Diversifying heritage audiences & volunteers

Jen Novotny, Scottish Civic Trust’s Diverse Heritage Officer, talked with our Volunteer Organisers Network about her experience of involving LGBTQ+, BAME and refugee volunteers with heritage projects.
Jen gave the following tips for diversifying volunteer programmes:
Partner with organisations who reach your target audiences

The most effective way to recruit a more diverse range of volunteers is by partnering with organisations who already reach your target audiences. These organisations can promote your opportunities to their audiences, or may offer to advise you on how to make your volunteer programme more inclusive.

To identify potential partners, begin by googling nearby groups that support and represent your target audiences. You can also ask colleagues from your organisation or other organisations for suggestions. Some great groups that Jen has partnered with in the past are Scottish Refugee Council, OurStory Scotland, Glasgow Disability Alliance, LGBT Health and Wellbeing and West of Scotland Regional Equality Council. And here’s a list of 100+ other potential partner organisations across Scotland.

Establish a mutually beneficial partnership

After identifying potential partners, reach out to them through their preferred contact method. Share information about your organisation and volunteer programme, and be sure to ask: how can you support each other?

It’s important to work together to establish a mutually beneficial partnership. For example, volunteers can help you undertake tasks, and in turn volunteers can learn new skills, meet new people, become part of a community, build their CV, have new experiences and more! People can have a range of different motivations for volunteering, so it’s important to ask people why they want to volunteer. This will help ensure that everyone will get the most out of their volunteering experience.

Discuss together how you can remove barriers to volunteering

Also when reaching out to new groups and volunteers, ask: what can you do to remove barriers & encourage them to volunteer? Some adjustments could be:

  • Doing away with long application forms
  • Encouraging people to volunteer with friends, families and companions
  • Offering remote opportunities
  • Paying or pre-paying travel expenses
  • Contacting volunteers via their preferred method
  • Offering training and meetings both during and outwith 9am-5pm

To learn more about adjustments that you can offer to make your volunteer programme more inclusive, check out Volunteer Scotland’s best practice guidance for engaging volunteers from different groups.

Take time to build relationships

The heritage sector has excluded many groups and people, both in its historical interpretation and its volunteer programmes and workforce. When engaging with groups or people who are new to the heritage sector, they may rightly express that the sector has not been welcoming or representative of their identities. Take time to build relationships with new audiences and volunteers, and to show them that you are committed to including them in your heritage volunteer programme.

Help people see themselves in heritage

You can also build and deepen relationships with new audiences by showing them that you value their heritage. For example, it can be helpful to:

  • Ask them about places and spaces in their life
  • Invite them to share their stories and memories
  • Use a map to get people thinking about how they interact with their local area
Access additional resources

To help you get started with diversifying your audiences and volunteers, Scottish Civic Trust has created an inclusive events toolkit with info on:

  • Identifying partners to work with
  • Working with groups and volunteers
  • Choosing a venue
  • Addressing barriers to inclusion
  • Evaluation
  • And more!
Learn from other heritage volunteer organisers

We’re all in this together! If you liked this blog and watched the event recording and are keen for more information, you can sign up to Make Your Mark to access a Scotland-wide heritage volunteer organisers network. Joining Make Your Mark will also subscribe you to a monthly e-newsletter with top tips for heritage volunteer organisers. Signing up is free and easy – just fill out this short form.

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