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Let’s Make a Match: Museum Volunteers

Category: On-Demand Programs: Human Resources

This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.

Learn how an effective application process prevents onboarding volunteers who are not a good fit for your institution. Real‐life examples will demonstrate how such processes reduce turnover, save time, and strengthen partnerships by setting expectations and allowing potential volunteers to opt-out of a bad match.

Presenters: Marne R. Bariso, Chicago History Museum; Marcie Keller, Perot Museum of Nature and Science; Jane Mullins, Perot Museum of Nature and Science


Jane Mullins: Welcome to the American Alliance of Museums virtual conference this session is all about museum volunteers. Let’s make a match.

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We’re going to ask that all of you attending today use the Q AMP a feature to enter any questions as we go along in the presentation, and we’ll have time to answer many of those at the end of today’s session.

I’m your presentation monitor Jane Mullins director of volunteer services at the probe Museum of Nature and Science and Dallas, Texas.

And our two panelists. First is my colleague Marcie cover, who has manager of volunteer services at the Perot Museum and our second panelist is Marnie Murray so volunteer an intern manager at the Chicago History Museum, so welcome Marcie. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of your volunteer programs and describe the scope of support your volunteers provide?

Marcie Keller: Or thing. Thanks Jane. The pro Museum of Nature and Science is a natural history and science museum located in Dallas, Texas.

We utilize volunteers in almost every department at our museum, both on site and off site.

In the last year, which, which included 360 days of the year we had approximately 2000 volunteers serve over 49,000 hours.

We have different categories of volunteers that we utilize including year-round volunteers. Those are adults 18 and up summer spring.

Fall on unpaid internships, which are open to college students and our discovery core teen summer program which is for high school students aged 14 to 18 we also do a lot of work with group volunteers, which include

High school students, college students’ businesses and civic groups. Currently, we have four Volunteer Services staff members that support the program.

I am the volunteer manager. I’ve been with the museum for 10 years and I’ve spent seven of those years in volunteer management and I am also a member of the American alliance whose American Association of music volunteers. I knew I was going to do that.

We as a volunteer department we perform very similar roles to human resources department for our volunteers we process applications we do annual background checks were in charge of onboarding the volunteers and also making sure that they get properly trained some of that training is done by our own team and some of the training is also done by other volunteers and education staff.

We manage the museum’s volunteer led architecture tour. We also are in charge of our volunteer Advisory Council, we feel requests for short, short term and long-term volunteer assignments. We also provide all of the statistical data for our program to senior management.

We do three large recognition events every year. We also help train and guide staff to effectively manage our volunteers.

And you know above everything we like to communicate the impact our volunteers have on the museum and we’re always there to listen to the volunteers and acknowledge and thank them for their service.

Jane Mullins: Thanks Marcie

Marnie the Chicago history museum has a strong base of volunteers and support. Can you provide us with an overview of your volunteer program programs?

Marne Bariso: Sure, thanks gene and Marcie at the Chicago History Museum. We have exhibitions on Chicago and American history. And we have a wonderful resource center.

Most of the volunteer activity is done on site, similar to what Marcie said in a number of departments probably nearly all

A few tour tours are lead off site. We’ve got unique L tours. The Chicago elevated train and neighborhood walking tours.

We have about 100 volunteers and we have around 90 paid staff are so full time in temporary. We also have unpaid internships about 50 most are unpaid

We’re starting to acquire a few paid scenarios, but most are unpaid about 50 unpaid internships, a year. I am the overall coordinator of the program and I’m in the education department, by the way, and similar to what Marcie said I serve a lot of HR functions. I help with the onboarding of the volunteers I oversee the recognition, but the bulk of my job is I supervise directly around 50 volunteer gallery interpreters or about docents and so I’m in charge of the training care and feeding of our docents at the museum and I am also a member of a MV the Marcie I’m pausing because I’m worried about being tongue tied to which is the Director, yeah.

For those who work with museum volunteers, I’d encourage anybody to take a look at the website.

Jane Mullins: All right, thanks. Morning, Marcie. The terminology used in the session is calling, making it make a match. So how did that original idea come, come to be.

Marcie Keller: Yeah, so the idea for this session really came about from some of the positive changes that happened after a restructure of the pro museums volunteer interview orientation and onboarding procedures as a really large organization with a really big volunteer corps. Our goal was to make sure that potential volunteers fully understood the needs and expectations.

And requirements before making a commitment to their service. We hope that our approach, along with some insights for morning about her smaller volunteer corps will help guide and inspire you as you determine your own program’s needs.

Museums of all content areas and sizes rely really heavily on volunteers, especially now, more than ever, we expect institutions will be tasked with building a really strong volunteer corps and strengthening both staff and organizational relationships with the volunteers.

We’ve we found that consistent onboarding policies, procedures and documentation really ensure that your museums needs are clearly stated from the get-go.

And can help a potential volunteer determine if the opportunity is will meet their individual needs and expectations.

Whether you’re starting a volunteer program from scratch or already have an established volunteer program now is really the time to start working with your organization to determine how and where volunteers can best assist you through some of your changing needs.

