Working with volunteers

Many archives rely on volunteers to provide the best possible service to their communities. It is vital we ensure volunteers feel valued, can develop and use their skills and continue to give their time, energy and expertise to enable them to continue providing services in the future.

Why are volunteers so important?

Volunteers are vital to archives because they:

  • enable services to be delivered which might not otherwise be possible
  • act as a link between the community and the service
  • bring in new skills and a different perspective
  • have an interest in the service and are great advocates within the community

What is important in a volunteering scheme?

In planning and delivering a volunteering scheme, it is important that:

  • volunteers are recruited from diverse backgrounds to represent the community as much as possible, and so that everyone feels that these opportunities are open to them
  • volunteers feel appreciated and valued and that they are given local recognition for their hard work
  • opportunities for volunteering are made as flexible as possible so that it is possible for a wide range of people to get involved
  • a skills audit is done to find out what skills your volunteers can offer, need to be develop and are missing, which could be provided by new volunteers
  • work given to volunteers is varied and interesting, so that they will feel inspired to carry on and see that they are making a valuable contribution
  • development opportunities are provided so that volunteers can progress and take on new and different responsibilities, such as helping to recruit and train newly engaged community members

Resources to support archives working with volunteers

More information and practical advice is available in our case studies section on developing your audience, and in our research reports on workforce and volunteering.