How do you get staff and existing volunteers to support a new volunteer programme?

  • Always consult as widely as possible when developing your volunteer programme.
  • Ensure you have support from colleagues at all levels of the organisation.
  • If you already have volunteers include them in the consultation and decision making process.

We identified  key consultation questions, these were then allocated across the stakeholder groups :

Audience Focus

  • Are these the right participant groups?
  • Do they match our organisational priorities?
  • How can we recruit participants to the project?
  • Do we need a youth board or community panel?
  • How would a panel be connected to programming and audience development?
  • What works well elsewhere? (in relation to youth/community panels)

Training and volunteer focus

  • What skills does the heritage sector need its volunteers to have?
  • What accreditation is valuable to employers?
  • What do other venues need from a training template?
  • What format for training works well – length of course, timing?
  • What is the function for mentoring within the project?
  • What do participants want from a training/volunteering programme?
  • What don’t participants want from a training/volunteer programme?

The majority of the consultation  was led by the project team, however we identified that it was difficult for us to take an objective view when talking to our own visitors and existing volunteers, so we recruited consultants to lead this work.

How do you get senior management buy in?

  • Create a volunteer working group, ask senior managers to chair the meetings
  • Develop a volunteer policy and mission statement
  • Provide reports and statistics that fed into managment reports
  • Sit on team meetings / project meetings to advocate for the volunteers

Directors at all Museums are very committed to the success of this programme and without their support the programme would not exist. Recognition from the senior management team at staff events is invaluable.  Most importantly it emphasises to staff and volunteers that their time is valued. Volunteers at both venues also enjoy staff discounts and privileges.

How do you involve existing volunteers?

It is important to get input from existing volunteers as early as practically possible in the planning phase. Gaining their opinions about their own experiences helps to shape the programme further by ensuring activities are enjoyable as well as being relevant. Volunteers are further involved once the programme is running by becoming buddy volunteers supporting new people in their role. To help make the buddies more comfortable in this role we arrange mentoring training.

Can a project like this be delivered on a smaller scale?

Running a programme of this nature is time intensive. The programme employs two full time members of staff at each venue (Volunteer Co-ordinator/ Manager and Volunteer Placement Assistant). There is no substitute for spending time with people, on a one-to-one or group basis as this helps to develop confidence and foster a sense of belonging and ownership in the Museum. This can be as simple as having the time to chat to a volunteer about how their week has been since you last saw them; or it can be more involved, such as spending time together on specific tasks to develop confidence or grasp a tricky concept, or assisting with identifying and applying for potential college courses, further volunteering or employment opportunities.

How do you deal with conflict between staff and volunteers?

Disciplinary issues
The Volunteer Co-ordinator should hold regular feedback meetings with staff members and volunteers to address any areas of conflict straight away rather than let things simmer. Adopt a structured volunteer policy with disciplinary guidelines for staff and volunteers . Provide training for staff on mental health, learning difficulties, disability etiquette and refugee awareness. this approach helps promote diversity within the team and increase understanding of the project and its possible participants.

Volunteer Role Description
Develop volunteer role descriptions alongside paid  staff and make sure they do not overlap with job descriptions. Most importantly reassure staff that the volunteers will by no means replace any existing jobs. The role description provides the volunteer with a clear outline of what is expected of them and their responsibilities. This will also make them feel that the time they give is being used productively.

How do you support people with Mental Health or disabilities?

Recognise limits to your expertise.
When dealing with volunteers with a variety of differing needs and abilities, Volunteer Co-ordinators often find themselves in a support role. Remember not to offer advice on areas outside your training and experience: for example medication, illness, benefits, financial support etc. Instead, seek advice from local specialist support agencies.