Webinar: Training Volunteers

How can we train our volunteers for projects that will help them make a difference in our organizations? And how do we make it fun and empowering while avoiding conflicts? Learn about training tips and tactics that can stimulate the long-term sustainability of a volunteer program. This session will be presented by staff from two Field Services offices and will be jam-packed with ideas for how to train volunteers and make their service a rewarding experience.

Details:

Date: April 26, 2017

Time: 3pm EST/2pm Central/1pm Mountain/12pm Pacific/10am Hawaii

Cost: $40 members/$65 nonmembers

Register

About the Faculty:

 

Tamara

Tamara Hemmerlein is Director of Local History Services at the Indiana Historical Society. As the director of a field services office, Tamara has experience working in and with local history organizations, libraries, museums and historic sites. She works with her team to design workshops, facilitate community and organizational meetings, help with board development and training and coach organizations through the challenges they face. Prior to coming to IHS, Tamara worked as the Executive Director of the Montgomery County Historical Society and of the Montgomery County Cultural Foundation in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

 

 

jrooney

 

Jeannette Rooney is Assistant Director of Local History Services at the Indiana Historical Society and Chair of the Field Services Alliance, and is a 2012 graduate of Developing History Leaders @SHA. As a part of the field services team in Indiana, she serves as a Grant Coach for the Indiana Historical Society's new Heritage Support Grants Program, develops and presents interactive workshops and manages the program for the state's 92 volunteer county historians. Jeannette holds an M.A. in Art History from Indiana University.

 

 

 

laura

 

Laura Hortz Stanton is the Executive Director of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA). Ms. Hortz Stanton previously served as CCAHA’s Director of Preservation Services and as Curator of Collections at the Siouxland Heritage Museums in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she managed a significant collection of historic artifacts. She received her BA in Anthropology and Archaeology from Temple University and her MA from the Museum Studies Program at the Cooperstown Graduate Program.

Register

Want to learn more about Volunteer Management?


Webinar: Are You Ready for Volunteers?

Many volunteer programs have existed with little or no formal processes and assessments in place. Often, there is no paid staff member who manages the volunteer program. The result is that the programs are often not well run, translating into high volunteer turnover, anemic buy-in from the organization’s management and staff, and ultimately, low program success. This webinar will address how to plan for a volunteer program at your history organization or how to improve the program that you currently have.

Details:

Date: April 4, 2017

Time: 3pm EST/2pm Central/1pm Mountain/12pm Pacific

Cost: $40 members/$65 nonmembers

When you register for this webinar, you'll get a promo code for 25% off the other two webinars in this Volunteer Management Series: Developing a Successful Volunteer Recruitment Program (Aprill 11) and  Training Volunteers (April 26).

Register

What Participants Said:

"[I liked] the idea that volunteers should be treated more like employees-- that is, given structure and responsibility."

"All the different pieces that need to come together for a successful volunteer program & why things are needed. It supported my thought that my Society is too scattered & disorganized to recruit and retain volunteers."

"Being able to take away clear points and bring them into discussion with my immediate supervisor for validation of my existing instincts and practices."

"Format of slides was easy to read, connect to talk. was really helpful to have names and websites of resources spelled out on slides. I liked the inclusion of actual cases as examples - i.e. the digitization project where the youngest volunteer was 72 yrs old. I also really appreciated being able to see the results of the surveys"

Register

About the Faculty:

bethany-hawkins-chief-of-operations

 

 

Bethany L. Hawkins is the Chief of Operations for the American Association for State and Local History.

Register

Want to learn more about Volunteer Management?


Managing Volunteers: Lessons Learned Through Experience

A volunteer talking to visitors at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

We all know most non-profits run on volunteers.  Working at a small historical society, this is especially true. When I first started my job in Spring of 2015, I was faced with a rather small volunteer force. I wasn’t sure how to go about initiating change and growing the volunteer base, so I made it up as I went along.  This is what I’ve learned.

