Sandy Clubb, Volunteering and Community Involvement Consultant with the National Trust in Wales, writes about how the National Trust is responding to the changing face of volunteering.
Sandy Clubb, Volunteering and Community Involvement Consultant
with the National Trust in Wales, writes about how the National
Trust is responding to the changing face of volunteering.
The National Trust was built on volunteering, and to this day has
volunteers at its core, with over 60,000 people gifting their time
to us in 2014. In Wales, volunteers contributed over 255,000
hours last year in an almost bewildering range of ways from
hands-on conservation work, one-off muck-in days, bio-blitzes and
other outdoor opportunities, to helping keep our built properties
open by engaging with visitors and a range of crucial behind-the
scenes roles. Our current roles include a volunteer saxophonist and
a badger-watch volunteer.
The National Trust's 2020 Vision for volunteering is for all
staff to be capable and confident working with volunteers, and for
volunteers to be involved in all aspects of our work. These
are ambitious aims, and ones that we have invested in over the last
three years, including rolling out a new online system for
organising and managing volunteering. We know that we need to
make sure our offer for volunteers keeps up with a changing
volunteer market - our traditional audience is changing and we need
to stay on our toes to make sure that volunteering for the National
Trust is genuinely mutually beneficial.
We have identified several new audiences for volunteering,
defined by a number of trends. One is the 'experience seeker'
audience, often young volunteers, or increasingly those looking for
a career change. Volunteering is a recognised route to
employment for many, providing valuable experience. We have
developed a number of offers to cater for this audience, including
our voluntary internship programme offering accessible placements
(a maximum of 3 days per week, expenses paid and accommodation
provided where possible) which take on a discrete project over a
Another important trend we know we must respond to is an
increasing demand for more flexible ways to volunteer.
Amongst the retired audience for example, those newly retiring are
faced with an increasing number of demands on their time, including
in many cases juggling care for grandchildren with a range of other
volunteering interests. We cannot expect today's volunteer to
sign-up on the dotted line, every Tuesday for the next twenty years
- we need to offer a range of flexible opportunities that fit
realistically around people's busy lives.
One of our responses to this has been to pilot a project called
'Changing Rooms' at a number of our Mansion Properties. This
has involved current volunteers in re-designing the visitor
experience and the way that our people (both staff and volunteers)
are involved in delivering it. Moving away from our
traditional 'Room Guiding' model, this is allowing some properties
to experiment with new ways of doing things - developing roles that
are more exciting for the volunteer and more engaging for the
visitor. This is evolution not revolution - working together
to define what comes next, but in the process our places are making
themselves more accessible to a new breed of volunteer, including
those that want to get much more involved in shaping how we do
We know that the future may look quite different - we need to
offer opportunities for people to volunteer with their families,
for instance our Junior Rangers project. What might a more
seasonal or event-based model of volunteering look like? A
number of places are starting to explore this with the way they
approach volunteering this Christmas.
Whatever the future holds, we will need to be well equipped -
hence investing in a system that allows us to move all of our
volunteer expenses, recruitment and rotas online. Managing
volunteers in the future will require a different set of tools and
skills, so investing time and resources in those who work with
volunteers is also essential.
Last but not least, at the National Trust in Wales we are
looking at how we can improve the way we deliver our 'volunteer
journey' through the medium of Welsh for instance our capacity to
deliver welsh language induction sessions and training. We
are also starting to offer more opportunities for people to use
Welsh through their volunteering (for example our volunteer Welsh
Language Correspondent who writes stories for our volunteering
website, and visitor-facing roles at our built properties).
For more information about opportunities to volunteer with the
National Trust please visit our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/
You may be interested to see:
The Welsh Language and Volunteering - report
from the Welsh Language Commissioner February 2014
The New Alchemy - Summary of the report
by Nfp Synergy: The New Alchemy - How volunteering turns donations
of time and talent into human gold. following its latest 5
yearly review into the state of volunteering , 2015.