Jane Mullins: Right. Thank you.

An important first step to creating a strong volunteer base is recruiting and the process of preparing the volunteers for service Marcie. We want to talk a little bit about your recruiting methods.

Marcie Keller: Sure, yeah. Um, you know, when you think about it, recruitment really is the first step of a new volunteer onboarding

In this very first engagement with a potential volunteer, you are setting the tone for your program and you’re clarifying the skill sets and interests of your ideal volunteer.

There are a lot of different ways to recruit volunteers. We won’t go into all of them, but you know there’s in person opportunities at things like community fairs different meeting groups, social or special interest clubs.

Through different civic groups corporate groups or student groups that may be looking for different service opportunities and definitely you know through online opportunities social media and there’s, there’s a lot of specific volunteer recruitment websites.

One one method that we use a lot is just word of mouth from our current volunteers and staff.

If people really enjoy the program and they really like to volunteer and they’re going to be able to promote that.

Experience to other people really well. And one thing that I would like to stress to people is to document and track the different places where you post or send out recruiting materials.

So, you can really make sure that information stays up to date. You know if you have a posting from 10 years ago. It’s probably not applicable anymore. If you have a posting from a past staff member that’s probably not accurate anymore. So really stay up to date on those postings.

This will be especially important as our volunteer jobs are likely to change in the near future and really speak to the realities of an opportunity and what the volunteer should expect out of their experience. For example, you know, if you were to post on a recruitment website that you know, a volunteer is going to have the most fun they’ve ever had in their whole entire life handing out brochures. That’s probably not realistic.

And will set kind of strange expectations. So, a really a better way to promote an opportunity like that might be to say something like enthusiastic and friendly volunteers are needed on a daily basis during the morning shift to welcome guests answer some basic questions and hand out materials to guess this opportunity will offer the volunteer, the chance to engage with a wide variety of people help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. And it’s a great way to improve your communication and customer service skills. This clearly stated what the museum’s needs were but also let the volunteer know that there are attainable and attractive outcomes to that opportunity.

Jane Mullins: All right, thanks, talking about expectations, you know, as well as expectations of the museum morning he tells us how you approach these issues.

Marne Bariso: Thank you. Yes, I support well written explicit volunteer position descriptions there. I think there are still a couple on the Chicago History Museum website. If you want to see an example of how we use our position descriptions. But I think you need to articulate what the potential pinch points are or what for example, time commitment, the expectation of the duration that you would like to volunteer to be there. I mean, was it three months. Is it a year?

What are the training expectations and when are they occurrence, so that a prospective volunteer can identify if they’re available or not?

The physical requirements will the position require the volunteer to stand for a couple of hours, or does it require conversation with visitors. So, you know, and so many of our museums get busy and noisy. So the ability to hear well and respond to, you know, the conversation that you’re having with a visitor.

And the benefit of having a well written thought-out position description is one down the line. If you run into any issues or problems.

With the voluntary his ability to commit, whether it be at a time commitment change or so many of our volunteers stay with us for so many years if there’s some other reason that they’re unable to fulfill the requirements of the position you have your position description that you can’t go back to and explain that these are the things that are required. And then, you know, if you have to have that difficult conversation.

That is helpful, having in writing, rather than just some vague sort of understood anecdotal requirements.

So, moving on to the next point.

In addition to expressing the organization’s expectations as you’re doing, say, an interview with a prospective volunteer, that’s the time to bring up these things as well. And to talk through them.

And so that they support with what you put in writing in your position description, but this kind of meeting or interview is also a time to ask the volunteer what their expectations are.

Sometimes I’ll ask the question, what did you picture yourself doing here at the museum. And then that’s an opportunity to say, oh, yeah, I think we can meet your expectation or meet your goal, or we do have an opportunity like that.

Because you know when a volunteer says, I just love your organization. I will do anything. I just want to get in and support the place that I love.

You know, it’s not really true, because if the activity eventually is not what they expected. It is a little boring if you know they didn’t get to touch Abraham Lincoln’s hat like they expected they’d be able to then they’re going to leave.

And that can be a waste of time for everyone.

Jane Mullins: Marcie. What do you have to add on these important topics?

Marcie Keller: Yeah, I just wanted to say that you could, you can also learn a lot about a potential volunteer outside of a formal interview.

You might even ask for a resume. I know both the pro museum and the Chicago History Museum both asked volunteers for a resume these don’t have to be formal or professional people, we’ve just found that people will often include skill sets and some experience on resumes that they might not, you know, consider including on a standard application or even in a personal interview and just for example.

Can you guys still hear me.

Jane Mullins: Yes. Okay.

Marcie Keller: And just for example a volunteer when was asked to fill out a standard application.

writes about himself. I have a passion for science years later when we updated our policies and we started to ask for resumes. It turned out he actually had several PhDs.

In different sciences, which we had no idea about. It’s not something that he mentioned to us.

Also, conversely, you know, someone without a formal career may feel a little bit discouraged replying, if, if the resume is required. So that’s really where the volunteer management can come in and help the volunteer, think a little bit outside of the box and what they include can include on a resume encouraging individuals to think about their different life experiences and the different kinds of skill sets, they may have that could be applied to different types of volunteer service.