  1. Feed your volunteers. Every appreciation event involves food. We provide food at every living history event. One of our fall/winter events includes making cookies for visitors. I make extra for the volunteers. When the season is approaching its end and everyone is worn out, I carry around chocolate.
  2. Get to know them. My volunteers are some of the most interesting and inspirational people I’ve met. None of them see age as a limitation. They ski and paint and lead such busy lives I get tired just listening to what all they do. Also, get to know their preferred method of communication. It seems like a small thing, but makes a huge difference.
  3. Notice them. Volunteer appreciation and recognition events are a must. We do 3 or 4 get- togethers a year. Keep track of important events in their lives and pay attention when someone is sick or has a death in the family.
  4. Provide support. Some volunteers want to help, but are nervous about stepping outside their comfort zone. Pair them up with an experienced volunteer and give plenty of pep talks. Adequate training is a must.
  5. Keep them in the loop. This is probably one of the hardest to accomplish, especially as your volunteer pool grows. They need to know what their job is, but also should be aware of events and achievements of the organization itself. They can’t be proud of what they do and the organization they volunteer for if they don’t know what is going on.
  6. Embrace the quirks. Volunteers are people. People have quirks. Don’t judge and enjoy them for who they are.
  7. Be patient. Remember you are dealing with people with concerns and questions. Yes, you will be asked the same thing 3136 times.  It’s OK. Be patient with change.  It takes a long time, especially when things have been done a certain way for the past 20 years.
  8. Learn how to talk people into things. I say this partly in jest, because you never want to manipulate someone into doing something they don’t want to do. That’s how you lose people. But in all seriousness, you do need to convince people that they are needed and will have fun. It’s a skill I didn’t know I had.
  9. You will never have enough volunteers. I started with about 8 volunteers.  It was not anywhere near enough. Scheduling was a nightmare.  Now I have close 40 volunteers.  There are still events that I can’t fully staff and I’m running around doing 25 different things.

In the end, I’ve learned a lot and working with the volunteers is probably one my favorite parts of my job.

Editor's Note: To learn more about volunteer management, register for one or all three of AASLH's upcoming spring webinar series on recruiting, training, and managing volunteers. 

Want to write for AASLH? Learn more and submit an article here


AASLH Spring Webinar Series on Volunteer Management

AASLH's popular volunteer webinar series is back, and this year, when you when you register for the first webinar, you'll get 25% off the next two. The webinars can be watched in order or individually. Each is a self-contained lesson on volunteer management. These live webinars will be recorded, and the recordings will be sent to all registrants within a few days of the event. Each webinar costs $40 for AASLH Members or $65 for nonmembers.

April 4: Developing a Successful Volunteer Recruitment Program

We know having volunteers in the wings who can give eight hours a day is no longer the case. Recruitment is a process that enables the selection of the right people for the right task. Recruitment is understanding the environment where people want to volunteer and the time they have to give. Learn more about recruitment and gain practical tools for running a successful volunteer recruitment program. Taught by Bethany Hawkins, Chief of Operations at AASLH.

 

Learn More & Register

April 11: Are Your Ready for Volunteers? 

Many volunteer programs have existed with little or no formal processes and assessments in place. Often, there is no paid staff member who manages the volunteer program. The result is that the programs are often not well run, translating into high volunteer turnover, anemic buy-in from the organization’s management and staff, and ultimately, low program success. This webinar will address how to plan for a volunteer program at your history organization or how to improve the program that you currently have. Taught by Bethany Hawkins, Chief of Operations at AASLH.

 

Learn More & Register

April 26: Training Volunteers

How can we train our volunteers for projects that will help them make a difference in our organizations? And how do we make it fun and empowering while avoiding conflicts? Learn about training tips and tactics that can stimulate the long-term sustainability of a volunteer program. This session will be presented by staff from two Field Services offices and will be jam-packed with ideas for how to train volunteers and make their service a rewarding experience. Taught by Tamara Hemmerlein, Director of Local History Services at the Indiana Historical Society; Jeannette Rooney, Assistant Director of Local History Services at the Indiana Historical Society; and Laura Hortz Stanton is the Executive Director of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

 

Learn More & Register

For a full list of all upcoming AASLH Continuing Education events (webinars, workshops, online courses), visit our event calendar.


Managing Interpreters-- Presentations as Road Maps

Managing Interpreters: Presentations as Road maps

Meandering. Wandering aimlessly. Lost. Confused. Does this describe your worst road trip? Maybe it describes the conversations between the public and your front-line interpreters?

As an undergrad, my freshman English professor told a classmate that reading his paper “was like trying to follow a drunk down the road… it could not be done.” The comment stuck with me (I daresay, it stuck with my classmate, too!). It told me that a paper must have direction, as must a road trip… as must the presentations our front-line interpreters give our guests.

