Person washing their hands with antibacterial gelThis summer, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) launched the last of four focussed reports that complement their core ‘Time Well Spent’ survey.

Time Well Spent is NCVO’s regular survey of 10,000 adults about volunteering. Read NCVO’s blog post about their report here. The report’s insights are not museum sector specific, but nonetheless chime with the realities of volunteer involvement in many of the South West’s museums:

  • New online methods of volunteer communication adopted during COVID-19 were incredibly useful – but in person connections remain an important part of the volunteer experience. Taking all volunteer communication online, in a one size fits all approach, would bypass the enriching experience of face-to-face contact that is so important to many volunteers.
  • What are the implications for online recruitment in museums? It’s worth noting that the path from seeing an opportunity advertised online, to becoming a signed up, in person volunteer, is unlikely to be linear. Having opportunities for a ‘real life’ welcome – via open days and 1-1 welcomes – is still a vital part of the process.
  • Volunteers’ health worries around COVID-19 haven’t entirely gone away and are likely to be the reason why some museum volunteers have not returned. Museums need to continue to provide reassurance and ways for people to re-engage safely.
  • Coronavirus was a stressful time and people still feel ‘burn out’ – being sensitive to this is a priority, especially as we move into a cost-of-living crisis. Offer flexible shift options and shorter shifts so that people can still volunteer, but in less demanding ways (many museums are already adapting their opportunities in this way.)
  • We also need to recognize that volunteer co-ordination in these circumstances is emotionally demanding work and explore ways to ease the load and support colleagues in this vital role.
  • We know that Coronavirus led to many of us re-evaluating how we use our time, leading to a flow into museum volunteering as well as a flow out of it. How can you get ready to attract those people who are looking for a new volunteering experience, by providing clear and enticing ways to get involved? Volunteering in heritage has positive effects on individual wellbeing, as these projects have shown.
  • Some of those considering museum volunteering for the first time will be younger. Don’t assume what their motivation to volunteer is – take time to find out through introductory chats and regular catch ups. Ask them how it went when they move on – all useful information for future planning.
  • Lastly, when you adapt the range of volunteering opportunities on offer, it’s important to plan how you will update and consult your more longstanding volunteers – they will feel more involved and support you in welcoming new volunteers better as a result.


Thanks to fellow Thematic Officers Helena Jaeschke, Polly Allen and Marina Moore for their insights for this piece. Look for resources on our website to help you with volunteer involvement.