23 Sep 2015

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

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 defined timescale.

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 things.

Waddesdon Manor National Trust

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.