Jane Mullins: All right. Thank you both.

A strong staff and volunteer relationship is key to being successful with a volunteer program so Marcie. How do you work with the museum leadership?

Regarding volunteers.

Marcie Keller: Yeah you know museum leadership are really going to be who sets the tone for how your volunteers are treated in your organization. So as volunteer management or even people that work closely with volunteers really trying to get really goes a long way in the organization thinking and acknowledging volunteers.

You might determine if there is any substantial data that you could be tracking to help communicate the value of your volunteers to many different levels of staff.

Ideally volunteer staff should also have regular meetings with the different departments that that frequently utilize volunteers.

Throughout the year, if that’s not possible, you know, an annual meeting is a really good start right now, when a lot of our organizations are kind of planning for reopen that’s a really good time for us to be meeting with some of these different departments and figuring out where their volunteer needs might be this is also a good time to find out their individual short term and long term goals from for each department, you know, sometimes a department may think that their initiatives are known by the whole you know organization and it turns out that you know, half, half the organization maybe doesn’t know that the that there’s a huge initiative going on.

So sometimes we as the volunteer support have to take that initiative and ask people, what’s going on because they may not know that that information is not being spread to every single department.

volunteer management can encourage staff to consider new ways for volunteers to get involved, especially right now thinking about different off site or virtual opportunities for individuals who may not be ready to come back to the building and also reminding staff that sometimes there are just certain projects or responsibilities that may not be appropriate for volunteer.

Jane Mullins: Alright Marnie. How do you help word staff volunteer relationships?

Marne Bariso: Well, I think you can encourage the volunteers supervisors to engage and recognize the volunteers and lots of easy ain’t even creative ways as simple as you know, going out for coffee with a volunteer.

To catch up a little bit.

Because sometimes the volunteer, even though they’re supervised by someone they may not be working exactly alongside them or may not even encounter them each and every time they come into the building or of course having lunch or you know, it’s about relationships appropriate relationships, of course, but I think our volunteers, like us, and love the museum but also like the staff and if they, you know, work that fond of the staff, they might decide not to volunteer there so it is about those relationships. I really feel that’s also a benefit of volunteering.

You know another way to engage volunteers and to recognize them. I know we’re gonna be talking about recognition that a little bit later to include the volunteer’s name on a on a credit panel for a project, I still get a thrill of seeing my name on it.

Exhibition credit panel. So, I suppose volunteers and interns who’ve been involved. Really appreciate that, too.

Or is there an article being written in the museum’s publication or calendar or website and you can include the volunteers there as well. And I think that’s you know, sometimes are there so surprised to get the recognition and we’re sort of like of course you know you really made a meaningful contribution.

And as far as encouraging your colleagues who supervise volunteers consider preparing a supervisor Handbook of volunteer supervisor handbook and if that is too overwhelming a project just start with a one pager or just a one pager of tips and tricks. You know, to, to…

To engage your volunteer, that sort of thing. And then eventually, you know, maybe that can evolve into something a little more significant and that training those tips and encouragement that you give your, your colleagues who supervise volunteers, that’s a form of professional development.

And yeah, additional training. So, I think Marcie is going to say a few more words about training.

Yeah, um, you know, more than likely your volunteer management staff is not going to be able to directly supervise you know each volunteer through all of their shifts

So being able to offer some formal staff training on how to work better with volunteers is a great starting point.

Empowering your staff to proactively work on their own professional development and management skills by guiding and mentoring volunteers on a day-to-day basis. You might also consider

Reminding staff to think about things from a volunteer’s perspective when they’re working with a volunteer, you know, if they were volunteering if they were sacrificing their time. How would they expect to be treated by staff?

You know, what would it feel like to come in for a volunteer shift and find that staff wasn’t expecting them. They were unprepared for them.

Maybe they were just completely disinterested in working with them or pawning off the worst part of their job on to them. So really trying to think about working with volunteers from the volunteer side.

Jane Mullins: Okay.

Any other final thoughts there either of you.

Marcie Keller: I was just gonna say, you know, an example that we do at the Perot Museum is our staff who are going to be on the floors and working with volunteers Orkney or even working with guests usually have a morning meeting where they can go over kind of the

Game Plan for the day, if there’s anything special going on. And that’s a really nice place for verbit Captions: Please for… Sorry, I’m getting an echo. It’s a really nice time for volunteer staff to jump in and let any of the floor staff know you know we’ve got this many volunteers and this is where they’re going to be working. This is what they’re going to be doing.

Maybe you know announced that you have a new volunteer orientation so that they can be ready to welcome these new volunteers and let them know any exciting thing that’s going on in the museum. So just having those daily touch bases with people can make a really big difference.

Jane Mullins: All right. Anything else, Marty.

Marne Bariso: Yeah, I thought I would support Marcie’s earlier point about

The volunteers time, you know, for someone who donates money to the museum. The development staff or other staff are the stewards for that contribution well volunteers who probably also donate money in many cases, but there, they are volunteering their time.

