Engaging business professionals and individuals with specialised skills can strengthen arts organisations, helping them build their capacity to do what they do, better.
Securing skilled volunteers is an effective way to engage talent that arts organisations might otherwise not afford.
How can a skills-based volunteer help?
Skill based volunteers can assist in many areas of your organisation such as:
- Workshop facilitation
- Project management
- Strategic planning
- Change management
- HR policy and process
- IT scoping and advice
- Performance reviews
- Advising your board
- Communications and marketing
- Becoming a board member*
*The time commitment of volunteer board members often goes beyond that of typical skill based volunteering.
How long should a volunteering opportunity last?
Opportunities can be one-off, for one meeting, one day, one week or several months. It all depends on the nature of the opportunity and the needs of your organisation.
How should we prepare for a volunteering placement?
Having the support and readiness of everyone in your organisation is a crucial component of a successful volunteering placement.
Organisations ready for a placement are able to show that their programs and activities get results, and see the value of the additional expertise that a volunteer can bring to the team. They understand their challenges and opportunities, and know how to best use the time and talent of a volunteer to help identify solutions.
When securing a volunteer, invest time upfront to clarify expectations and responsibilities. Prepare resources and provide training and induction on your organisation’s purpose, mission and goals to your volunteer, so they’re well equipped to provide sound and realistic advice. Think of your volunteer as a short-term employee.
If you’re engaging a volunteer for a specific project, make sure they’re a good match for the task at hand.
What are the characteristics of a good skills-based volunteer project?
- Defined scope – a clearly written document that outlines what is in and out of scope will ensure that all parties are on the same page about what the project entails.
- Agreement – get sign off from both parties on the initial scope.
- Defined deliverables – clearly articulate what you would like your skill-based volunteer to deliver
- Projects milestones – identifying project milestones will give your volunteer a clear sense of what you need and when.
- Communication channels – assign a leader for the project that will work with and be the main point of contact for your volunteer.
Do your research to ensure your volunteer is a good fit in terms of the skills you require as well as someone you and your team can get along with.
Where do we look for a skills-based volunteer?
Several organisations and services help connect skilled, experienced volunteers with not-for-profit arts organisations. Some of our favourites are:
PWC Volunteering: PWC employees can contribute up to 15 hours per year towards volunteering. Not-for-profits are able to register and submit opportunities, and PWC staff sign up to projects that they find attractive.
Good Company: Australia’s first holistic corporate workplace giving and volunteering platform.
Go Volunteer: a not-for-profit initiative designed to make volunteering easier.
NAB Volunteering: Not-for-profits can request a volunteering opportunity through NAB’s online volunteering platform.
Does our volunteer need to be in our office working with us?
No! Think virtual volunteering. Opportunities that are flexible and accessible to volunteers of different locations, backgrounds and ages, have a better chance of success. If you’re too narrow in your criteria you may find it hard to recruit and keep volunteers.
Some kinds of support and expertise, including legal advice, strategy and planning and marketing can be done remotely and online.
Think beyond the traditional: New technology and a growing interest from young people is leading to more ‘micro-volunteering’ in the arts, which is helping organisations engage audiences and save money, as this article from Arts Professional UK explains.
The volunteer placement has come to an end. Now what?
Say thank you. Show appreciation for your volunteer’s time, enthusiasm and passion for what you do. It’s important.
Measure impact. A savvy organisation will report on the short- and long-term impact of the pro bono work, providing concrete examples of work completed, problems solved or opportunities that arose from the volunteer’s time at the organisation, and gathering testimonials from staff and management.