Volunteer Recognition

Most of North Carolina’s nearly 1,000 cultural heritage institutions rely on volunteers for daily operations. Volunteers are also crucial at larger museums such as the Museum of Natural Science, where they often lead public programs.

This week (April 15-21) is National Volunteer Week and a good time to take stock of your volunteer program. Is it robust, or has it atrophied in recent years? Are you actively recruiting and screening new members for your volunteer corps? And, perhaps most importantly, do you have incentives or recognition programs in place for participation?

In addition to important volunteer-recognition activities that volunteermatch.org recommends and references, your institution needs to offer specific incentives for cultural heritage lovers.

  • Organize social opportunities for volunteers to interact with each other and learn more about the topics to which they’ve devoted themselves. Some museums schedule annual (or more frequent) volunteer field trips to a cluster of other cultural heritage institutions. This can be a great way to build community within your volunteer corps and help the group share ideas about possibilities for your own organization.
  • Consider curation as a volunteer-recognition activity. Have a volunteer recognition case in your museum where you can display a photo and brief description of a particular volunteer, along with one or more artifacts that (s)he has selected. Print a label discussing the significance or appeal of the piece(s) for the volunteer. You can do this in a blog as well, but giving a volunteer the chance to work with you in the collection to make a selection for a quarterly case rotation, strengthens and celebrates the individual’s physical connection to your museum.

Opportunities to interact with collections are strong motivations for many to donate their time. Several train museums in North Carolina have especially strong volunteer groups. George Weber, a volunteer at the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, greets visitors from the some of the collection’s rolling stock. Unlimited train rides are among several perks NCTM volunteers receive.

What volunteer incentives have worked well at your institution? Do you have any volunteer program tips to share with others in our NC cultural heritage community?


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on April 17, 2012, in historic houses, historic sites, museums, public programs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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