The Heritage Volunteering Group (HVG) is encouraging nominations for the Volunteer Leader of the Year Award, which is open to volunteer coordinators, part-time supervisors (paid or unpaid) or someone who has made a real difference to their organisations or their volunteers.
Nominees should have demonstrated innovation by creating new approaches to volunteering, transformative collaborations, and have a passion that stands out.
"Volunteers are an essential part of the museum workforce fulfilling a range of purposes from sharing experiences to learning new skills,” said Tamsin Russell, Museums Association professional development officer and HVG board member.
“They need to be managed and supported professionally and so roles associated with volunteer management and leadership are critical. The Volunteer Leader of the Year award recognises good practice and identifies role models to improve and realise the benefits our volunteers and communities.”
Matt Hick, chair of the HVG and head of volunteering at the Science Museum Group, said volunteers will play a crucial role in the post-pandemic recovery. He said: “At times when so much is changing around us, being able to connect with culture and heritage is really important. Perhaps it gives us an understanding of the past and a light at the end of the tunnel - a way forward.”
The nature of volunteering has changed significantly over the past year and Hick questioned if the sector would really like to go back to “normal” after Covid-19. “In 2019, we did a survey and only one per cent of our volunteers were involved in digital activities,” he said; there have been a lot of changes since then, including volunteer managers being able to support digital engagement and provided support for volunteers in new forms.
“I don’t want us to lose that,” said Hick. “Digital volunteering offers a huge opportunity not only for organisations to increase operational activity but provides access to a far broader range of people and supports diversity and inclusion. But of course, it needs to be taken within context.
“Those who live in digital poverty or those who don’t have the necessary skills can’t get involved. So it’s not about doing it traditionally or digitally - it’s about offering a broader range of roles.”
The HVG is finalising a research report, to be published in May, about creating capacity and what that looks like for the future of the sector. Hick said: “It’s very much around addressing some of the structural issues that exist within the sector - like the lack of long term planning, lack of volunteering strategies, lack of senior management engagement and the lack of senior volunteer management positions. All of which is needed to drive change.”
He believes this is an important topic to discuss and reflect on in the current moment, so that when Covid draws to an end there will already be a long-term plan that includes creating more volunteering opportunities which deliver social and strategic benefits.
Keynote speeches, professional development workshops and panel discussions on similar topics will be continued at the Heritage Volunteering conference 2021: Recognise, Reconnect, Reimagine, which will be online this year. The winner will be announced at the event.
Applications are welcome from all areas of the heritage sector. The nomination form can be downloaded from the HVG website and should be returned by midday, 14 May 2021.