Claire Sully, Volunteer Makers Training Programme Founder
Around one in three of us volunteers in the UK. This ratio could be even higher if you include informal (and unrecorded) volunteering. Those acts involving our time, skills, expertise or just our sheer enthusiasm aren’t always measured.
We gain skills, experience and we benefit from the social aspects of volunteering. Possibly many of us don’t consider this volunteering because we do it ad hoc, when it suits us fitting around our busy lives. We feel compelled to join in, with others, resulting in something we can all enjoy and often results in tangible benefits.
There is a cultural mindset of doing good together through volunteering affecting our wellbeing and general health. This benefits our wider society – economically, it is valued in the billions.
While working across the country, meeting and training museum teams who wish to build communities of volunteers – and the benefits that creates including diversity and sustainability – it never ceases to amaze me that amongst those professionals I work with, there is also a high percentage who volunteer themselves, in the areas they are interested in. Volunteering is ubiquitous.
Museums have come to understand at first-hand that finding volunteers (and keeping them) is challenging due to shifts in demographics meaning those who come forward have different needs.
Digital technology is key to finding and engaging volunteers, but requires a new approach. The old model of engaging volunteers – simply inviting someone to volunteer, then managing to match the volunteer with the activity isn’t scalable, it’s resource intensive, especially in the context that volunteers are often vital to the financial sustainability of organisations and numbers of volunteers need to increase.
The results of the mass movement of volunteering (a volunteer revolution you could say) in the UK is valued at over 25 billion pounds, an economic value comparable to significant UK PLC industries. Yet there isn’t a unifying UK-wide strategy and the recognition that volunteering deserves. The opportunity is there for museums to learn from each other about harnessing the power of 21st century volunteering. It has changed, and organisations have to change to keep up.
Volunteer Makers is well placed to share such learning, from a national programme of training with our tools and frameworks. Alongside this, we have been rolling out a technology platform to support organisations with the aim of growing their volunteers in a scalable and manageable way. The crucial stage is making the step to an organisational-wide engagement culture which creates the conditions for building up a substantial community of volunteers who sustain organisations now and into the future.
With many Volunteer Makers Pioneers making this step, we feel this a good point in our Arts Council England supported national programme to share the learning through a national conference, which we are holding as a fringe event on 17th November as part of the Museums Association Conference in Manchester.
This is a chance for museums to further participate in Volunteer Makers and understand the benefits of Blended and Micro-Volunteering and how this affects the workforce now and into the future. The Volunteer Makers conference will hear from the museums themselves who are pioneering Volunteering Makers and the steps they have taken to create an organisational-wide engagement culture and implement new thinking in volunteer engagement.