The Jump from Sport into Managing Volunteers

By Sarah Simmons, Workforce Development Officer, Bucks County Museum

An average day…

My role is a dual role which includes volunteer coordination as well as development of paid staff. It is part time and as with all roles it is a balancing act to get things done! I started just 5 months ago having transitioned from a decade of working in sports development. I have a passion for learning and development and thrive on supporting others to achieve their aims.

My primary tasks since starting have been to recruit volunteers to support activities across the summer holidays, deploy volunteers to support events hosted at the museum and reviewing our extensive database to check who is active and not! We have volunteers who have been with us over 20 years, it is incredible to think of the hours given over this time.

Day to day I deal with volunteering requests. This ranges from people completing the application form to a CV with no note! The museum is fairly unique in that we receive a steady flow of volunteering requests. They range from young people looking for placements and work experience, through to job seekers wanting to keep up their skills to those who feel they have the time to support the museum. Many people want to work with the collections and handle objects but those roles are limited so it’s discussing their motivation and where we are able to match roles, there are also times where the fit isn’t right. It is hard to turn people away but from experience it takes more management trying to make it work, than be honest up front.

The overall vision for our volunteer programme is to make it just that; a programme. More opportunity for development and to move into different areas of museum work. Currently, we slant towards gap filling when the need arises, I would like to see a stronger training offer so volunteers are engaged and ready for the next opportunity. Critically, we need to meet people’s motivations.

I have discovered the move from sports development and working with volunteers isn’t too much different; people give up their time to support something which they are passionate about, wanting to give back, so whether this is a sports administrator tirelessly working behind the scenes to organise leagues, or a person who commits regular days to physically volunteer at a site every week to catalogue collections.

On International Volunteer Managers’ day, I want to take the chance to thank each and every one of our museum volunteers. Without you the museum simply wouldn’t achieve what it does. The theme of time to change resonates with me as there is plenty more to do to improve volunteer experience at the museum, which the museum is committed to.

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