Many collection holders attract volunteers to remedy shortages of funds for employing paid staff. Indeed, some plant collections are run almost exclusively by volunteers. The use of volunteers also allows organisations to add value to the various tasks and to run activities that may not be cost effective if full time staff where involved. PlantNetwork recognises that voluntary labour can be an important contribution to the management of plant collections, provided that it is organised with a clear policy in mind. The use of volunteers can also be an effective way of involving the local community and of using skills that are not available among the paid staff. Volunteers can help with a wide range of tasks, not all horticultural. Volunteering should be encouraged as a fair exchange of a skill freely given for some, usually unquantifiable, benefit. The time and energy required to run a successful volunteer programme needs to be taken into account by those using voluntary labour. Many Friends groups act as volunteers (and frequently manage volunteer programmes) but may not be designated thus.
PlantNetwork recognises that any volunteer programme must operate on a partnership system where both parties gain from these arrangements. Volunteers can gain considerable benefit from the social interaction with staff by extending their knowledge base. They also gain from the social interaction by meeting people with similar interests. These aid both their physical and psychological well being. Volunteers often express a feeling of altruism having been involved with a worthwhile project.
PlantNetwork aims to:
- recognise the contribution that volunteers can make to running plant collections
- encourage members who involve volunteers to follow good practice in doing so.
- encourage all participants to understand what can be gained from a volunteer programme.
- held a conference on Working with Friends and Volunteers at Ness Botanic Gardens, in November 1995
To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:
- hold a seminar on good practice and use of volunteers in helping to run plant collections
- assist and encourage its members to develop good volunteer policies, and to seek advice from organisations that have developed particularly good policies. Publicise these to members
- continue to raise PlantNetwork’s profile with volunteer networks and inform them of the volunteering opportunities that exist in plant collections
- publicise successful volunteer projects within the PlantNetwork directory, newsletter and web site.
- bring to the attention of members the opportunities presented by national and international initiatives to promote volunteer schemes
- encourage members, planning to or using volunteers, to communicate the added value and policy to current employees
The following policies are also relevant in delivering the policy on Volunteers and the Local Community: