We hope that the FAQs below will cover most things you might be wondering about, but please get in touch if you have any further questions.
Who works for the Volunteer Service?
Joy Todd, Head of Volunteering and Community Engagement
Caroline Moreau, Volunteer and Outreach Officer
Hayleigh Jutson, Volunteer Service Assistant
Michalina Szymanska, Volunteer Service Assistant
How do I contact the Volunteer Service?
Email: volunteering [@] museums.ox.ac.uk
Phone: 01865 282456
Post: Joint Museums Volunteer Service
Museum of Natural History
Why might I want to volunteer?
People volunteer for all sorts of reasons; here are just a few:
- It's the next step up from visiting.
- It's an opportunity to meet like-minded people and feel part of the community.
- It's a supportive setting in which to build confidence, knowledge, and skills.
- It's a chance to do something different.
- It's fun!
- It's a great way of gaining experience for your CV.
- The 'feel good factor': it's the support of volunteers that makes many of our activities possible!
What is the expected time commitment?
The expected time commitment varies. There is no minimum commitment for helping with ad hoc public events. However, for many other roles, volunteers are expected to help once every few weeks or to give a regular amount of time per week or month. For more information, see our ‘Volunteering with Visitors’ and ‘Volunteering Behind the Scenes’ pages.
What skills or experience do I need?
Firstly, you don't need to be an expert in anything; it’s your passion we’re after!
If you're interested in helping with public-facing roles, you will need to enjoy meeting people, have a sense of fun, and care about providing a great service to our visitors.
If you're interested in helping behind the scenes, then knowledge or enthusiasm for a particular subject can be an advantage. Attention to detail and a methodical approach are also important.
How long does it take to get started?
That depends on what you’re interested in and whether you’ve applied for something before… However, because we have to do various bits of paperwork before you can get involved (references, id check, etc.), it’s best to allow at least a few weeks. Please bear this in mind if you are only in Oxford for a short amount of time.
English is not my first language; is that a problem?
Not at all! One of the great things about being in Oxford is that so many people living, studying, or visiting here are from other countries. Many of our volunteers are ‘international’. For some, volunteering is a way to practise and improve their English. It’s also great when volunteers can speak to visitors in other languages!
Can I have a record of my volunteering?
The Volunteer Service can provide a reference for anyone who has volunteered at a minimum of 3 events, but obviously the more you volunteer, the better we will get to know you and the more we will be able to say!
Volunteers who help as part of a specific team or project should discuss the possibility of a reference directly with their supervisor.
What training opportunities are there?
In addition to some role-specific training, the Volunteer Service also organises introductions to different museums, departments, and collections, and runs various other sessions, e.g. ‘Planning Your Own Activity’ and 'Why Family Friendly?', throughout the year. These will be advertised as and when.
If your role requires specific extra training, e.g. manual handling, safeguarding, customer service, your supervisor will organise this for you.
Can volunteers claim travel expenses?
The short answer is ‘yes’, but how you go about it varies depending on the role. Please speak to the Volunteer Service or your supervisor for more information.
Also, please note that, in accordance with University Policy, volunteers are not generally entitled to shop and café discounts, free exhibition entry, etc. However, we hope that we are very good at plying volunteers with free tea and biscuits, organising volunteer parties, and smiling and saying thank you!
Are there any age restrictions?
There is no upper age limit for volunteering, but you must be at least 16 to get involved. If you are under 18, you can help at ad hoc family friendly events and at some other events, but many roles will not be open to you. We will also need to get parental/guardian consent prior to you starting. This is partly due to insurance and partly due to safeguarding.
Does helping with one thing prevent me from helping with something else?
Only if they're at the same time! We know that volunteers often want to learn or try new things. Many volunteers take on several different roles at the same time, whilst others enjoy doing one role for a while before moving on to something else. Equally, you are free to stick with just one museum or dip in and out of helping at all or any of them – it’s up to you!
What if I don't have easy computer access?
Give us a ring on 01865 282456 or stop by our office in the Museum of Natural History and we will be happy to discuss practicalities. However, please note that all of our regular communication is by email.
Where can I find out more about volunteering in museums and/or for other local organisations?
Here are a few suggestions: