COVID 19’S IMPACT ON VOLUNTEERING, COMMUNITIES AND THE ECONOMY BY CLAIRE SULLY

Before the new normal was normal – that is before March 23rd, 2020, when lockdown was announced – we would evangelise about the millions of volunteers. We would note the billions of pounds their work amounted to, if equated to an economic value. We would say:

• It is estimated that in the UK 20.1 million people volunteer to support activities, events and causes. 7 in 10 people, surveyed in 2019, reveal they volunteer.

• In 2015, volunteering was worth more than £22.6bn to the UK economy. This is equivalent to about 1.2% of GDP.

• 1 in 5 (22%) people formally volunteered regularly (at least once a month) in 2017/18 (11.9 million people).

• In 2017/18, 53% of people informally volunteered at least once, and 27% of people took part in informal volunteering regularly.

It’s clear from these incredible stats that we are part of nation of doers and givers (of our time) and how- if this natural resource of people doing good together is part of a national strategy – just imagine… yes, just imagine. Then Covid 19 came and everything stopped and organisations closed and many organisations furloughed their teams. Volunteers were at home.

Now we have a major challenge in sustaining our heritage organisations and charities, keeping volunteering going and making it safe for volunteers.

Research confirms that those volunteering in the last 12 months participate in formal volunteering at least once a month, are more likely to be older, well-educated and from higher socio-economic groups. All generations are affected by Covid 19, but if a primary volunteer demographic is affected by social distancing it makes the drive to diversify volunteering even more important.

With an aging society and Covid 19 disruption, it is extremely important we sustain, value, diversify and innovate volunteering. This will not only sustain current levels of volunteering, it will open-up public participation to wider demographic profiles, benefiting health and well-being, local health systems and the economy.

Feeling connected lies at the core of the volunteer experience.

Tickbox’s Tech for Good product: Volunteer Makers enable “Connected Communities”. This creates greater numbers of volunteers and bigger impacts. It brings to the fore remote and micro-volunteering and diversifies volunteering.

For 7 years, Tickbox Tech for Good products and national pilot training programmes have shown how enabling “connected communities” to be inspired is:

• A scalable model
• Cost-effective
• A means to help organisations adapt to disruption and economic shocks
• A way to diversify volunteering

Tickbox began operating in 2007 in Somerset and is now based in Bristol, we work with clients across the UK.

Our tech-driven engagement model (Volunteer Makers) helps heritage, arts, charity and community organisations navigate economic shocks, adapt to disruption and implement organisational change. Along with the tech we have evolved training tools and learning.

During lockdown our clients have launched and extended their community and volunteer engagement, because this engagement model and its digital tools work even in lockdown with social distancing.

Learn more about Volunteer Makers in lockdown:

Oldham show how to reach people – even in lockdown

Museum Makers repeat history in lockdown

DISCOVER THE WAY TO A NEW VOLUNTEER JOURNEY

Tickbox (the tech team behind Volunteer Makers) is offering charities, museums, arts and community organisations free online sessions to support new engagement strategies, following the impact of Covid 19 on volunteering and audience development.

Sessions can cover micro and remote volunteering, with non-contact participation in mind, and how to grow your volunteer and supporter community through digital engagement.

These sessions are free via Zoom during June and July. Sessions last approximately 40 minutes.

For charities, museums, arts organisations, community groups, and health and well-being projects who are facing immediate disruption and change, we are also offering support on using the Volunteer Makers platform, and on using digital marketing tools (Mailchimp, social media, Google tools).

If you want to find out more get in touch via hello@volunteermakers.org.

OLDHAM SHOW HOW TO REACH PEOPLE – EVEN IN LOCKDOWN

The coronavirus emergency has left us with all sorts of challenges, including how to remain connected with others and still benefit from being part of community. For heritage, arts and other charity organisations the question is how do we remain connected to volunteers and supporters? And how do these organisations continue to build their numbers in order to thrive during and after lockdown.

Take Part Oldham’s Volunteer Makers has launched during the most difficult time in our country’s post-war history, but it has hit the ground running and built engagement with local organisations, helped by Volunteer Makers.

Volunteer Makers embodies Tickbox’s “tech for good” ethos: Using tech creatively and strategically to connect communities, building engagement and allowing measurable benefits to flow.

The Arts, Heritage, Libraries and Music services in Oldham have got together to create Take Part Oldham, an online space using Volunteer Makers, that makes it easy to see what community activities local people can get involved in. What is significant is Take Part Oldham launched during lockdown. Take Part Oldham has 37 creative challenges running and has signed up more than 100 people (and rising) to take part remotely.

Music is an important part of the heritage, libraries and art grouping that makes up Take Part Oldham and one challenge asks people to stage an impromptu gig in their gardens at 4pm any day they choose.

The results are uploaded onto social media and as well as keeping up morale (and raising a few laughs) in these difficult times, the initiative links in the community with the arts in Oldham.

Another creative challenge gets people to post online book reviews: a great lockdown idea which not only encourages reading but builds engagement with Oldham libraries, who are tagged in by this virtual book club.

Keep fit meets the arts when Oldham Theatre Workshop’s Craig Harris holds a series of streamed daily warm-up exercises. The public can log on and warm up like a professional actor in a challenge that builds engagement with the theatre.

Lockdown means being inventive with challenges, but lots of people online with lots of time on their hands equals a great opportunity for reaching out and making connections with the public. Connections that should last even when the virus is vanquished. Connections that may last a lifetime.

Volunteer Makers showcased to the movers and shakers

Tickbox were invited to join a number of museum and heritage organisations based in the South West and South East to share best practice and learning around managing volunteers.

The Museum Volunteer Co-ordinators Forum was held in Swindon on February 27th and the theme was “Tools and Tips for Better Working”. It was organised by South West Museum Development (SWMD) and their South East counterpart: South East Museum Development (SEmuseumDP).

Both SWMD and SEmuseumDP are ACE-funded museum development programmes that enable museums in their regions to evolve and thrive.

Around 50 + delegates joined the seminar to hear case studies, share ideas and best practice and network. It was also an opportunity to hear from companies like Tickbox about tech that can inspire. Volunteer Makers is an engagement model and technology product designed to help organisations establish/grow a supporter/volunteer community. It also provides useful tools to manage volunteers.

Volunteer Makers has been driven by collaborative working with heritage organisations, started around 6 years ago with Luton Culture and Museum Makers. It helps organisations think through and deliver their volunteer strategy.

Engage in Gloucester – Volunteer Makers has been working with Volunteer Makers for the past 2 years and the Engage in Gloucester platform was launched in October 2019. Since then it has gone on to have a significant impact for Gloucester Culture Trust and their 62 heritage partners.

Engage in Gloucester has shifted the face of volunteering for Gloucester,” said Director of Gloucester Culture Hollie Smith-Charles at the event. “We have got better at thinking through accessible volunteer opportunities and thinking what’s in it for the volunteer. This has led us to effectively reach the people we need to, including younger people – who make up 40% of the population”.

Other speakers sharing their volunteer  management experience included:

Paola Palmer, Still Curious Project Coordinator and Hampshire Cultural Officer, The Red House Museum.

Hollie Foskett-Barnes, Membership Co-ordinator, Museum of East Asian Art, Bath.

Joy Todd, Head of Volunteering and Community Engagement, Gardens and Museums (GLAM), University of Oxford.

Tickbox MD and Programme Director for Volunteer Makers Claire Sully was asked to give a brief introduction to Volunteer Makers to further support the case study provided by Hollie Smith-Charles for Engage in Gloucester.

Claire said “Seeing Hollie demonstrating the positive impact of working with Volunteer Makers for Engage in Gloucester was very exciting. We know the tech is great, but the important thing is what the tech enables and for Gloucester this has been something quite extraordinary.”

RECENT POSTS

How Gloucester put itself at the forefront of innovative community engagement

Getting the community engaged and involved in arts, heritage and culture, has long been an aim of civic bodies in Gloucester.

It’s an approach that both carries economic benefits, and individual ones: letting the city council support events and facilities, and promoting physical and mental wellbeing and social inclusion for residents.

The West Country city has been a successful adopter of a new engagement model and technology – Volunteer Makers – to aid these aims.

Gloucester Heritage Forum and other community groups established Engage in Gloucester a year ago, to pool ideas and resources and use the platform provided by Tickbox, a digital tech company based just down the road in Bristol. Tickbox’s vision is to build technology products that have a positive impact on the world, Volunteer Makers has been rolled out nationally – supported by Creative England and Arts Council England.

The results achieved by Engage in Gloucester, using Volunteer Makers, not only provided community and civic projects with more public participation, but brought younger supporters into the fold – a key ambition for the Council.

“Engage in Gloucester with Volunteer Makers has not only increased the number of volunteers, it has enabled a better engagement with the public and increased the scope of their involvement with community groups and projects,” says Sarah Orton, Gloucester Culture Trust’s Community Engagement and Volunteer Officer.

Engage in Gloucester’s Volunteer Makers platform has been used by nearly 60 groups based in or near the city, ranging from Gloucester City Museum and Archives, to a community gardening group and the Girl Guides.

Larger organisations often write their own volunteer “challenges” (opportunities) for supported participation, while Sarah co-ordinates and helps smaller groups write and manage theirs.

“It has tapped into the changing face of community engagement,” Sarah explains.

“People being able to offer a few hours here and there and dip into what they want to do and where they want to do it.

“We’ve seen a big increase in young volunteers. Sometimes students looking for experience, perhaps to put on their UCCA form or to gain a foothold in the heritage and charity sector; young people doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards and others who just want to help out, maybe in a gap year.

“The technology suits them to the ground and helps them connect, though of course, we still have plenty of older users as well, including retired people.”

Micro-volunteering is what Volunteer Makers encourages, letting supporters match their skills and interests and give time as and when they can, to help charities achieve specific goals.

“We’ve seen people grow in confidence. One regular volunteer now has paid work in the sector.

“For all, it helps that the volunteer challenges mean it isn’t a case of ‘turn up and do what we ask you’ but supporters know what their role will be, they will understand what they’re doing – and are consequently more enthusiastic about it!”

Engage in Gloucester can list many notable successes: stewarding posts for the city carnival and other festivals are filled “almost instantly”, while data inputting roles at the city archives and local history festival, both in situ and as home-based work, have also proved very popular. A drop-in counselling service filled demanding ongoing receptionist roles thanks to Engage in Gloucester and Volunteer Makers. Environmental challenges have also “flown off the shelf”, as Sarah puts it.

“Flexibility is what makes it work for users – not everyone can give regular commitments, but many want to help out as-and-when.

“Our community groups say they are seeing a very high calibre of volunteer come forward. Volunteer Makers has really made a difference to how charity and community groups and events operate here. It’s been great!”

It’s just worked really well for us” Sarah concludes.

Engaging and Developing Supporters – 5 User Tips

At Volunteer Makers we’re always looking for ways to improve the success of our user community in engaging with volunteers and supporters, and to share success too.

Spoiler alert! Volunteer Makers requires the same sustained approach to supporter development as any other system. The difference Volunteer Makers can make is the potential of social digital and flexible opportunities to reach out and appeal to a wider and more diverse supporter base.

Here are our top tips, collated from our successful user community:
Tip 1
In at #1, social media – particularly effective for reaching new volunteers. Although it’s not rocket science, it’s surprising how easy it is to miss the opportunity of this tool to share Challenges, engage with supporters and share your supporter stories. Successful users are putting most, if not all, of their Challenges on social media and making the most of their reach. Remember, Volunteer Makers has social media sharing tools embedded in the site to make it even easier!

Every new challenge that goes on is mentioned on all our social media feeds for us and the town. I would say that digital media has been the most successful marketing tool, particularly as we have quite a good reach already” (Tamsin Bough, Falmouth Art Gallery).

I post at least one original tweet or post each day and then obviously we re-post relevant content. Primarily I use it in a “Have you seen this volunteering opportunity with X” type vein, but I also share events that are happening at the organisations that use Engage in Gloucester and celebrate local volunteers or volunteering in general” (Sarah Orton, Gloucester Culture Trust)

Tip 2
Your website – again, not rocket science, but do make sure your Volunteer Makers’ site is on there, is easy to find, and cross references support and volunteering. As your Volunteer Makers’ site is branded to look like your core website, this should be seamless.

Our website has directed many people to sign up, having a section explaining about Volunteer Makers” (Jessica Hartshorn, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum)

Tip 3
To reach existing supporters and volunteers, and to convert them to being a Volunteer Maker, make the most of your mailing assets – to existing volunteers and supporters (all GDPR compliant of course!), direct emails (add a clickable banner to the footer of all staff emails) or newsletter articles.

Tip 4
There’s nothing wrong with analogue! Engage new supporters offline too. Posters, flyers, postcards and bookmarks have all been tried and tested, directing people to Volunteer Makers’ sites.

I’ve got three pull up banners, logoed stickers and postcards to advertise the site. I go out to events such as the History Festival, residents’ weekend, local community shows and have a stall, chat to people about the site and hand out the postcards and stickers. I also made sure that the postcards are a bit thicker and substantial so they don’t just get immediately discarded and they also work as bookmarks” (Sarah Orton, Gloucester Culture Trust)

 

 

Tip 5
More offline activity – you can still showcase Volunteer Makers and drive people to your site via traditional methods such as volunteer fairs and events (on or offsite). It might help to have a laptop/tablet to showcase what you offer, how it works and encourage sign ups on the spot.

I recommend face-to-face contact at open days – ensuring they sign up on the spot!” (Katy Hammond, Museum of Oxford)

The most labour intensive, but I think the best conversion rate has to be face to face contact with people” (Sarah Orton, Gloucester Culture Trust)

Summary
We ask our users to put together a plan before they launch for delivering Volunteer Makers – but a plan isn’t just for launch! You will need to sustain your supporter development all year round, and be prepared to experiment with new approaches and maximise your existing assets. As you would for any audience engagement in your organisation.

