What if… you set up your own programme?

Our good practice guide draws on extensive experience of setting up and delivering socially engaged volunteer programmes. We aim to help others consider this model of engagement, by sharing our learning and providing supporting documents and templates to get you started.

If you have any questions after reading this guide, please complete our contact form and we will get in touch.

Getting started

Volunteers provide essential support and enhance the services of museums and galleries across the country. To ensure benefits for both organisations and volunteers, careful planning in the early stages is essential.

Things to consider when planning a new volunteer programme

  • How will volunteers benefit from taking part?
  • How will the organisation benefit from running the scheme?
  • What is the main aim of your volunteer programme?
  • Does it have a clear links to other organisational commitments?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the volunteers?
  • Who will train your volunteers and how will training be funded?
  • Is volunteering supported by staff and senior management?
  • Who do you want to target through your volunteer programme?
  • What roles will volunteers undertake?
  • What resources will you need, eg. training room, staff time, break room, computers?
  • Who are your stakeholders?
  • Who will you consult with prior to set up?
  • Do you want to work in partnership with other venues?
  • Can the organisation support your project financially and with staff resources?
  • How will you pay expenses?
  • Will you need to source external funding?

Our approach

IWM North and Manchester Museum have been running socially engaged volunteering programmes for many years and have worked jointly since 2006 on the In Touch programme. This experience formed the basis of a Stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which was followed by a 12 month Stage 2 development phase and application. During this time we consulted with 370 stakeholders, including potential participants, referral and signposting agencies, staff within our organisations, employers, partners, the wider sector and evaluation consultants. The questions below shaped this process:

  • Do the participant groups match our organisational priorities?
  • How can we recruit participants to the project?
  • How will volunteers be embedded into our organisations?
  • 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?
  • What evidence will we need for future funders, our own organisations and the wider sector?

For impartiality, external consultants were used to consult with existing volunteers and visitors, but the majority of the consultation was led in-house.

During the planning stage we also agreed a set of shared values to guide how we deliver the programme and work with others. Our values support us to connect people and collections, and are:

  • Collaborative
  • Aspirational
  • Commitment to learning
  • Sense of fairness