Volunteering – managing daily work

All activities of our lives are intertwined with the interconnectedness of processes. Accordingly, work in cultural institutions is a series of processes and activities that create services. Meanwhile, we use different tools and work together to create an organisation. The characteristic of good organisation is the effective establishment and maintenance of processes and organisations. The efficiency of the operation of the organisation and institution lies in process-oriented thinking. We need to break down our activities into clear processes and properly regulate them. In order to do this, we must place great emphasis on staff recruitment, education, training and consultation so that everyone can participate in the establishment, operation and improvement of the efficiency of institutional services, using their developing skills. Volunteering should also be included in this process chain.

We therefore need to gather mechanisms that regulate the activities of the institution, highlighting key service delivery processes necessary to achieve strategic goals. The resulting institutional process map can already identify activities that can be used to effectively engage volunteers and, on the other hand, the range of activities that the institution can use to recruit volunteers.

This process analysis is a great help in everyday work as well, as flowcharts and descriptions prepared in the spirit of quality assurance provide concrete help in carrying out an activity and also serve as a guide.

The day-to-day tasks of institutional volunteers are determined after the tasks of the employees, i.e. the volunteers are practically helpers or assistants. In order not to diminish the role of volunteers, institutions need to be creative in defining volunteer tasks. An important motive for this is to consider the volunteer’s special abilities; what they can do for us.

The daily work schedule of the volunteers is as follows:

Step 1: arrival

Step 2: administration (e.g.: attendance sheet)

Step 3: collection of assigned activity (guidance and involvement of a volunteer coordinator)

Step 4: performance of the activity (alone or with mentor support)

The recruitment of volunteers requires attention in the day-to-day work, and it is very important to define the tasks and evaluate the work performed. This often happens together with the volunteers. Depending on the nature of the day-to-day work, it may be continuous, that is, performing routine institutional tasks, but volunteers are more likely to be involved in campaign-type work.

There are now excellent tools available through websites for the organisation of work. It is worth getting to know them and introducing them if necessary. Earlier examples also included Google’s interface which can be shared with multiple individuals, but there are also more sophisticated workflow and team communication tools (e.g.: Slack, Trello) available.

For those volunteers who only occasionally undertake volunteering, verbally detailing and discussing workflows may be sufficient. Continuous work, on the other hand, presupposes the written recording and regulation of the processes to be performed. This can be done in the same way as for institutional staff, in the form of a job description. It is usually the responsibility of the organisation manager or volunteer coordinator to prepare it, but they can be written jointly with the colleague to whom they will be assigned. The description is perhaps more important to the volunteer than to the employee, as it provides a stable reference point during the daily work.

Tip: New thematic highlights have been created at the Bródy Sándor Library in Eger in a separate room from their library stock. For the borrowing of popular books and to ensure order in the warehouse, it is very helpful to have the theme of the book indicated in addition to the store label: Romance, Crime, Teen. New purchases have been labelled from the moment of the decision by the processing department, but existing books also have to be labelled. The work was entrusted to 3 volunteers. First, everyone did the work individually (printing a label, sticking it on, placing the book on a shelf). However, volunteers soon realised how much more efficient it was to perform a single process on their own: 1 person printed and 2 people stuck on 2 different themes and placed the books on the shelf according to the warehouse order.

Substitution, capacity

The daily work follows a predefined plan and schedule. Just like with employees, volunteers are also required to notify the institution, preferably the volunteer coordinator, if they are prevented from doing their job, possibly setting a new date for volunteering.

At critical points of work where hourly rest, lunch breaks, or other activities may hinder continuous service provision, it is advisable to have two volunteers assigned together on a regular basis. This can also give them greater security in their activities and they can help each other in solving difficult situations, e.g. at the museum’s information desk.

Finding replacements for volunteering is a difficult task, as most cultural institutions have a low number of volunteers. But if there is an opportunity to do so, it will also help to increase the number of simultaneous activities. This reduces the monotony of daily work. If needed, volunteers can also perform the work of the missing companion.

Tip: In the Gallery of the Bródy Sándor Library, an interactive exhibition of ‘56 was organised with a library, cinema, office and school classroom of the era. Valuable works of art were placed in the open library spaces. Volunteers were entrusted with the guarding of the objects in the Gallery. Guarding in itself could be a monotonous and boring task, but in addition to guarding, volunteers were entrusted with the administration of the exhibition visits (completing attendance sheets) and providing the technical facilities (continuous playing of music, starting the movie according to the visitors’ needs, etc.). After a short training, they performed not only this task, but were also entrusted with guided tours. The tasks were carried out in pairs. The organisation of the work was entrusted to the volunteers themselves, which they solved by alternating every two hours, calculating the morning and afternoon working schedule of the institution. For 2 hours, one of the volunteers supervised and operated the exhibition, and guided and informed the groups. Meanwhile, the other volunteer was doing the traditional library work in the borrowing spaces, helping to restore the order of the shelves or run the Netcafé system that controls Internet use. After 2 hours they switched. Their service was managed in such a way that they not only kept in mind the institutional work schedule, but also their daily activities and schedules. However, during their absence and illness, they were able to replace each other, where the primary task was to operate the exhibition.


This article based on the following document: This article based on the following document: Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version