So, Marcie is absolutely right. You have to be aware of that and value that and be ready for them and you know, at our place I supervise the docents, as I said, and whenever it’s going to be a slow day for visiting groups or cancel. I really try and take the time and update the schedule so that no one is feeling like they came all the way in, and the group is cancelled or they’re not showing up.

So, it’s time consuming but i really want to make the best use of their time.

Jane Mullins: Alright, thanks guys.

All right, volunteers. We just talked about being respectful of their time and I think some people will go well volunteer work for free, but they don’t really work for free. So how do you as a museum, you know, reward recognize and retain volunteers.


Marcie Keller: Yeah, um,

You know, I think for museums and other institutions that rely really heavily on volunteers, we have to really make it a culture of our institutions.

To show that volunteers belong to the institution there every single staff member is responsible for training supervising and recognizing a volunteer.

You know, you may even think about if you’re a hiring manager or you work in HR. You may think about including those in actual staff position description saying that you’re going to be working with volunteers and what that might look like volunteer staff can also help take steps to both formally and informally convey this message to all different levels of staff.

You know, volunteers are really a resource for the whole institution. I always like to say, you know, volunteers are not just mine.

They’re not working for me; they’re working for the institution. And so, I cannot be the only person recognizing them for that it has to be a museum wide and institutional wide acknowledgement

And to also remember that not only are they are resource, but there are limited resource.

They can very easily decide not to give back to our institution. So it really isn’t everyone’s best interest to maintain those positive relationships with volunteers.

This will reduce volunteer turnover decree decreases the amount of training, you have to give a volunteer and the better staff no individual volunteers, the better they can utilize that individual’s skill sets and unique abilities to accomplish their goals.

So, when you meet with other departments.

You know, see if they can add a portion of their staff training that stresses the volunteers are an essential part of this organization and that staff all staff is expected to work alongside them while showing respect and gratitude.

Jane Mullins: And thinking about how you can communicate to volunteers, the impact of their service, not to the museum and the community Marcie, could you continue to tell us how you might do that.

Yeah, definitely.

Marcie Keller: You know, letting a volunteer know exactly what they’re

The different tasks that they’re doing.

You what part they play in the bigger picture, letting them know the difference that they’re making are really going to help motivate and encourage the volunteers to stay engaged. If someone is coming in and they’re doing a task that you know they don’t know what it’s for. They don’t feel like it’s making a difference.

You know, they’re going to think why bother. So, promoting the accomplishments of volunteers. Maybe that’s in meetings or publications social media.

Or even speaking directly with the visitors, you know, do what you can. On a daily basis to create that culture of appreciation for all and for all the volunteers do

And, you know, even for volunteers that are you know, when they come in all the time. They’re super dedicated. It’s really easy to take some of those people for granted. So, I think it’s really nice to remind people that you know even if you know you have a volunteer that’s coming in every Monday and they are there. You don’t have to supervise them. You don’t have to worry about them. Those people deserve some recognition.

You know, one thing that that we do at the pro. We’ve got a volunteer who comes in. She does a very specialized job she comes in every single week.

And it’s really easy for people to forget that. So, us as well as her management. We can remind other areas of staff that that she comes in. That’s a volunteer job that is being accomplished and that’s done by a volunteer and reminding them to just go check out the project, she’s working on asked her how it’s going you know, even just saying hi and acknowledging that she’s there shows that she’s not only valued by the volunteer management team or just the individual staff. She’s reporting to but by the whole institution.

Jane Mullins: And Marty, how do you do this at the Chicago History Museum

Marne Bariso: Well, our more formal recognition is it happens in April, and we have a nice event space. So, we have a party with what we call it.

Jane Mullins: Not

Marne Bariso: We don’t quite call it dinner, but maybe I forget the term but like hors d’oeuvres. But everyone knows it’s probably going to work out to be dinner anyway.

But so we have a nice have a nice gathering and sometimes we’ll try and do a little theme of some exhibition that a lot of the volunteers have been involved in and another way of recognizing them another event in April, that we’ve done in Chicago, and this is the other cultural organizations that are in town participate in this as well is we started this a few years ago and we arranged for a free tour of a special exhibit or the facility.

And then we all compile a list. Of, you know, all these cultural organizations that are around town and it winds up being this really wonderful list of tours that volunteers from the participating organizations can go to throughout the month of April, and we’ve been doing this for probably more than years and it takes someone to coordinate it, but I think it’s a nice idea rather easy and this really nice perk. And speaking of perks, you know, we’re probably not alone and offering volunteers discounts at our little cafe and at our shop.

Jane Mullins: You

Marne Bariso: You know, if you don’t happen to have a shop or a cafe on your site, you can think about programs such as lunch with the curator lunch with the director and lunch with the volunteer program manager. I’m sure that would be the most popular and so those sorts of ways. You know, you never know when the volunteers actually might really enjoy having those conversations that we take for granted, seeing each other in the hallway, all the time, but the volunteers don’t and to an earlier point to help staff engage volunteers with some recognizing that mixture staff.

