South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Case Study 3 - Investing in Volunteers

cs3-introThe challenge

A few years ago we felt we wanted to diversify the ethnic, socio-economic and educational backgrounds of our volunteers.  Following our success in this area we gained Investing in Volunteers accreditation.  This is only valid for 3 years, so last year we needed to renew it.

What we did


We all tried to find roles or activities which people with little or no experience could do, and that might attract non-traditional volunteers.  We had to think in a different way but we identified several new volunteer roles.  Tasks such as data entry, basic research and visitor surveys, could all be done by volunteers with the minimum of training.  Role descriptions were drawn up where necessary and, in response to suggestions from current volunteers, we clarified some elements such as our approach to training and expenses. 

We told the volunteer bureau in Exeter about the roles on offer and the support volunteers could expect.  We told the Guild of Students at Exeter University, with whom we had strong links already, of opportunities open to all students (not just those studying Archaeology), including their many international students.  Staff generally networked as widely and creatively as possible; as one person put it, ‘a great deal of chatting went on!’

The accreditation scheme uses nine standards to assess an organisation’s investment in volunteers, so we had to ensure we had evidence to support each of these.  We have just heard that we have been accredited for another three years and are delighted.

Resourcing and management

No additional or special resourcing was required for this work although it did take up time.  However, we do invest quite heavily in training our volunteers, giving them induction, in-house training, generic training through the Council and specialist skills if required for their role.  We also train our staff in working with non-traditional volunteers.

High points/ successes

We believe accreditation shows we are following best practice and we publicise this widely, encouraging existing volunteers as well as attracting new ones.  Students specifically found their roles helpful for CVs and work preparation and we found their skills and fresh approach to problem-solving very useful.  The whole accreditation process helped us to think more deeply about our policies and procedures and how well we apply them.

Low points/ concerns

Although we felt we were already aware of the importance of volunteers, the process of accreditation brought this back into the limelight which was helpful.

How can I find out more

Contact Rachel Ackerman, email: Telephone: 01392 665858.

Date of activity described in case study: Re-accreditation awarded Feb 2011
Case study review date: Q4 2013