Most of us working in Education and Interpretation will remember learning about thesis statements. Thesis statements provide structure—a roadmap for the reader. Frontline interpreters also need roadmaps. At The Henry Ford, we approach our Mission Statement like a thesis statement.

The Henry Ford provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America’s traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation. Our purpose is to inspire people with these traditions to help shape a better future.

Mission defines who we are as an institution, what we care about, and what we hope our guests care about after visiting us. All presentations our frontline interpreters provide must connect in some way to mission. How do we go about this? We teach new interpreters to climb the pyramid.

1. Content and Details:
Each historic site or exhibit has detailed content. Interpreters should start with details that interest specific guests. Content is tailored.

2. Presentation priority:
Content details should be connected to a presentation priority. These are the few main ideas for each site and exhibition at The Henry Ford.

3. Mission:
Each presentation priority ties easily to the mission. This is the thesis, or main idea, for each presentation. How does the content tie to America’s traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation?

4. Relevancy:
Lastly, interpreters should explain how content, presentation priorities, and mission relate to our guests— to life in 2015.

Using this presentation pyramid has helped create continuity in presentation across The Henry Ford’s many venues; regardless of the interpreter or site, guests are getting the same message: The Henry Ford is about ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation. It has been a useful road map for our interpreter staff.


AASLH Offering Two Webinars on Volunteer Management in March

Build the Best Volunteer Staff You Can With AASLH’s Online Training in Volunteer Management

Schools_museum2

Are You Ready For Volunteers?
Many volunteer programs have existed with little or no formal processes and assessments in place. Often, there is no paid staff member who manages the volunteer program. The result is that the programs are often not well run, translating into high volunteer turnover, anemic buy-in from the organization’s management and staff, and ultimately, low program success. This webinar will address how to plan for a volunteer program at your history organization or how to improve the program that you currently have.

  • March 17, 2015
  • 3-4:15 pm Eastern Time
  • $40 members/$115 nonmembers

Developing A Successful Volunteer Recruitment Program
We know having volunteers in the wings who can give eight hours a day is no longer the case. Recruitment is a process that enables the selection of the right people for the right task. Recruitment is understanding the environment where people want to volunteer and the time they have to give. That is what this webinar is about, so sign up now.

  • March 26, 2015
  • 3-4:15 pm Eastern Time
  • Cost: $40 members/$115 nonmembers

Recruiting and Retaining Great Volunteers

The historic site where I work, Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Virginia, has four full-time staff, three part-time staff, and about 50 active volunteers. Our board members and volunteers are indispensable, and we’re incredibly grateful to them.

Volunteers at Belle Grove pitch in to prepare the invitations for an annual fundraiser
Volunteers at Belle Grove pitch in to prepare the invitations for an annual fundraiser

While conversing with colleagues, I realize that we’re a bit unusual in that we have a high level of volunteer recruitment and retention. Belle Grove has been merely continuing time-honored practices that seem right and work well. So here are a few tips that have helped us recruit and retain great volunteers:

Make it fun - Our volunteers enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. Although they love history and our site, these personal connections keep them energized and engaged. We cultivate social connections by having several potlucks a year, throwing “white elephant”-style Christmas parties, and taking trips to other history sites. It’s worth some staff time to plan these activities because our volunteers look at this as “fun” rather than as “work.” We set the tone at our volunteer recruiting event, a Valentine’s-themed dessert party, held during our off-season and advertised extensively in local newspapers. Returning volunteers bring desserts for a decadent buffet, greeting prospective volunteers with a high degree of hospitality. Rather than a dry informational meeting, it becomes a time for everyone to share experiences. Volunteers who see their service as social are also more likely to recruit their friends and spouses as volunteers. Some of our most enthusiastic volunteers have come to us this way.

Make it meaningful - Volunteers, especially those willing to make a weekly commitment, want to know they have a meaningful role in your organization. At our site, we don’t have visitor services staff

Belle Grove volunteers participate in a training with a Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park ranger.
Belle Grove volunteers participate in a training with a Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park ranger.

or paid docents. When you visit, a volunteer will greet you and, most likely, give you a house tour. Some of our volunteers remark that these increased responsibilities make the job more meaningful. With job descriptions, training, a handbook, and a mentoring program, we’ve established a professional atmosphere that encourages our volunteers to contribute.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - One staff person serves as our Volunteer Coordinator, so our volunteers understand how much we value their involvement. Our staff also has to be open to new ideas and suggestions from our volunteers. While not all ideas are feasible, others are, and they’ve improved our organization. Many of our volunteers are retired and bring significant professional skills. We get to know them as individuals so we can benefit from their experience. Giving volunteers a voice builds loyalty throughout your organization. Three individuals who began as volunteers now serve on Belle Grove’s Board of Directors. When Belle Grove hired me as Executive Director, a volunteer not only served on the search committee, volunteers also participated in one of the group interviews (and that was a tough interview!).

