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Volunteer Toolkit Introduction

Welcome from Camilla Hampshire

Museums Manager and Cultural Lead, RAMM

I am delighted to introduce this Volunteering Toolkit on behalf of our project partners, Devon Libraries (Libraries Unlimited) and Exeter Cathedral. The Toolkit shares information that will help cultural organisations in the city and greater Exeter manage and engage volunteers in their activities.

Volunteers are an important part of life at RAMM (the Royal Albert Memorial Museum) and much of the guidance is based on our experience, developed over many years, but through this project refined for wider sector usage with our colleagues at the Libraries and Cathedral.  The three partners hope that organisations of all sizes will find the toolkit useful in helping to get the best from their volunteers but also ensure that these committed and enthusiastic people have a great experience working with cultural organisations in the city.

Volunteering enables peoples’ deeper engagement with culture and organisations’ a tighter ‘fit’ with the communities they serve.  The benefits are two way and by sharing our experience we can encourage others in the city to develop opportunities for cultural participation in all its forms.

As members of Exeter Cultural Partnership (ECP) all three project partners subscribe to ECP’s definition of culture as being ‘the things people do’ whether this is sports, heritage, learning or the arts.  We hope therefore that the toolkit will be useful to a wide range of city organisations.  If you would like to discuss volunteer management in relation to the cultural sector please contact ramm.volunteer@exeter.gov.uk

This project has been made possible by Arts Council England through the Major Partner Museum funding of RAMM and we are grateful for their assistance.  Arts Council England writes:

‘We are pleased to welcome the Exeter Cultural Volunteer Toolkit. Volunteers play a vital role in the success of cultural organisations, supporting community engagement, increasing capacity, and acting as ambassadors for culture. Just as importantly, volunteers ensure that organisations reflect the communities within which they are located. With the help of this Toolkit, these mutually beneficial partnerships between volunteers and organisations will build a stronger cultural sector for Exeter that even more people will be able to enjoy.’

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An Overview of the Role of Volunteers in Service Delivery

Volunteers make an invaluable contribution to service delivery. Many cultural organisations rely on volunteers to ensure that they provide the best possible service to their communities.

If you establish consistent procedures and policies to involve and develop your volunteers, you are more likely to retain them and gain the maximum benefit possible for both your organisation and your volunteers:

  • It is likely to provide a better service for your visitors
  • It is cost effective, saving on recruitment, training and other costs of involving new volunteers
  • It gives the volunteer time to become fully competent with any new skills they are learning
  • It increases a sense of team working

Careful planning is the key to successfully involving volunteers in your organisation.

It may be helpful to consider the following:

  • Is everyone in your organisation aware of plans to involve volunteers?
  • How will different people be affected – staff, trustees, service users, other volunteers?
  • Do you have the human resources to adequate support volunteers?
  • Have you budgeted for the costs of involving volunteers; such as, payment of out of pocket expenses, training, staff costs for supervision, admin costs for DBS checks where required?
  • Are you able to provide roles that are rewarding for volunteers and meet the needs of your organisation?
  • Do you have the necessary space and resources?
  • Are you ready for the fresh ideas, enthusiasm and experience volunteers bring?
  • Do you need any new policies and procedures?

Isn’t involving volunteers going to take up a lot of time?

Good management of volunteers is always going to take time, but this is outweighed by the valuable contribution they can make to your organisation. Once policies and procedures are set in place, the process will be a lot simpler.

Increasingly, as people’s time becomes more valuable it is important that you consider how you can recruit, support, recognise and reward one of your most valuable resources – volunteers.

Given that volunteers are essential to the effective running of most cultural organisations, it may be worth considering appointing a volunteer co-ordinator (this can also be a voluntary role). This type of role can make a big difference to the recruitment and retention of volunteers, as it ensures that the area of volunteer development is given a strong lead from within your organisation. The role of the volunteer co-ordinator could focus on the following areas:

  • Identifying the volunteer needs of the organisation
  • Recruiting new volunteers
  • Rewarding and developing current volunteers
  • Providing feedback to help volunteers to be effective in their roles
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