Case Study
Sofia Carosi, Corporate, Community and Events Fundraiser at HorseWorld tells us how she’s put this into practice since launching in January this year:

I’ve found that social media, particularly Facebook, has been the best way to gain new members on HorseWorld Heroes (HH), as it reaches many more people and is an easy platform to get info in front of them more than once, as opposed to sending a letter where they read it then throw it away. I post regularly on social media about the new site and that we’re looking for specific challenges to be met etc. I’ve set the cover photos on all our social media accounts to show HH and pinned posts to the top of all news feeds. I also ran a sponsored Facebook Advert for 7 days (spent £50, 315 link clicks).

I’ve made staff add clickable banners to their emails so it reaches new audiences outside of my control (without breaching GDPR). I sent direct emails to all current staff and active volunteers and arranged reminders to be sent to those who have not opened the first mailing. I sent emails via MailChimp to active supporters with email consent.

I posted within a campaign mail out to supporters a printed bookmark (that I made myself and printed here to keep costs down) with details of the website on. HorseWorld Heroes will also have a page in the next HorseWorld newsletter and will be pushed out further at events with flyers and bookmarks in goody bags.

Popular challenges are mainly within the Just A Minute category, with Follow On Social Media topping this. An Hour or Two category challenges are also popular, with Knit/Crochet Horses or Donkeys being most clicked on and accepted. Because of this, we will have a lot more handmade horses/donkeys to sell at the open days (which from experience we know are very popular) so will increase our income as a result of the new Volunteer Makers system.

We have gained a new potential regular Research Volunteer to help with #BreakTheChain, and a new and regular Discovery Volunteer. Furthermore, we have acquired two offers of raffle prizes for the Open Days and one offer of clothing for Discovery students because of HorseWorld Heroes.

You can find their site here

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 19 years.

Volunteer Makers ends the year with a bang – 1000s of people now signed up doing 10,000s of challenges, here are some shining examples

The approach to the Festive Season hasn’t slowed the pace of the Volunteer Makers’ team and our partner organisations. We now have thousands of people signed up to Volunteer Makers’ platforms across England and have engaged with organisations operating over 200 sites!

As we prepare to leave a busy and successful 2018 for Volunteer Makers, now’s the time to look at some of our “Christmas stars” who’ve upped their digital game via Volunteer Makers.

The Museum of Oxford is a pioneer organisation within Volunteer Makers, and despite being closed for redevelopment until 2020, has signed up more than 100 volunteers since the launch of their site in February.

That success was matched by Engage in Gloucester, a consortium of arts, heritage, cultural and community projects in the West Country city, who also added 100 new names to their volunteer platform. They launched their site in September, and have really engaged with Volunteer Makers’ ethos of using social media to build engagement and embed the organisation in their community.

Christmas hats off as well to trailblazing Tyne and Wear Museums – one of Volunteer Makers’ original pioneer partners – who have over 1,500 volunteers signed up at nine sites across the region via their site.

Finally, we must mention Essex-based community project Snapping the Stiletto, which in addition to garnering media interest, has also engaged 150 new volunteers since March. The project celebrates the lives and achievements of the women of Essex, and its success forms the launchpad for the Essex Women’s History Festival, in March 2019.

Although Volunteer Makers has proved a popular way to improve engagement with arts and heritage organisations, this is far from being the only sector the digital platform works with.

Carymoor Environmental Trust is a nature reserve and education centre developed on a landfill site in the heart of Somerset. The charity has just launched its Volunteer Makers’ site, looking to build its volunteering base and make supporting their mission fun via a series of challenges.

This month we also delivered a Volunteer Makers’ strategic training workshop to Horse World, a charity that supports rescue horses working with young people based in Bristol.

Further north, last month saw another new Volunteer Makers’ site launch. University of Liverpool Museums runs two sites – the Victoria Gallery and Museum and the Garstang Museum of Archaeology – both recognised as national centres of excellence. Volunteers speak of the sites as jewels of the city of Liverpool, and the Volunteer Makers’ platform will help the parent organisation garner new faces – and make the most of those already there!

As well as site launches, Volunteer Makers just ran a workshop in a city we are already familiar with via pioneers Heritage MK. This time it was with MK Gallery, who are looking to engage more supporters when their expanded site opens next year.

Anyone interested in finding out what a training workshop next year can do for your organisations’ engagement, please click here. We’d love to hear from you.

In 2019 Volunteer Makers will be further developing and rolling out its Sustainable Libraries programme – bringing the micro-volunteering and digital engagement message to this much cherished, but economically threatened, sector.

We are also in advanced talks with a region over a new strategic programme called Connecting Communities, Transforming Lives. Watch this space for news!

We wish all our partners, stakeholders, volunteers and staff a very happy Christmas holiday and look forward to working with you in 2019.

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.