Celebrating our volunteers during National Volunteering Week (1 to 7 June 2020)

It’s National Volunteer Week and we wanted to give a big shout out and thanks to our amazing cohort of volunteers, without which so much of our work just would not take place.

CIfA volunteers 

Did you know that in 2019, 178 people volunteered with CIfA by contributing their time and expertise to our 21 Area and Special Interest Groups, our Advisory Council, our Board of Directors, the Validation committee, the Registrations committee, consultation advisors and our CPD workshops. Our volunteers expand the reach and scope of our work, they ensure CIfA activities take place throughout the UK, and they help us make the right decisions as to the future direction of the Institute. 

Last year, the Advisory Council carried out a survey asking for feedback on CIfA volunteering experiences and the responses we received were illuminating. Responses included that volunteering with the institute was a great opportunity to provide CPD benefits for individuals and it was useful being involved at the forefront of discussion about developments to the profession. Respondents also enjoyed networking with colleagues and benefiting from sharing advice and experiences. It also provides a strong sense of being able to contribute to the profession and to give something back.

Since receiving those results, we have been working behind the scenes to enhance our volunteering offer, which includes addressing the barriers to volunteering (like travel expenses, loss of work time and other commitments) and promoting more widely volunteer vacancies. Interested in getting involved? Have a look at our groups page and get in touch with our Membership Engagement Coordinator, Meg (megan.keates@archaeologists.net), to find out more.A huge thanks to Kayt Hawkins for co-ordinating the survey – the results will really help us going forward. 

Benefits of volunteering – from making your voice heard to developing new skills. 

Why get involved with volunteering with CIfA? Well as Cat Gibbs says of her time with the Diggers Forum, it’s a chance to directly influence the future of CIfA and to put forward her views and opinions. Samantha Boyle joined the validation committee in 2015 to make a tangible contribution to the profession and learn more about the accreditation process. Otis Gilbert highlights how important volunteers are to making decisions on the direction of CIfA, supporting member events and highlights that committees are open to all accredited levels of membership. Otis particularly emphasises the need for all members to be represented and involved with CIfA activities.  

Cara Jones (CIfA) says of her time volunteering on the Scottish Group committee 

“I first started volunteering with CIfA in 2012 when I joined the CIfA Scottish Group committee, with support from my employer at the time. It was the first committee I had ever sat on and it really taught me how to be an active part of a working group. It allowed me to meet other members of my professional, network and find out more about the work of CIfA, not just in Scotland but around the UK. I developed new skills, but I also felt part of something useful and an active member of our profession! It really helped contextualise the role of CIfA within our wider profession”.

These examples highlight how beneficial it is when an employer supports an employee to volunteer during work time – Jen Parker Wooding volunteersregularly with the Alzheimer’s Society, within her working day thanks to her employer (CIfA). Jen says that “Volunteering is very fulfilling for me personally…but I could not have achieved this without the support of my employer”. Read more about Jen’s volunteering experience below.

Community heritage volunteering 

There are huge benefits to volunteering – you get to meet new people, develop new skills and knowledge, you get to try something out for the first time. Heritage and archaeology attracts huge numbers of volunteers and many of us have either volunteered on a heritage project or worked with heritage volunteerson community projects. The impact that volunteers have on the heritage sector is significant – as highlighted in this study by Volunteer Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. 

We have two great case studies in the Summer 2018 edition of the ‘The Archaeologist’ – The Tay Landscape Partnership (based in Perth and Kinross) and The Jigsaw Project (in Cambridgeshire). Sophie Nichol highlights the huge contribution volunteers made to the Tay Landscape Partnership, calling it ‘the power of people’ which resulted in previously unknown sites and 900 new artefacts being discovered and recorded through one aspect of the project. The same can be seen in Cambridgeshire – over 500 people volunteered with the Jigsaw Project over a five year period, which resulted in a new network of like-minded people who (through peer to peer support) share their skills and knowledge with old and new members of the network.  As the project co-ordinator says, the Jigsaw project “resulted in a huge number of people learning about and feeling empowered to participate in their own local heritage.” The Heritage Volunteering Group also have lots of case studies on their website – from how volunteers help drive inclusion and diversity at St Fagans to the Volunteering and Wellbeing Initiative ran by the Imperial War Museum North in Greater Manchester.  

When we create volunteering opportunities, we need to be mindful of the factors which could act as barriers for volunteers. These can include skill gaps, economic barriers (like travel expense, lack of access to equipment or appropriate clothing), caring responsibilities and self-confidence. Working with Volunteer Scotland, Dr James Davies completed an illuminating PhD on the barriers to Youth Volunteering in Deprived Areas. While it doesn’t look at heritage volunteering specifically, it can still help inform the development of opportunities for youth heritage volunteering and is well worth a read. 

Go further

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has guidance on their website for developing volunteer opportunities for your project.

The Council for British Archaeology highlight on their website how you can volunteer with community archaeology. If you are based in Scotland, Archaeology Scotland can help signpost to community heritage projects on their website. Historic England also have a list of Heritage Volunteer organisations. CADW also have a volunteer programme – benefits and opportunities are listed on their website. Don’t forget – if you are interested in volunteering with CIfA – we would love to hear from you! Get in touch with our Membership Engagement Coordinator, Meg (Megan.keates@archaeologists.net) to find out more.