A Volunteering Crisis and Why Eventprofs Should Volunteer

The National Trust is one of the Great British institutions. It looks after, preserves and showcases some of the most historic and iconic buildings and gardens across the UK. With many of its sites famously used for filming, be it Game of Thrones at Castle Ward, to Pride and Prejudice at Lyme Park, the organisation is use to making it into the papers. However, recently it wasn’t the buildings that were making headlines. The Independent reported that the National Trust was ‘running out of old people’!

Due to a change in lifestyle for more modern retirees, the National Trust has said that it’s noticing a significant decline in the number of older volunteers, compared to recent years. The Trust relies on just over 60,000 unpaid volunteers, many of which act as unpaid tour guides and on site staff throughout its homes and gardens up and down the country. A large proportion of these volunteers have traditionally been of the older generation, offering up their time to support a project or building they love.

However, as more and more retirees decide to start their own small business, travel the world, or spend quality time with their grandchildren, the National Trust is having to ‘redevelop more flexible models going forward’ and Helen Gosh, their Director General stated, “In 10 years’ time will we still have the same pool of willing volunteers? The demographic may not be with us.”

Unfortunately, it was a few years ago now since I was ‘fresh out of uni’ but I won’t be entering the retirement bracket any time soon either, so I think it might be people like myself that the National Trust needs to think about. The job market has changed dramatically over the past decade, with multiple jobs, part time working and unconventional hours all being modern practice. With that in mind, volunteer opportunities are becoming more and more of a viable whilst trying to gain work experience and boost your CV. I still always keep an ear to the ground for what may come up.

Having worked with teams of volunteers on event days (and volunteered a fair bit myself!) on a whole range of projects, I can assure you without them, a lot of ideas just wouldn’t be able to go ahead. Getting involved not only aids the organiser, but the volunteer can get plenty out of it as well:

Meeting People: This is invaluable in the events industry. The more projects you work on, the more people you meet. I am of the opinion that observing the way other people work is the best way to improve yourself. Whether it’s taking in what to do, (or what not to do!) no opportunity to work with someone else is ever a waste! Although it may sound like a big cliche, I’ve learnt that the more people you meet, the more opportunities you come across.

CV Booster: Whether you have just finished university or are branching out into a new field, breaking into the events industry is hard work. It takes perseverance, patience and that little something extra on your CV that separates you from everyone else. While paid work is often difficult to get without any other relevant experience, event mangers are always looking for volunteers to help keep things running.

‘Testing’ out a job: Festivals, exhibitions, conferences and charities all offer opportunities for people to get involved on both a short and long term basis. This a great way to find out what you like and don’t like about the industry or a company in particular. Think of it as a job-trial, without having to sign on the dotted line. Those that work hard and are reliable, are very often remembered and asked back next time, or even considered when a paid position arises.

So, the National Trust may be concerned about its current demographic disappearing but maybe they should shift their focus and try and make the company more appealing to a broader range of people looking for opportunities to volunteer. And before you sign up your Grandma and Granddad to don their tour guide hat, maybe you should take a look at what’s on offer instead!


Helen BradyThis is a guest post by Helen Brady – Event Manager, Visual Merchandiser and Venue Dresser.

Helen has been organising things and trying to make them look pretty since 1988!

Helen has worked with Events Northern Ltd on a freelance basis for over 5 years and is delighted to have made a permanent, full-time return to the team in summer 2015.


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