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Book Review: "Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: a Handbook for Volunteer Management"

Tuesday, April 5, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jennifer Ortiz
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Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: a Handbook for Volunteer Management by Kristy Van Hoven and Loni Wellman

Book Review by Jennifer Ortiz, Museum Specialist

Published in 2016 by Rowman and Littlefield, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: a Handbook for Volunteer Management was produced by the American Association for State and Local History on managing museum volunteers.

As the preface indicates, volunteers are integral to all museums' operations. From behind the scenes work to front desk management, volunteers provide the manpower that runs our museums. According to the 2015 Utah Museum Survey, museum respondents reported 4,139 unpaid staff or volunteers utilized in their respective museums; our states museums are dependent on our respective volunteers.

Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums is a practical book. From the preface, the book is broken out into chapters that cover everything from identifying potential volunteers to recruitment to managing volunteers gone rogue. The book focuses not only on how to recruit qualified volunteers but to also find viable projects that may be of interest to your non-traditional volunteer. Chapters 1 and 2 discuss who potential volunteers may be and the demographics that make up our current pool of volunteers. Chapter 3 covers analyzing your institutional need and special considerations to think of when recruiting. The latter half of the book, chapters 4-7 present volunteer policy and procedures, developing your volunteer program, and dealing with difficult situations with your volunteers. It is the last half of the book that is the most practical and immediately helpful should you already have volunteers or a volunteer program in place.

Several questions and considerations bubbled to the top for me as I read through this reference, questions I would ask myself if I ran a volunteer program. Questions such as:

1.  Have I considered my local demographics when recruiting volunteers? Special interest groups may prove to be extremely helpful in targeted projects such as a local quilt guild assisting with cataloging and mounting an upcoming textile exhibition. Not only would my museum receive assistance gathering data and putting up the exhibition, I would also have a built in audience for the show.

2.  What are my museum's special needs? Do I have a living collection? If so, are volunteers allowed to handle them? What sort of training is involved? Do I have any special considerations that I need to be aware of before recruiting volunteers?

And finally, some interesting food for thought from the authors:

Volunteers tend to donate, not only their time and expertise, but also money to the organization in which they volunteer. The book cites that volunteers donate approximately $2,500 a year to non-profits or charities with 67% responding that they donated this money to the organizations they volunteered with (p.7). Volunteers not only generate good will for your museum but they may also generate potential profits to get started on your next project.

Recruiting and Managing Volunteers is an excellent guide to get you started on meaningful opportunities for both your volunteers and your museum. Better volunteer management will lead to overall success of your museum’s programmatic offerings.

Interested in purchasing? Find the book on AASLH’s website or on

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