This good practice guide draws on our extensive experience of setting up and delivering socially engaged volunteer programmes. It will outline key learning points and provide relevant information, guidance and supporting documents to help shape and inform the development of future volunteer programmes.

Getting started

Volunteers provide essential support and enhance the services of museums and galleries across the country. Before developing role descriptions and recruiting volunteers it’s important to get early planning right.

Things to consider when planning a new volunteer programme

  • What is the main aim of your volunteer programme?
  • Does it have a clear vision and links to wider organisational commitments?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the volunteers?
  • Is it 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?
  • 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?
  • Will you need to source external funding?

Our approach

Building on the success of In Touch volunteer programme from 2007 – 2010. Both IWM North and Manchester Museum wanted to continue to provide opportunities for local people. In Touch evaluation revealed that the programme contributed strongly to personal development, significantly increasing self-confidence and self-esteem. Using this research we wanted to measure the impact on health and wellbeing and share it more widely with the sector as a whole.

If: Volunteering for Wellbeing was the development of twelve months of work which was led by a project team with staff from both IWM North and Manchester Museum, the team developed an activity plan which led to a successful grant award from Heritage Lottery Fund in May 2013.

During the planning stage it was important for the team to agree a set of values within which the project would operate. These values are important in guiding how we deliver our aims and how we work with the range of stakeholders.

Consultation with stakeholders

The development of this programme was steered by a series of consultations with a wide range of project stakeholders both internal and external to our organisations. The team identified the following stakeholders: Over 370 individuals and organisations were involved in this process.

In order to ensure we really learnt from our consultation and could apply it directly to our thinking, the majority of the consultation activity was led by the project team, specifically by the Volunteer Co-ordinators who are responsible for the day-to-day delivery of the project. However, we identified that it was more difficult for us to take an objective view talking to our own visitors and existing volunteers, so we recruited consultants to lead this work.

Findings from our visitor and volunteer consultations are available on request.

We are more than happy to talk to anyone who would like further information to develop a similar volunteer programme. If you would like to meet a member of the team, please complete our contact form and we will get in touch.