Communication, communication, communication - No matter how busy the staff is, we make sure our volunteer newsletter gets out at the start of each month. We include great photos of the site, stories about what’s going on, information on upcoming events, in addition to pleas for filling shifts. If you keep the newsletter brief and newsy, more people will want to read it. New volunteers may be hesitant about making a commitment; regular communications can give them some direction. Of course, expressing gratitude is extremely important. Don’t underestimate the power of the handwritten note. Sure, it’s time-consuming (and I’m currently behind on mine), but it’s become rare in today’s world of texting and emails. People will appreciate your time and consideration and are more likely to go the extra mile for you.

Stay flexible - While a job description may help some volunteers understand how they can contribute to your organization, it may not appeal to everyone. Let people perform tasks they enjoy: gardening, administrative tasks, computer work, etc. Make sure your volunteers know what odd jobs or needs you have. Even if they don’t sew or do carpentry, they may know someone who does. What a great way to gain a new volunteer! Flexibility is also important with time commitment. We also limit our shifts to 3 or 4 hours. This makes it easier for volunteers to make a weekly or biweekly commitment. Some prefer just to be “special events volunteers” and help out several times a year, and that’s fine with us. While we’re fortunate to have a core of long-time volunteers, we also realize that we need to be sympathetic and responsive to their changing life circumstances.

Obviously, a volunteer program of Belle Grove’s size takes time to manage. But our volunteer program not only stretches our budget, it makes us more vibrant and community-centered.  And that makes it all worthwhile!

About the Blogger

Kristen Laise is the Executive Director of Belle Grove Plantation, a historic property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation located in Middletown, Virginia. Belle Grove is a non-profit partner in the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  Previously, Ms. Laise served as Executive Vice President of Heritage Preservation, a Washington, D.C.-based, national organization that advocates for the care of collections. There she directed several programs including the Heritage Health Index and the Conservation Assessment Program. She holds a BA in History from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and an MA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked with the History of Cartography Project.


AASLH Offering Two Programming Workshops in April

AASLH will offer two workshops in April, both on public programming.

Focusing On Visitors:
Public Programming & Exhibits At History Institutions

April 3-4, 2014
Governor John Langdon House, Historic New England,
Portsmouth, NH

This workshop provides a broad overview of public programming and exhibits focusing on active learning at different kinds of history organizations. Seasoned educators direct conversations about museum education and what it is museum educators do. Participants will leave the workshop with information and materials they can take back to their organizations to adapt and use!

  • Cost: $270 members/$345 nonmembers
  • $40 discount if fee is received by February 27
Register Now

Connecting Your Collections To Teachers And Students
April 10-11, 2014
Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH
Sponsored by: The Creative Learning Factory

Through a combination of presentations, discussions, hands-on activities, and take-home materials, this workshop addresses the various elements of museum education and program planning needed to create an engaging, educational, and successful program with a focus on collections-based programming. Topics include learning styles, presentation strategies, audience types, planning strategies and program assessment, using research, training staff, and crafting programming that is meaningful to the education community.

  • Cost: $270 members/$345 nonmembers
  • $40 discount if fee is received by March 6
 Register Now

 


What a Volunteer Needs

I never really thought about becoming a volunteer, it just did not seem like something that I would ever have time for. The few times I did volunteer in college or high school, I always ended up doing a job I didn't really like. I became a volunteer when I was out of college and unemployed, and now I don’t think I could give it up. The Dearborn Historical Museum has become my second home and the other volunteers and staff members have become my second family. The Dearborn Historical Museum is run by 4 part-time staff members and a small army of volunteers.

On any given day one to a dozen different volunteers could be coming and going from our museum. I would say that we are very successful with our volunteers. We all seem to be happy and are very consistent volunteers.

This caused me to sit down and think - what makes us successful? -  and more specifically what do volunteers need from their institutions that make volunteer programs successful.

