Volunteers and Internship Programs

A volunteer policy is an important tool that facilitates good relationships with volunteers by clarifying roles and mutual expectations. Designing and growing your volunteer program is a complex process than can seem daunting, but does not have to be. Interns provide invaluable support for your small museum or historic site, are integral for emerging museum professionals, and can help fulfill your institution’s mission.  Interested in creating an internship program at your site?  Wondering where to start? The below resources will point you in the right direction.

Creating Volunteer Program Policies

Looking at other organizations’ policies, such as that of the Kansas Historical Society, can provide ideas for how to frame or revise your own volunteer policy.

If you rely on a large number of volunteers, check out this quick consumer’s guide to volunteer management software. (PDF)

The Corporation for National and Community Service offers this volunteer management guidebook. (PDF)

Having a one-time or recurring event that you need volunteers for? Look at Florence May’s article, offering suggestions and questions you should ask about your volunteer policy before you get started planning.

Museums should provide its volunteers with clear documentation of expectations and rules to which volunteers must agree. The Alexandria Museum of Art’s Volunteer Code of Ethics and Professional Standards is a good model of such a document. (PDF)



Looking to diversity your applicant pool? Intern: Developing A Diverse Leadership Pipeline by AASLAH discusses the value, methods, and challenges of diversifying your internship pool. (URL)

Thomas McKee’s “The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers” gives tips on what not to do when trying to recruit volunteers.

Looking for ideas for recruitment? These are the ABCs of volunteer recruitment. (URL)

Here are 101 suggestions for volunteer recruitment! (PDF)

The National Park Service offers this set of guidelines for writing volunteer job descriptions. (DOC)

The Millennial Impact Project offers research, discussions, and meetings so that organizations can learn how to engage with the Millennial generation. (URL)

Speaking of millennials, here is a sample youth volunteer application from the Museum of Science.

Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering: A Research Brief on Volunteer Retention and Turnover is an insightful look at one of the largest groups of volunteers: Baby Boomers. This is an example of the research reports on trends in volunteering produced by the Corporation for National and Community Service. All reports can be downloaded for Free. (PDF)

The recently-published book, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: A Handbook for Volunteer Management, offers a great deal of information and case studies showing how to effectively recruit, manage, and retain good volunteers.

Training Manuals & Handbooks

Volunteer training manuals can expedite and UNIFY volunteer efforts. This is an outline that takes you through the process of constructing a training manual. (PDF)

Hagley Museum and Library has a good example of a volunteer training program.

The Museum & Education Department Volunteer Handbook from the Champaign County Forest Preserve District is a good model that you can follow for your own volunteer handbook. (PDF) It includes volunteer job descriptions, application and emergency contact forms, and waivers for risk and background checks.

The High Desert Museum offers a good example of a teen volunteer manual.

After your volunteers arrive, you’ll need to orient them to your site. Check out this orientation manual for a good example from the Volunteer Centre of Camrose and District, in Alberta, Canada. (PDF)

Legal Issues

Having volunteers work at an organization can raise legal issues related to volunteers’ rights and safety as well as those of the visitors with whom they interact.  This webinar covers a range of risks your organization may face and numerous risk management strategies that can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs.

The following books are useful resources containing in-depth information about various legal issues facing museums:

Volunteer Management

SignUpGenius helps you organize your volunteers online for free.  SignUpGenius has a Non-Profits Sign Up template which allows you to schedule, manage, and send reminder emails for volunteers.  The Preferences allow you to see when someone signs up, to send reminders to group members, and to allow list members to “swap” slots with another member (must be registered to site).

Did you know you can track volunteer hours in PastPerfect? Check out this webinar from PastPerfect.

Professional Organizations

The Delaware Association of Volunteer Administrators (DAVA)  serves as a “statewide organization for leaders of volunteers.”

The American Association of Museum Volunteers offers a wide array of information and resources for both volunteers and for museums looking to manage their volunteer and internship programs.

Internship Program Resources

Making It Count: Professional Standards and Best Practices in Building Museum Internship Programs by Pamela S. Schwartz is a comprehensive overview that can help you decide what best practices to adopt in planning an organized internship program (PDF).

The National Council on Public History Curriculum and Training Committee published “Best Practices in Public History: Public History Internships”  which features a list of eight recommendations when designing a public history internship (PDF).

This short, general AASLH blog post by Deborah Baker titled “Interns 101” outlines tips and other considerations when setting up an internship program.

This Museum 2.0 blog post titled “A Shared Ethics for Museum Internships” by CUNY lecturer and former manager of the Guggenheim Internship program Michelle Millar Fisher explores the ethics of unpaid museum internships.

From The Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania, “Starting and Maintaining a Quality Internship Program” includes step-by-step instructions and a sample intern evaluation form.