These ‘top tips’ were compiled by Jo Finn, a specialist consultant working with us on our ‘Growing Volunteering’ Project during 2020-2021.
HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES: TOP TIPS FOR MUSEUMS
1. What are your objectives?
Before embarking on a volunteer recruitment drive define your aims and objectives. Try answering these questions:
• Are you looking to fill specific roles?
• Are you trying to build a bank of potential volunteers?
• Do you want to reach new audiences or diversify your volunteer pool?
• Do you need volunteers with a particular skillset?
• Do you need volunteers that are available at specific times of day or days of the week?
• Do your volunteers need to commit for a certain timeframe?
• Or do you need people to work on a specific project?
2. Who are you trying to attract?
Defining your objectives will help to determine your target audience. In other words, what types of volunteers do you need to attract in order to achieve your stated goals?
Looking at the skills you need, where will you find the right people to fulfil your volunteer roles?
As a result of Covid-19, many museums are looking to reach younger volunteers while more vulnerable people continue to self-isolate.
Museums are working to diversify their audiences, and this extends to or perhaps even starts with their staff and volunteers. Think about the imagery you use to reflect this. Make sure any people photography reflects diversity (in terms of ethnicity, gender, age etc.).
EXAMPLE: This film from the Museum of London allows prospective applicants to see and hear from a range of different volunteers: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/support-us/volunteer
EXAMPLE: This image on the volunteering page of The Whitworth in Manchester clearly shows that they are looking for younger volunteers https://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/about/joinus/volunteer/
3. What are your key messages?
As well as clarity about the roles available, your messaging should answer the prospective volunteer’s question: ‘what’s in it for me?’
How will your volunteers benefit from working with you? From tangible perks such as free entry, discounts in your café and shop and volunteer events, to more subtle benefits such as gaining work experience, being part of a community, meeting new people, adding value to society.
EXAMPLE: Towner Gallery in Eastbourne clearly articulates the benefits of volunteering and expectations around the commitment required from their volunteers: https://www.townereastbourne.org.uk/support/volunteer/
EXAMPLE: Pallant House in Chichester also lists benefits and gives a brief indication of the kinds of people that would be suited to specific roles. https://pallant.org.uk/who-we-are/our-people/volunteer/
It is important to consider that different benefits will appeal to your different audience groups. For example: younger people may be more interested in adding to their CVs, whereas older people may consider the opportunity to contribute to the community a bigger draw. Include the voices of your volunteers who will be able to articulate a range of responses to the ‘why I volunteer’ question.
EXAMPLE: The National Trust profiles a variety of volunteer stories: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/meet-our-volunteers.
As part of your work on messaging, think about your museum’s unique selling point (USP). What makes your museum special? What are your ‘crown jewels’? Why would someone be excited to volunteer with you rather another organisation?
EXAMPLE: Kew Gardens uses an inspiring film on their jobs and volunteering page that helps prospective volunteers aspire to be part of their mission: https://www.kew.org/about-us/jobs-and-volunteering
The way you say it is just as important as what you say. Do you have an organisational tone of voice or brand guidelines that can help with the way you frame your volunteer recruitment messaging?
Make your advert enticing, rather than a plea for help. Aim to describe the opportunity in positive terms; ‘Help us welcome visitors to the museum’, ‘Get involved with our friendly garden team’ or ‘Support us in bringing history to life‘.
EXAMPLE: The National Trust’s strapline sums up the reasons why people should volunteer in one sentence.
Making new friends, working in amazing places and knowing that you’re helping a great cause – three fabulous reasons to get volunteering.
Make sure the call to action (CTA) is clear. Once you have piqued someone’s interest, how do you want them to respond (by filling in an online form, calling the office, emailing you with a CV)?
EXAMPLE: The Lightbox in Surrey has a clear CTA on their Front of House vacancy: https://www.thelightbox.org.uk/volunteering
4. Maximising your own channels
Before embarking on any external advertising or promotion make sure you are maximising your own communications channels.
As well as a clear ‘Volunteering’ web page, use your home page to showcase current opportunities. Include the benefits for volunteers and manage expectations around what the roles entail. Show a diverse range of volunteers through photography. Give prospective volunteers the opportunity to hear from current and previous volunteers with testimonials and film. Include a simple CTA.
• Social media
Your social media and email subscribers are your low-hanging fruit. Be sure to tell these engaged audiences about any volunteering opportunities. Try out your messaging with a range of social posts to see what converts into volunteer enquiries. Experiment with different images, testimonials, benefits.
• Email marketing
Use e-newsletters to promote opportunities and profile the work of your volunteers. Link to case studies and thank your volunteers for their invaluable contributions and achievements.
• Posters and signage
Use onsite spaces to remind visitors that you welcome volunteers. Posters on the back of toilet doors, table-talkers in the café, posters in the windows. Think about messaging and the CTA.
Live and virtual events present another opportunity to remind engaged audiences that you welcome new volunteers. Brief your event hosts to thank volunteers and encourage people to sign up. Include slides in PowerPoint presentations about your volunteering opportunities. In addition, look at running specific volunteer events such as open days or staff and volunteer mixers.
• Word of mouth
Never underestimate the power of this channel! Your current and former staff, volunteers, members, visitors, friends and family can all help you to spread the word. Don’t be afraid to ask them to do just that.
5. Tapping into third party networks
Use national and regional websites to list your opportunities.
Tap into local and thematic third party groups such as your town’s community Facebook group, WI, U3A, university volunteering initiatives, groups linked to the interests of your museum. Email them to introduce your museum and ask them to share any opportunities. Develop partnerships.
6. Advertising on a shoestring
For small advertising budgets, paid social activity probably offers the best bang for your buck. It allows you to target by location, interests and age groups and gives you the flexibility to test different images and messaging and pause your campaign at any time. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn all have advertising options.
If your museum is a charity you should be eligible for a Google grant which entitles you to $10,000 per month in Google AdWords. This is well worth pursuing if you have the right resource on hand to help set up your campaign. More info on Google grants: https://www.google.co.uk/grants/