Volunteering Transformation happening at Suffolk Archives

Volunteer Makers has helped build communities and grow engagement for dozens of arts, culture and heritage organisations across the UK.

We talked to one of our many partners, Suffolk Archives, to find out why they chose Volunteer Makers and how they use our Tech For good.

Rebecca Harpur, Volunteer Engagement Officer at Suffolk Archives, gave us this feedback:

Tickbox: “Introduce us to Suffolk Archives and what you do?”

Rebecca: “Suffolk Archives is home to 900 years’ worth of Suffolk’s history; we look after thousands of documents that record Suffolk and its people’s stories. Traditionally, we have welcomed visitors to undertake research into local history and family history, as well as for academic purposes.

“In the last few years, however, we have received National Lottery Heritage Fund money which is helping us transform what we can offer – with a purpose-built archive in Ipswich offering additional benefits such as an exhibition space, café and shop. This funding has also enabled new roles to be created, helping us to engage new communities with our archives and allowing us to better showcase the diverse story of Suffolk, while continuing to add to our collections.

“My role primarily focuses on volunteer engagement. I work alongside my colleagues to make sure they have volunteers matched to the demands of their projects. Developing and supporting volunteers to be the best they can be is also a huge part of my job. Working with volunteers is so rewarding; seeing people develop confidence and make new discoveries is the best part of my job.”

Tickbox: “Why did you decide to use Volunteer Makers?”

Rebecca: “There are a few reasons why Volunteer Makers became our chosen platform: The perception of volunteering is often that you must commit to regular, large blocks of time each week, which as a result is generally only realistic for a particular section of the public. Volunteer Makers breaks volunteering tasks, asking the volunteer to first decide how much time they are able to give. This makes us as an organisation think about how we can make our volunteering opportunities flexible, as well as providing a better focus on those tasks which do need a greater and more regular time commitment.

Within the first year of using Volunteer Makers, we have seen our engagement increase and our volunteer demographic begin to become more diverse which must, in part, be attributed to using the platform.”

Tickbox: “How is Volunteer Makers working for Suffolk Archives during Covid 19?”

Rebecca: “As soon as lockdown was announced I was aware that we needed to change our approach to volunteer recruitment and projects. Being an archive and responsible for preserving history, we decided to ask people to record their own personal experiences of lockdown. We had two different methods; a survey, which was entered into Just a Minute tasks, and a regular journal, which went into a new category of Remote Volunteering. We have not only engaged our volunteers who have already signed up to Volunteer Makers but also attracted new people who may well continue to engage after lockdown is lifted.”

Tickbox: “What would you say to anyone thinking of using Volunteer Makers?”

Rebecca: “If you want to rethink volunteering, this platform is a huge help. It will encourage you to think about how to structure your volunteer programme and begin to make it fit for the 21st century.”