Volunteer Management Trainee, Anglesey Abbey
Richard Bunn completed a 18-month Volunteer Management Trainee scheme at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridge. By providing opportunities that help young people work towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award, Richard has engaged a younger audience, and empowered the team at Anglesey Abbey to be supportive of new volunteer roles.
What was your ambition for youth volunteering in Anglesey Abbey?
I noticed that the team at Anglesey Abbey received a lot of interest from young people, looking to complete their Duke of Edinburgh Award. What we had offered in the past was a bit inconsistent, so to ensure volunteers had the best possible experience, I developed a clear range of taster roles for young people, along with development tools.
How did you recruit young volunteers and decide on the opportunities available?
I started the process by having an informal chat with the young person, and their parent or guardian, to see what they would be interested in. I also worked with volunteer managers in each department at the property to identify a key contact in their team for the volunteers, and to agree the role and tasks for the volunteers.
I then took on eight young volunteers at the same time, and outlined a plan that would see them spend time across a number of different departments in these taster roles.
To add more structure to the experience, I developed a booklet that the young volunteers could work through during their time with us. I asked volunteer managers to create their chapter of the booklet, to include things such as an induction quiz, a skills checklist and tasks to try. I encouraged volunteer managers to get current volunteers involved in the creation of the booklet as well.
What were the main challenges you faced?
Sometimes it was difficult to have enough jobs for the young volunteers to work on, as we were still figuring out what worked and how long tasks took to complete. Another challenge was that sometimes volunteers ended up stuck with one team for too long. I improved this by asking volunteer managers to identify at the beginning, how many weeks and what time of year would suit them best to ensure the volunteers had a varied and interesting experience.
The team also noticed that some volunteers were not suited to all environments and tasks, so a balance needed to be struck between offering variety, and tailoring the experience to the individual. And most of all, ensuring both the volunteer and the property benefitted from the experience.
What advice would you give to other organisations in the heritage sector, looking to run a similar scheme?
Start by gaining the support of your current volunteers and volunteer managers, as you need to get their expertise to develop an exciting programme. You need to ensure you get the basic (but essential) details right – from parent or guardian consent to risk assessments and DBS checks.
Once your scheme is up and running, it’s best for volunteer managers and volunteers, if you agree set days that work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible. Ensuring you have good communication with your volunteers means that you offer extra opportunities if they arise.
What has been the lasting impact of the project?
Working on this volunteer programme has brought the team together – we’re now all thinking about how to improve our offer to younger volunteers, so hopefully this is something that can keep on growing.