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  • Visiteering – a mix of visiting and volunteering

    Posted on October 3, 2019

    A volunteer cleaning windows at Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire ©National Trust Images/John Millar

    Building engagement at heritage sites through visiteering

    Our Innocastle partners identified two specific practices they wanted to share from their study visit to the UK in May.  These are now available on the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform.  And the second, on visiteering, is summarised below.  (The first, covering cultural programming, can be found here.)

    Readers directed here from the Policy Learning Platform – please scroll down for a selection of resources.

    What is visiteering?

    The National Trust has recognised that societal changes are affecting people’s ability and willingness to volunteer. It has therefore developed a more flexible volunteering offer, including one-day visiteering.

    Micro-volunteering makes it easier for people with limited availability to participate and make a difference.  It also allows the Trust to target the demographics missing from its volunteer base.  Like for example, parents of young children whose free time is often limited.  By giving these new audiences an insight into the work of the castle team, allowing them to see behind the scenes and participate in vital conservation work, the Trust is able to build vital public engagement.

    National Trust properties, like Croft Castle, identify bite-size, drop-in volunteering opportunities for visitors.  These are likely to be fairly informal, with no commitment to repeat.  Furthermore they often involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete.  Such as cleaning items from the collection, helping gardeners rake up autumn leaves or plant bulbs, or decorating a historic house for Christmas.  People will often sign-up and join in on the day of their visit.

    Benefits of visiteering

    Visiteering is less about the principle of ‘many hands make light work’ (i.e. the economic value of volunteering) and more about the relationship between the Trust and the volunteer. This social value is hard to measure.

    However, many National Trust sites now offer some kind of visiteering experience and a recently commissioned NT report into trends from now to 2030 found that micro-volunteering offers an opportunity for greater personal control over time commitment.

    Winter clean at Blickling Estate, Norfolk ©National Trust Images/Antonia Gray


    Trends 2030 – Preparing for the Future: A report commissioned by the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, from M&C Saatchi. It identifies six major themes that could impact the NT’s relationships with audiences.  Namely citizenship, nurture, control, connection, narrative & identity, automation (NTEWNI, 2018)

    The New Alchemy Report – How volunteering turns donations of time and talent into human gold : A major report into volunteering.   Everyone volunteers for different reasons but we can group them into three broad categories: altruistic motives, instrumental motives and obligatory motives.  Or more simply: to give something back; to improve your CV or ‘because you should’.  The report authors talk about volunteering transforming both the giver and receiver.  Volunteering brings out the best in people.  And is therefore a kind of ‘alchemy’, turning donations of time and talent into the equivalent of human gold (NFP Synergy, 2015)

    National Trust for Scotland’s Volunteer Handbook: An example of the sort of information given to new volunteers (NTS, 2016)

    Recruiting Volunteers: A short guide by INTO Volunteer Co-ordinator, Julie Thompson

    Investing In Volunteers: A Guide to Volunteer Management: To successfully establish a volunteer programme, the organisation must commit both financial and human resources. The challenge is to create opportunities for interesting and meaningful work that furthers the goals of the organisation and meets the needs of the volunteer (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008)

    Making the most of the 21st Century volunteer: A selection of resources from the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland

    National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s Volunteer Managers Training

    Watch a video about volunteering with the National Trust of Australia (Victoria)

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