Volunteers Have Value!

This is a subject very on my mind at the moment as I’ve been completing NLHF progress reports for clients. Their projects all have a wide variety of volunteers doing a wide variety of tasks and, as we all know, the time volunteers give has a monetary value that NLHF, ACE and other funders recognise.

Of course, we all know that our volunteers are beyond value…in the best possible way! Without them, heritage organisations simply wouldn’t be able to function.

From the person making the cups of tea for the team meetings, to the treasurer on the board. From the person researching a specific piece of history, to the person coming in once a week to weed the courtyard. These are all vital roles that your organisation couldn’t manage without (or they could but what are meetings without tea??) and each one has a value that funders will, in most cases, put against the match-funding you’re required to do.

So, for those of you struggling to remember how much that value is, or whether someone falls into one of the 3 categories, I’ve created a handy graphic for you to download and pin somewhere you can easily refer back to when completing those reports.

Download it here:

Happy calculating!

New Stories, New Audiences

Having been involved in fundraising for most of my career, I know how hard it can be to find a grant that fits the smaller museum. The one that has few, if any, paid staff, where the visitor numbers are modest and the hopes high. The expectations of a lot of funding streams can feel beyond the small museum.

So I’m very excited to have been chosen to be the freelance Grants Officer for the New Stories New Audiences grant that the Association of Independent Museums launched at their conference in June!

A partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and aimed specifically at the small museum, with an understanding of the unique challenges they face, this is a grant programme that encourages you to expand your horizon, develop new projects by working collaboratively with new partners and community groups, and to tell the stories that are currently missing from your local heritage.

Interested? You can see the grant programme details here. There will be workshops, led by me, to help guide through the process. The first 2 were oversubscribed, and the next one will be in September, so sign up to the AIM newsletter to be among the first to hear about it!

If you want to chat about the grant, you can contact me for this one at tonia.collett@aim-museums.co.uk.

Reinterpreting the Past

Just before leaving Tudor House at the end of March, I was able to see the project I had been managing finally come to fruition. It had been 2 years in the planning, 6 months in the fundraising, and 18 months in the delivery.

Image shows a mannequin wearing a Tudor style green gown, black kirtle, white ruff and black coif, stood in front of a display board entitled "Who is Margery?".

The idea from the board of trustees was to completely revive the museum’s interpretation, restore the 16th Century embossed ceiling, steer the story back to the Tudor origins of the building, which at the time was a kind of lost story in the city, and create a more cohesive, professional feel to the museum.

Picture shows foamex display board saying "Women of the Cross Keys" on display in the museum.

As with any project that promises to change the direction of an organisation, there were fears to overcome, particularly that of the volunteers, money to raise and resources to gather. My application to NLHF’s Our Heritage grant was successful and we were quickly able to raise the match-funding needed. By keeping the communication lines open and being clear about the aims, I was able to keep volunteers on side and allay fears that the scope of the project would lead to a reduced offer for visitors.

After all the hard work and juggling that Covid restrictions created, it was wonderful to see everything start to come together. Working with designers, Heritage Insider, we created display boards, vinyls and hands on activities to be used around the building.

Picture shows 3 vinyls, silhouettes of Tudor children: Edward, Isabelle and Thomas.

Entering the Tudor Worcester area, you can hear street sounds, find out about the food they ate and what the city was like in the 16th Century. In the Cross Keys Tavern, you can hear music, people chatting and the clink of pewter tankards. The smell of hops brewing fills the air and the boards tell you about Tavern life, the people who lived there and the women who ran it.

Image shows vinyls attached to wall in Broadcloth room depicting the 29 processes wool went through before becoming broadcloth.

I can’t begin to explain how pleased I am with how this project has turned out. A museum that was full of unconnected themes, told via laminated sheets of paper, now has a coherent story, a professional feel and, most importantly, a unique place in the city’s heritage offer. What a fantastic note to end my Tudor House experience on!

Image shows Tudor Time Team Trail bags created for use by older children visiting the museum.

I’ll be talking in more detail about the project and how we managed it in a time of Covid in my newsletter. If you’d like to be on the mailing list, enter your email below.

Taking the Plunge

It’s been a year since I started my tiny consultancy, fitting it in on the side, along with my part time paid role at Tudor House. A bit chaotic at times to say the least! But now I’m taking the proverbial plunge and stepping back from that to commit full time to my freelance work!

I’m hugely excited to be part of the evaluation team, led by Jenni Waugh Consulting, for the huge Everything to Everybody project. This collaboration between the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council aims to unlock “the world’s first great people’s Shakespeare library for all.”

As well as taking the First Folio on tour, there is a host of community events, exhibitions and a major festival over the course of the next 2 years. To find out more, go to www.everythingtoeverybody.bham.ac.uk

It’s all about the timing

Talk about picking the right moment to set up my own consultancy! With the entire heritage world in lock down, what on earth can a consultant offer? More importantly, how on earth can a museum expect to survive this?

The good news is that you can expect to survive it, and there are a myriad ways in which you can. Digital technology has moved at such a pace that meetings are easily, even for the techno-phobes, held online. Social media and newsletters keep you in touch with your audience. Online shopping and fundraising solutions are great ways of making sure there’s still some income coming in. Event planning, policy reviews, preparing for Accreditation, reviewing interpretation and collections, researching grants…these are just a handful of the ways you can keep your museum feeling alive even during these unprecedented times.

And what can a consultant offer? Well, during the lockdown, I’m offering each new client a free 60 minute consultation where we can chat through your concerns, work out the priorities and look at some ways to address them. Need a follow up report? These are half price right now.

To book your free consultation, get in touch via the form on the Contact page. Together, we’ll get through this!