The Future of Volunteering | MA Conference 2017

Jessica Juckes, International Training Programme Assistant

As promised, we in the ITP team are putting together our notes from some of the interesting sessions we attended at the Museums Association Conference 2017 in Manchester.

I attended a panel discussion on volunteering, which looked at changes in trends of who is volunteering and why, and also offered new digital solutions for creating and managing volunteering opportunities in the museum sector. The panel included Iain Watson, Director of ITP UK partner Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, who spoke to ITP fellows on the 2017 summer programme on ‘Leadership, Vision and Strategy’.

The Future of Volunteering

Speakers discuss how museums are pushing the voluntary sector forward by adopting new models and engaging with new practice. They ask what the future might look like for those volunteering within and outside of the museums, galleries and heritage sector.

Danielle Garcia – Volunteer Programme Manager, Imperial War Museum North
Claire Sully – Programme Director, Volunteer Makers
Iain Watson – Director, Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums
Karl Wilding – Director of Public Policy and Volunteering, NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Danielle Garcia – IWM North:

The Imperial War Museum North is using volunteering as a route to well-being and recovery:

Karl Wilding – NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations):

We are very reliant on a small group of people for volunteering in the UK – what is called the ‘civic core’.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1: 9% of the adult population in the UK are undertaking 515 of volunteering hours

People are choosing to do different things with their ‘spare time’ – leisure activities, like watching Game of Thrones!
What is it about the opportunities that we are creating that means people would rather do other things?

Don’t assume that everybody thinks volunteering is a good thing.
The NCVO are receiving a lot of complaints at the moment about volunteering.

Before, we were dependent on people doing the same thing for twenty years when it came to volunteering.
There is a different kind of social action now.
People are worried about money, and they are no longer loyal to individual organisations.
They want to do their volunteering with their friends, and with their phones.
Young people want to go digital when they do civil action.

Fig. 2Fig. 2: Young people overwhelmingly see the internet as a force for good

Zooniverse – this is an example of online social action – it’s socially useful, unpaid and for someone else – so it’s volunteering!

How do we make volunteering more of a social activity?
Gig buddies
Volunteering as a family

Volunteering is not a way for an organisation to save money.
You won’t save any money if you are offering good volunteering opportunities.
You will leverage your impact though – you will reach more people and deliver a better quality experience.

Young people are sector-agnostic – they are not so committed to a particular sector.
A major priority for them is to be ‘doing good’, no matter what sector.
If they are spending time or money, they want to know how it is making a difference.

Claire Sulley – Volunteer Makers:

Volunteer Makers is a digital platform tool designed to help museums, charities and community organisations manage their volunteering and expand their volunteer community. It blends volunteering with public participation through digital engagement.

The traditional way of recruiting volunteers is failing in the UK.
Accessible and flexible volunteering opportunities – lots more people can do little bits.
Everyone has less time, but more people want to volunteer!
1/3 of us volunteer to some extent, including micro-volunteering.

Young people want a value exchange from volunteering – skills, experience and a step to the next stage of their lives.
Volunteer Makers offers a way to measure this value exchange.

The future of volunteering is a solution to:
-A new era of audience engagement
-The economic climate
-Changing volunteers – shifts in demographics

Iain Watson – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM):

Using Volunteer Makers makes it easier for staff at TWAM to shape volunteer roles.
The software has helped to get more people engaged in volunteering. And it is powerful in terms of micro-volunteering opportunities.

Visit TWAM’s Volunteer Makers mini-site here.

There is still one person working full time coordinating volunteers at TWAM, but now there is much more focus on the staff they will be volunteering with as the facilitators of the volunteering programme, eg front-of-house staff are being trained in how to work effectively with volunteers.

Culture Track volunteering programme at TWAM
This programme offered volunteering placements for 16 to 25 year-olds in the North East of England who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)
95% of them moved through to employment or training after the opportunity.
(Follow the link above to read the project report)

TWAM also has volunteers who are retired engineers, who have the skills to fix objects in the collection, and can offer focused guided tours.

Q&A Session:

Q1. How do you propose we engage with the self-employed, for whom time is literally money, and who don’t have the opportunity to retire?!
A. More and more of us will be self-employed in the years to come.
Self-employed people are earning less than employed people. They are thinking about skills development and networks. There’s a value proposition there.
They are also a diverse group of people – can include some artists who have never paid income tax because they have never reached the threshold, and then also other people who make good money – ‘working pro bono’ is a choice they can afford to make. This is a different type of volunteering.

Q2. How can we deal with the pressure on staff to support volunteers?
A. Ask yourselves, can the volunteers manage themselves? Look outside our sector as well for examples of models of volunteering – such as the library system and the NHS in the UK.