Know about the benefits and they may hear it once, but maybe they forget, you know, a year or two later, after working with a volunteer.

That the volunteer receives all these benefits, including going to visit the exhibits, which may seem so obvious, but I’ve run into volunteers who either forget about this benefit or aren’t quite sure if they can they can go in at any time, or when can do they go in behind the scenes tours.

Huge hits with volunteers and can be kind of easy to arrange some time. So, if you know the people leading them are at a slower point in their, in their schedules. Does that ever happen. Um,

What else do I want to say asking a volunteer to write up a blog if you have a blog on your website, you know, that really acknowledges that they

Have writing skills that their experience at the museum or maybe elsewhere, depending on what they’re writing about matters, and that will interest, the people who are reading your website, your members, and others.

We’ve had that happen and i just i just love it when that happens.

So yeah, I think those are my. Those are my points of social media wrecking I think Merson. We have talked about this already, recognizing your volunteers and social media is also I think that really easy way to say thank you in a creative way.

Jane Mullins: All right, thanks. Marcie any final words.

Marcie Keller: Yeah, I just want to stress that, you know, you know, we have lots of perks, just like Marnie does you know, free admission to exhibit discounts in our gift shop and all those lovely things and Leo giveaways and all that.

But it’s also, you know, sometimes small gestures and just genuine words of appreciation can mean more to somebody, then even those prizes or giveaways so you know, really celebrate your organization’s achievements, together with staff and volunteers.

You know, do do things that you can do to reinforce the idea that both staff and volunteers have the same goal, which is to support the mission of an institution.

They care about and believe in, and you have a system in place for staff to formally and maybe even publicly recognize the volunteers who’ve gone above and beyond for them.

And also, just reminding staff both new and old.

How meaningful just a simple heartfelt thank you can be to someone who has sacrificed, time, money, maybe even family obligations to be there.

Jane Mullins: All right. Thank you. All right, can’t get too far without talking about and the impact is making on our institutions Marnie. How are you addressing the changes that are going to be coming up and the challenges for volunteers?

Marne Bariso: Well, I am doing emails regular emails and I’ve heard from peers as I’ve been sitting in on webinars and meetings with other volunteer program managers, this is pretty common.

Our top administration has told us that there are no secrets you know as the plans move forward or backward. If we get, you know, some some different instructions from the Governor or current events.

Sort of make you slow down your plans. So, email. And we’ve done two Zoom meetings, you know, for the gallery interpreters, the volunteers. I work with, it’s about which is about, and we’ve had great attendance nearly, I think we had people at our last one volunteers are becoming more comfortable with the technology. I’m assuming you know if they weren’t already before the pandemic.

And just be assured that like we want to know what lies ahead. And that helps calm us and helps us know how to move forward the volunteers do as well. So, I encourage you all to continue communicating with them just like staff is being communicated with

Jane Mullins: Thanks Marcie change is always difficult. How do you help volunteers? Prepare for Change.

Marcie Keller: Yeah, I think. You know I know personally for myself. You know, I think about going back to the museum. And what’s going to be different. And I think it’s going to be really emotional. I think it’s going to be hard.

For all for all of us to see some of the changes that may may be going on. And some of the things that we’re not going to be doing anymore that we used to do.

And you know that’s hard for everybody. So, I think it’s going to be equally hard to our volunteers.

Are institutions or places they’re really familiar with. They have jobs that they love doing. And some of those things may not be there anymore.

So, I think, you know, we as volunteer management or you know the the people who are working directly with the volunteers can really make a difference in in kind of doing some some hand holding you know you may ease them into some of the changes that are coming

You know, always reassuring them that their safety and health is paramount. And that’s why a lot of these decisions are being made.

You know, we don’t want to make it difficult for people, but it you know sometimes these things just have to have to happen so

You know, I really see that as as our goal. One of our goals in some of some of what’s happening with with our museums reopening is really being a support system for for volunteers as they start to return or even as they don’t return you know there’s going to be some people who are going to want to wait for a vaccine. They’re going to want to wait for didn’t you know have a better understanding of what’s going on, so you know, we want to keep those people engaged to we you know making phone calls, like Marty said doing Zoom meetings.

And just not forgetting about people through all of this.

Jane Mullins: And going back to you, morning just reevaluating volunteer roles and and other things. How are you addressing change?

Marne Bariso: Right, we haven’t been explicit about what the changes are we’ve hinted at it because as we all know, things are changing sometimes daily or slowing down or speeding up.

One idea we have is we offer popular student workshops that there’s at least one or two every day and we are hoping to be able to pivot.

To use the common word, we’re all using to a digital way of offering the student workshops and we haven’t started that work yet or, you know, we want to do it for the fall, but we are hoping that volunteers.

Will be available and interested in in doing these workshops and that way. On the other hand, as we you know as Marcie just said, as we start to envision how our buildings are going to look differently, how the processes for staff to come into the building for visitors to come into the building and engage with the exhibits and pathways are going to be changed or altered or areas of the building the capacity is going to be changed can volunteers help with facilitating you know the visitor experience. So, we’re wondering if some volunteers would be willing to do that. On the other hand, you know, the other side of the coin.