I came up with a simple list that reflects what I, as a volunteer, need from any institution I want to work with:

1. Volunteers need to feel that their work is meaningful. Of course, what is meaningful to one person can be completely different to another.

Volunteers in Civil War dress spend time in the Dearborn Historical Museum's Commandant's Quarters.
Volunteers in Civil War dress spend time in the Dearborn Historical Museum's Commandant's Quarters.

Some people find a sense of purpose in working with the public in docent or school tour leader positions while others prefer jobs behind the scene like working in archives, data entry or event planning. It becomes part of the institution's responsibility to know and place their volunteers in positions that suit them.

Some volunteers have skill, physical, or time limitations; some people can’t use computers, some can only do jobs while sitting down, while other can only help out at yearly events. It’s important that the institution keeps tracks of these things. If you are fortunate enough to have a volunteer coordinator this task becomes easier. However if you do not have a volunteer coordinator, it’s important to have someone check in with volunteers and ask them about their projects. Typically a volunteer will tell you if it’s something out of their comfort zone or beyond their skill level.

If you feel like you are having a high volunteer turn over it could be as simple as your volunteers aren’t finding their work with you meaningful. While we aren’t paid in money, we want to be paid in a sense of accomplishment and usefulness.

As a volunteer, it is important for you to stay open-minded about new jobs or tasks being giving to you. Sometimes institutional personnel will ask you to do a job you have never done before and you should take that as a sign of being trusted and valued. It might be something you are uncomfortable with but, for one shift, give it your best, try and make a decision based on that. Don’t be afraid to respectfully tell someone that the job wasn’t for you.

2. Volunteers need and want to be trained.

A DHM volunteer explains to a group of second-graders how to make butter.
A DHM volunteer explains to a group of second-graders how to make butter.

After the first event that I planned for the museum, one of the main pieces of information I got back from my fellow volunteers was that next year there needs to be more training. One day of training wasn’t enough for some of my volunteers to be comfortable in their jobs. So that is something that institutions should ask themselves “How much training is enough training?”

Training is one of those iffy things. It is very important but it also takes up a fair amount of staff time. Some people will start training and decide they don’t want to volunteer after all. Not only did you lose a potential set of helping hands, that employee time and effort is lost. Not all volunteers need to be trained on specific computer software or on historical building facts. So it is important for an institution to determine who receives training and how they are going to train. I have found that a volunteer who is confident in their job will

produce more, feel more accomplished and is more likely to recommend volunteering to a friend.

3. Volunteers need to feel appreciated.

As obvious as that statement sounds after a day sorting through dusty boxes, or walking students around

Volunteer rewards can come in all shapes and sizes. From brunches, to awards, to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Volunteer rewards can come in all shapes and sizes. From brunches, to awards, to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

the museum, nothing feels quite as good as being sincerely thanked for the work I have done. I know that my work means something to the museum when I am told “Thanks so much, we couldn’t have done it without you.” Some institutions offer awards to their volunteers, others host meals and parties in their honor. Whatever your institution does, make sure you do it with sincerity. Volunteers love to feel like they are making a difference but often won’t know they are making a difference until someone at the institution tells them.

Volunteers are not coming to your museum to make money, they are coming to make a difference. Sometimes that difference is for the museum and sometimes its to make a difference in themselves. I truly believe that if you feel like your institution is having a hard time keeping volunteers interested, then you should try to address the items on this list.


Next Week: Two AASLH Webinars on Volunteer Management

Build the Best Volunteer Staff You Can With AASLH’s Online Training in Volunteer Management

Are You Ready for Volunteers?
Many volunteer programs have existed with little or no formal processes and assessments in place. Often, there is no paid staff member who manages the volunteer program. The result is that the programs are often not well run, translating into high volunteer turnover, anemic buy-in from the organization’s management and staff, and ultimately, low program success. This webinar will address how to plan for a volunteer program at your history organization or how to improve the program that you currently have.

• February 11, 2014
• $40 members / $115 nonmembers

Register Now

Developing a Successful Volunteer Recruitment Program
We know having volunteers in the wings who can give eight hours a day is no longer the case. Recruitment is a process that enables the selection of the right people for the right task. Recruitment is understanding the environment where people want to volunteer and the time they have to give. That is what this webinar is about, so sign up now.

• February 13, 2014
• $40 members / $115 nonmembers

Register Now