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Report shows areas most reliant on volunteers in heritage sector

Findings from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Pulse Survey sheds light on the areas in which heritage organisations are most reliant on volunteers

Nearly half of the UK heritage sector is reliant on volunteers for public facing roles, suggests a new report from UK Heritage Pulse.

The collaborative data and insight project for the UK’s heritage sector has been created by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. In March, 241 members of the Heritage Pulse panel, all working in the heritage sector, completed the latest UK Heritage Pulse survey on the theme of volunteering.

Among the results from its latest survey, it reports that 45% of respondents agreed that the sector is over-reliant on volunteers, but 24% think that there is an opportunity to make more use of those volunteers.

The report overview suggests that smaller organisations tend to feel the overreliance more keenly.

In the same report, 46.7% of respondents said that their own organisation was reliant on volunteers to engage with visitors, primarily through interpretation, tours, or room hosting.

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Results show 42% of respondents were reliant on volunteers for technical skills including maintenance, 39% for administration and finance, and around a third for research, archaeology and conservation, and collections management.

The majority of respondents, 58%, said recruitment of volunteers was challenging, with only 14% reporting that recruitment processes had gone well.

One anonymous respondent told the Heritage Pulse Survey: “Covid has had a huge impact with volunteers. Our charity is run entirely by volunteers and we are genuinely struggling. People’s priorities have changed…”.

Another reported: “Recruitment and retention has been reasonably ok. We have been successful in recruiting a greater number of under-represented audiences but this has required a substantial investment of time.”

An outline of the findings from the most recent survey is available on the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s UK Heritage Pulse website.