Is that means there are more bodies in the building. If you have a few volunteers.

Coming in to help with that. So that’s, that’s something that’s on my mind to. And a lot of volunteer program managers.

What I’ve sensed is that they’re offering surveys to volunteers to get a sense of their comfort level their apprehensions what kinds of measures.

Would they like to see in place for them to feel comfortable coming back in and like Marcie said, some may not want to come back in yet.

My kids’ story that I’ve told a few times is as things were starting to shut down and march and we, you know, it’s funny to think about it. Now, the state. We’re now, but that was just right at the beginning, and we were asking volunteers to make their own judgment about whether or not they wanted to come in feel comfortable about coming in and one volunteer. Her name is Mitzi she said she was willing but that her adult children just said it would be a terrible inconvenience. If she you know came down with something for them. So her adult children didn’t want her to be coming in.

Marcie. How do you get buy in from volunteers about changes, am I becoming…

Marcie Keller: Yeah. So, I think, you know, having the volunteer perspective in all of this is going to be really important talk to your current volunteers to learn more about their specific concerns and what they may be requiring to return to service.

You know there’s I’m sure all of you guys are in the same position where we kind of have we have different tasks or task forces that are talking about what you know what we’re going to do going forward.

I think it’s really important to get the volunteer perspective on those things because you know volunteers may be willing or not willing to do things that we we assume that they would be okay you know doing

And they might even come up with some ideas that that we as staff, you know, don’t consider so you know volunteers really represent our community. They, they come from all kinds of backgrounds, all different ages and so they’re really going to have some unique insights on what a volunteer role might be in in moving forward with some of these things so just keeping those channels open, you know, scheduling meetings, making sure that they can reach you tons of volunteers right now have my cell phone number.

So, they can always reach me and and give feedback as it comes up so I think another thing to keep in mind is when we ask for volunteer ideas and feedback giving volunteers of voice.

It helps gives them ownership of what they’re doing at the museum makes them feel a part of the museum. And that’s also a tremendous form of recognition for them to feel like they are included in those discussions.

Jane Mullins: All right, it’s

Time to kind of wrap up the session but Marcie. What are the major takeaways that you want everybody to have today?

Marcie Keller: Yeah, you know, as you start to think about making these new matches with your institution and volunteers. I hope you consider these things that we have talked about today.

Ensuring that there’s consistent and accurate procedures and communication in place, taking proactive steps to build those healthy relationships. Relationships with the volunteers.

And implementing organizational wide volunteer recognition.

Jane Mullins: And Marnie. What about your final thoughts?

Marcie Keller: Oh, you’re muted.

Marne Bariso: It was riveting what I had to say. I was…

Jane Mullins: Just saying how I think.

Marne Bariso: Setting the expectations is really key and not letting the there be any surprises either when it comes to that very early beginning of the really you know the relationship between the supervisor and the volunteer or day to day and trying to manage their time.

Jane Mullins: All right, thank you. Okay, now don’t go away. We’re going to answer some questions. So, I’m going to open the Q&A and say what people want to know.

What are your institutions doing to record have to recruit a diverse volunteer force?

And yeah. So, anybody have a comment on that.


Jane Mullins: recreate it burst volunteers.

Marcie Keller: Yeah, um, you know, being in Dallas.

We’ve got a really large Hispanic population and that we’ve had an initiative at the pro museum to really reach out to more Hispanic guests.

In addition to that, more volunteers, especially Spanish speaking volunteers. So we’ve actually worked with some organizations, you know, ESL organizations.

To try to do some recruitment there.

We’ve also I just lost my train of thought.

Marcie Keller: Oh, I was gonna say, one of the things that you can really do to help get you know a diverse group of people in is have available opportunities at all times. So, you know if if

You only need volunteers on a Tuesday morning you’re probably going to get a lot of retirees if people who can afford to come in, you know, during a workday.

But we’ve got a lot of weekend opportunities. We’ve got several evening opportunities. So being able to have those flexible schedules, so that you know even people who are working all the time, or even people who are going to school will have opt options of coming in. So, you’re not just getting retirees that are just looking for something to do

Marne Bariso: Yeah, I can add what our ideas.

Jane Mullins: Are…

Marne Bariso: A couple successes, we’ve had. Similarly, we have a lot of visitors who are bilingual and we are eager to recruit volunteers who are bilingual and at our we were opening an exhibition of about three years ago on Chicago blues music and we had it happened to be right around the time where we have one of our busiest days of the year right Luther King Day junior commemoration day and I prepped a flyer, with the help of our in house graphic designer and asked one of my colleagues who speak Spanish to translate the flyer for me.

And I put it out.

On that day, knowing that we would be super busy. So, it was two sided one side and English one side and Spanish and I was able to recruit three Spanish speakers.

Out of a total only have about a dozen volunteers we didn’t need a lot of volunteers for some for that duty but I consider that a victory, and it was a simple. It was a simple gesture.

So I am, you know, it’s in my plan to use that strategy moving forward and my other thought is, I was able to go to the points of light conference.

