February 7 – 14 is Student Volunteering Week. Like National Volunteering Week at the beginning of June, this week is an opportunity to appeal to student volunteers and promote your museum as an ideal place for them to get experience. Eleanor Moore, our Sustainable Volunteering Officer, has tips and advice to help you recruit students.
First of all, spend an hour reviewing the scope and reach of your museum’s current volunteer opportunities among students. You might have good links with some institutions, but none with others. As well as reviewing who you are reaching, think about how you support different ways to get involved.
Course-based placements are different to paid internships, and these are both different to general volunteering, with more formal arrangements and timescales; placements will involve communication with a university or college.
General volunteering is open-ended and flexible, which can be suited to student lifestyles and commitments – for example, taking place in term time if students spend the holidays elsewhere. You may also have short-term opportunities, such as stewarding for an open day or fundraising event, that are perfect for those unable to commit to something long-term.
Remember, students can also be a group to consult about plans, in an informal setting or as part of a focus group. Think about the opportunities you offer and the way you recruit them.
Some top tips for planning to involve students:
- Always test potential ideas against how they can support you to deliver your mission. In research and development for projects, are you: reaching a target audience or a new demographic; providing different experiences for visitors; supporting early career development; helping wellbeing; supporting staff to develop project management and supervision skills?
- Invite specific course leaders to find out about the museum. This can start a relationship with students in particular areas. Don’t just think about history and heritage – design, architecture, tourism, hospitality, IT, marketing, business and management students may be interested, too.
- Think about student involvement from the perspective of prospective student applicants – how might your museum meet their needs, motivations and available time? Our Digital Engagement Officer recommends that you are use approachable language and interesting graphics or images, featuring a diverse range of people, to appeal to them. Find copyright-free stock images from sites like Pexels or Unsplash if you don’t have many of your own.
- As we know, supporting the involvement of students takes time, so think about how you can resource it. You could create a volunteer role that might suit retired teachers or further or higher education professionals, training them to help you with some of the practicalities of bringing students on board.
Take the time to think through your student volunteering approach. This will make the process more effective than just reacting to incoming requests, and it could bring great results.
Please see our volunteering resources for more advice.