approximately 350 active volunteers.”

Who are these volunteers?

“The museum is based around three sites; London Wall, Dockland and Hackney and volunteers tend to come from the areas around those sites, or from people who are already know the museum and travel in to one of those sites.

“The museum wants to be able to engage people across London – there are 32 boroughs in London and we would like to engage volunteers  in our programmes from each of those boroughs.

“Not unlike other museums our demographic until recently tended to be over 50s white men and white women.  Since the revisiting of roles and development of new programmes this is changing, especially around younger volunteers, but we would like to do more. ”

Are you doing anything specific to attract a wider volunteer base?

“We’ve introduced  a supplementary school outreach role, which has volunteers going to schools in areas outside of where our sites are which has started to show a change..

“Also our street volunteers are going out and engaging with the community in different parts of London. It provides an opportunity for volunteers to volunteer outside of the museum expanding the reach of the museum.

“Our Youth Engagement Programme is helping us to see a rise in under-25s volunteering.

“We run work experience programmes for young people and have 31 registered for our next programme in July. It’s encouraging to see that some of those who were on our last work experience programme in October are now coming back to us as volunteers.

“During the work experience programme, we invite the  young people to share what they have liked and what they haven’t so we can review and adjust the programme accordingly.  Their feedback has been constructive in developing the programme we have today.

“Potential volunteers  don’t always realise we need volunteers with a variety of skills and interests – it’s not all academic or “stuffy”. It is an exciting and inspiring place to be.  Volunteers can get involved in volunteering with the museum with whatever skills they have.”

How are you using technology to help you reach volunteers?

“Our roles are advertised on our website and a post in made to the Volunteers Facebook page.  We also use our Facebook page to showcase what our volunteers are doing and share their experiences.

“We load the roles onto  Team London, which has proven to be a useful resource. We also used to use Do-it.org, but less so recently as it has become difficult to use.

“We’ve also had some success using  London Volunteer Centres, though most require a four week lead time to advertise roles.”

Do you do any work around remote or micro-volunteering?

“We have created a pilot using remote volunteers to transcribe some of the information held in our archives and catalogues.  Most of which are 100+ years old. Getting these up to date is something that not only would add value to the museum but could work very well as a remote volunteering role for those volunteers who would like to engage with the museum but are restricted from doing so for a variety of reasons.”

What are you doing to capture volunteers ideas and allow them to drive activity in the museum?

“We have an annual Volunteer Afternoon tea during volunteers week and thank you event, where we ask volunteers for feedback .  With the Museum of London moving to a new site in Smithfield, a number of New Museum Workshops have been held which volunteers have been encouraged to attend, so they can provide any feedback or ideas about what is being proposed.  We also hold volunteer engagement events and encourage volunteers to share their thoughts and ideas with us.

“We also find that quite a few of our volunteers are volunteering not just for us but for other museums as well.

“This benefits not only the volunteer’s personal experience and motivations but both museums in regards to the experience, skills, knowledge and ideas the volunteers has gained.”

How the Museum could work with Volunteer Makers

  • Support their wider engagement with volunteers outside of their traditional geographic areas by enabling remote volunteering and bringing people together online
  • Unpick the value exchange by giving volunteers a platform to manage and shape their own needs as an individual while contributing directly to the goals of the museum.
  • Putting digital at the heart of their volunteering activity to streamline engagement, communication and valuation of volunteering throughout the whole museum.
  • Building an always-there connection with volunteers so that relationships can be maintained even when other choices take volunteers away from their role for time.
  • Creating a sense of community among volunteers through social and gamification elements – particularly useful where diverse communities and geography can cause a sense of disconnect.
  • Providing tools for wider ideas sharing and discussion around projects such as the New Museum Network.
  • Drilling down data to support an understanding of Blended Volunteering value, diversity and impact.