Last, last summer in St. Paul. And I sat in on any session that had to do with you know diversifying your volunteer corps.

And my big takeaway was that you need to visit communities where you know the have the population where you’re interested in recruiting and identify what the barriers are and that’s the main thing that comes to mind, and the one speaker who is with them.

The St. Paul and illiteracy organization and St. Paul. They have had great success in bringing in in diversifying their volunteer group. And they hired a consultant, you know, some of this is the kind of heavy lifting that it’s we don’t have the time to do or we don’t have the expertise to do. So that was another thing I told my superiors is they hired a consultant to get their success.

And we budgeted in our budget this year to hire someone, and just begin the conversation.

You know, could they help us what you know what were early steps we could take but I don’t know if that’s going to happen now with our, our budget cuts that had to to occur. But anyway, that I hope in the future.

And kind of follow up with that may be related is accessibility issues. So do you have any

Conflicts between volunteer positions and people who may need special access.

Marne Bariso: That’s a great question. I’m on the access committee at the History Museum. So having an access committee could be a step in the direction of asking those questions. What changes need to be made, or for how do you recruit and reach out to groups where you want to have people volunteer who have different disabilities. So that would be my advice is.

Jane Mullins: Again,…

Marne Bariso: Talk to organizations who can help you understand what steps you need you need to make.

Jane Mullins: Marcie this one lightly. Good for you. What are some examples of high school aged volunteers and using them as a viable option, given the potential access to them and their availability versus the aging volunteer pool?

Marcie Keller: Yeah, definitely. Um, we you know, I think I’ve mentioned earlier. We’ve we bring on high school kids for the summer.

You know typically they would help out in our summer camps, and they would also do some shifts in our exhibit halls.

Currently we we’ve gone forward with our program and actually started this week.

Lots of David that started this week, and they are doing all remote projects for now until the museum reopens and so one of the things that they are working on is focused on career workforce readiness. So, they are going to be interviewing some of our STEM professionals that are also volunteers.

And present what they learned about going into the STEM field at the end of their week so they’re going to work together as a group, via Zoom they are led by members of our team, but we also have an intern.

That we’ve brought on for the summer to help with that program as well as some other, we call them lead volunteers, but experienced volunteers there and they’re all high school age two, so they’re there. They’ve done the program before and they’re able to help guide.

The kids who are new this year. And so that’s going to be really interesting. I think it’s you know it’s going to highlight some of the experienced volunteers that we have in our core and it’s also going to give the high school kids, you know, a unique perspective on going into stem. Hopefully it inspires them to go into stem and and will probably give them some more feedback than just, you know, Googling a career on on a website.

And so, you know, there’s many things that we could do like that remotely.

But as far as, you know, when they actually get to go into the museum, you know, high school students can do a lot, you know, with the right training the right supervision.

Our, our process for bringing on high school students is actually pretty rigorous

Rigorous so you know they have to go through an interview, they have to submit a resume, they have to get teacher recommendations. So we really do get, you know, some of the best of the best of high school students in the area.

And you know you if you find a kid who’s really into your subject matter and who really wants to be involved in the community. You can get a really amazing volunteer out of some of those some of those students.

Jane Mullins: And following along the, the notion of training and Marnie this might be perfect for you. When it comes to training for docents and social distancing for tours.

You know, how are you going to do that. How’s that, how’s that gonna work a thing.

I don’t know.

Marne Bariso: My you know I have a colleague who oversees the volunteers who do the outdoor tours. I think with outdoor tours that may be less of an issue for indoor tours. We honestly haven’t had that conversation yet.

You know I’ve heard again along the way of talk hearing from other volunteer program managers or webinars are meetings, Minnesota, by the way back to Minnesota. They have a very wonderful. So, Ma, Ma BA and some of their discussions and webinars are free. But of course, there’s also an affordable membership price. So, I’ve sat in on some of those in the last few weeks.

And I heard one spot that said they just weren’t offering THOSE TOURS those extra add ones at the museum in the early weeks of reopening in terms of what I’ve envisioned. You know, we have a pretty big Chicago history exhibition are our permanent exhibit. And I was wondering, would it be a very prescribed tour, maybe four spots instead of you know what the volunteers usually do. They usually go where they want to, you know, the areas in the exhibit that they’re drawn to. So instead, would it be very prescribed, would there be markings on the floor for where the you know, five tour participants stand you know that would there be a limit to how many people go on the tour. And of course, we already are assuming that all visitors would have masks on.

So, I just don’t know yet. Those are my very early thoughts and just from me, I pick a know sort of pole or found out what other people are doing. But I’m sure people are starting to think about it. So, I plan on asking around, just as you done and you know, somehow you want to connect soon, I’d be I’d be pleased to find out what people are doing.

Jane Mullins: More say here’s a good one that you might want to share some thoughts on and be if when you were reopening laughter covered at and the risk involved.

All the public health requirements. What are some of the things that the pro museum is taking into consideration for the safety and comfort and the feeling that they are safe when they come into the museum. What are some of the things we’ve had to rethink of think about?

