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Connecting with Volunteers

Introduction

With museums and cultural organisations currently closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, large numbers of staff and volunteers have begun to work remotely. Keeping your volunteers informed about current and future plans for the museum is especially important while they may be socially isolating at home. Taking time to engage with your volunteers will keep them updated about activities and help them remain connected to the museum at a time when they may feel very isolated.

 

Keeping in touch with your volunteers

You can keep volunteers connected in various different formats such as email, newsletter, phone calls, or social media. 

  • By phone - Talking to volunteers by phone regularly can help people to feel valued and shows that you care. It can also help with retention as they are more likely to return after the lockdown. The Royal Voluntary Service run a version of this activity: Check in and Chat.
  • Using digital and/or online platforms – Technology can help to keep volunteers and communities engaged and connected. Examples of some easily accessible social media platforms or online tools include Facebook, Skype or FaceTime.

Offline engagement activities

Some people may not have the necessary digital technology or be confident enough to manage some social media tools. But many have mobile phones and are familiar with the use of Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime.

Curated Online Exhibition

Volunteers could be encouraged to take pictures of birds, plants or flowers while outdoors for their one exercise a-day using their mobile, and to send the picture back to your museum.  These could be collected to form a story or online exhibition which can be posted on the museum’s Facebook page.

Museum Garden

If you have a garden in your museum, you may suggest that your local volunteers help to water or tend the plants as part of their one exercise a day. Volunteers at Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum are taking it in turns to water the plants and while doing that they help feed the birds and wildlife. It may also be a good way to start bird watching, perhaps integrating into your learning programme later, noting the variety of birds that visit the garden, collating these and showing them through Facebook or workshop events after the Coronavirus pandemic.

Learn a new skill

It is a time to try out something new and learn in a fun and enjoyable way, how about knitting, painting or writing that poem or short story – everyone has one book in them! Knitting/crocheting can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity for volunteers that enjoy knitting and crocheting. There are various opportunities to get involved in knitting and crocheting for people who would like to support a good cause.  The UK Hand Knitting Association has a number of free knitting patterns on its website from charities that need your help.

Online engagement activities

Business as Usual but online

Having meetings with your volunteers and Trustees can help to keep relationships, membership and donors support going. Online apps such as Zoom or Google Hangouts to video chats can be helpful for organising meetings remotely with volunteers and your Trustees.

​Book Clubs

Reading is a great way to pass time during the social-isolation period. Encourage volunteers to read or revisit their favourite books or genre fiction. They might even want to start a book club.

The Penguin Random House has published five steps for starting a book club online. This can be found here

Knit and Natter or what you will!

The Stirling knit ‘n’natter is an online group for people around Stirling interested in joining up to do some knitting and crocheting while chatting while chatting over a coffee. The group regularly meet in Stirling but have now gone virtual for next few weeks. They are on Facebook if you look for them.  If you can’t knit, this is still a great way of keeping in touch while sharing a hobby.

Other resources

Voluntary Arts

Voluntary Arts has launched #CreativeNetwork online a daily online get-together open to anyone involved in arts, culture and creativity who would welcome the opportunity to talk to others about dealing with the current situation, the challenges of working from home and what we can do together to make the most of difficult circumstances.

Artslink 

The Artslink Connect and Create project also provides some great arts & culture activities and experiences to do at home - art, music, dance, drama, creative literacy, digital arts and more. Although specially commissioned and created by care experienced children & young people and the people they live with, the resource is useful for adults and free of charge.

Online Quiz

A virtual Pub Quiz is a great for a bit of mental challenge and light entertainment. Volunteers could get together, either through Microsoft Teams, Zoom (zoom.us) or the Houseparty (houseparty.com) app. If you need some help to get started there is a great guide here

BBC Culture in Quarantine

The BBC has announced that it will hold a virtual arts festival, Culture in Quarantine, working in collaboration across the cultural sector. It will take ‘voluntary and involuntary isolation’ as a broad theme and look at the ways that culture can be helpful to mental health and combat isolation.

Third Force News FAQ 

The Third Force News website also has more helpful Coronavirus advice and guidance for volunteer which you can find here.

Further information

We're gathering details on the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s museums & galleries to share with the Scottish Government.

Please email inform@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk or call 0131 550 4100 with details of issues you're currently or anticipate facing. Thank you to all who have been in touch already and do keep us updated on your circumstances.

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Related guide

Introduction to museum volunteers

An introductory guide to planning for, recruiting and training volunteers in your museum.

Find out more