Marcie Keller: Yeah, I think one of the big ones is, you know, any kind of gathering areas. You know, we’ve got a volunteer lounge a staff lounge. What are those going to look like any kind of area where people are taking breaks together or touching lots of things we have volunteer lockers, which I don’t think those are going to be useful immediately because you’re going to have to be cleaning them constantly

Marcie Keller: So, you know, any of those kinds of areas where people are going to be touching things a lot. Are we are our volunteer uniform includes an apron?

That when you start out as a volunteer, you kind of use one that gets reused all the time before you’re awarded your own think, we’re gonna have to stop doing it.

So, you know, anything that the volunteers are reusing badges lanyards aprons any kind of part of their uniform that that does not, you know, currently belong to them.

You’re probably gonna have to reevaluate that and like I said any of those gathering areas.

Our museum being, being a natural history and science museum, we actually are really, really interactive. That’s one of the things that that we kind of pride ourselves on is having lots of things to touch and play with

That is not going to be happening for a while, you know, having guests engage with those things. So, retraining our volunteers to not touch everything and to not have guests touching everything

You know, it’s, I think that’s a big part of this. And we’ve talked a little bit with staff about this too is

You know, we’re all going to have to be retrained

On the way we engage with guests and the way that we

You know experience our content and we just have to remember to include volunteers and all of that retraining as well.

Here’s a question. I think both of you would be willing to answer and it is well your museum plan to keep accepting new volunteers during COVID and kind of into the future as you reopen your museum.

Jane Mullins: You know many people out there have lost their jobs and are looking for opportunities so morning. Why don’t you go first and talk about that. And then we’ll flip it over to Marcie

Marne Bariso: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t see why not. But you know chain you bring up a good point, or maybe it was the writer who mentioned it about someone wanting to volunteer while they’re out of work and I applaud that and support that I just again, back to an earlier point, we made a make sure everybody understands. So, it’s not an immediate drop off once they, you know, get that job and you’re expecting them to come in on Wednesday, but oh sorry I got my job. So just a big open communication. But yeah, I don’t see why not.

Jane Mullins: That

Marne Bariso: We wouldn’t be doing that.

Jane Mullins: Now Marcie

Marcie Keller: Yeah, I completely agree. You know, having a volunteer come in during a time where they’re looking for a job, you know, that’s a perfect thing to put on your resume.

That’s a you know you can be trying out different skill sets that you may have not done before in your previous work. So, it’s really a nice way to do some professional development.

And you know, we are happy to give references to so you know you you do an amazing job as a volunteer. We’d be happy to work to work as a reference for you.

And help you get get get back into her career, definitely.

Jane Mullins: All right, how about this one. Are there any examples of using volunteers and the new virtual digital arena and any effectiveness and pitfalls virtual volunteer recognition?

Marne Bariso: Can I respond to this.

Jane Mullins: Marcie Marnie

Marne Bariso: You’re doing something tomorrow.

Jane Mullins: Night so

Marne Bariso: Think of me at pm Central time and we are doing our members open house that usually takes place every June.

Virtually and I’m talking fast because I know the clock is ticking and the activity. I’m overseeing is

Members who registered for the program are bringing along the special object and they’re going to tell the story of their object. And I’ve asked about five volunteers to help me facilitate those conversations with members so

Yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do tomorrow.

Jane Mullins: All right. Marcie, you got any well, I was just gonna say, hey, did, did we share our contact info.

WE IT’S ON THE ONE OF THE BEGINNING OF slides, but just our name so I’m pretty sure that I am is going to be providing all that information, because if we didn’t get your questions answered to die. We would all love to follow up and answer any questions you have. What do you have to die or you have them later on. Marcie, you want to tell them really quickly before we wrap up, how we kind of continue to reach out and touch base with people to stay relevant even when it’s not covered with other organizations and volunteers.

Marcie Keller: I’m fine, I feel a little bit panicked because like one minute left.

Jane Mullins: That’s okay.


Marcie Keller: Um, you know, I’ve been making phone calls to our volunteers. Um, but even when we haven’t had, you know, covered going on we reach out to organizations all the time and find out what of what other places are doing you know, not just other science museums, we do art museums, we do aquarium zoos, all those things just to see what’s going on in the, in the world of volunteers. And I think that’s a really, you know, great way to make those different connections within your profession and and also key volunteers of today on what’s going on. Up and wide around the nation so.

Jane Mullins: Any last thoughts Marnie

Marne Bariso: Thank you, everybody, for listening in and I would welcome. I would love more conversation. You’re going to help me to, well, you know, even if it’s a question. I’m all have won Best Actress so yeah, if you’re ready.

Jane Mullins: Yeah. Marcie any final words.

Marcie Keller: Yeah, we are. We are available for you guys. We’d be happy to have phone call conversations Zoom meetings. If anybody wants to talk a little bit more about our individual programs or even any questions you have about your own we’re happy to talk to you guys.

Jane Mullins: Reach out to us. We’d be happy to help. It’s a very interesting topic. Thanks everybody for coming.

Marne Bariso: Today he come on you.

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