£1million National Lottery fund launches to enable digital volunteering in heritage sector

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£1million of National Lottery funding is now available for heritage organisations to develop a strong network of digital volunteers – wherever their location. Applications to The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative open today. This funding challenges organisations to remove barriers such as place and time restraints and create ‘at distance’ volunteering opportunities online. It is part of the organisation’s support to the heritage sector to recover from and innovate in response to the pandemic.

The scheme could (for example) give someone living in Scotland the chance to contribute to social media skills training for an organisation based in Cornwall. Somebody with only a small amount of time to spare could make a big impact by adding information about their favourite childhood museum’s collection to a global platform such as Wikipedia, opening it up to thousands of people. Other volunteering opportunities might include collecting data or tagging images, carrying out website design or running online events.

“The UK has so much to offer in terms of heritage, and it’s not always possible for people to travel to experience it” says Ros Kerslake, CEO at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, “equally the perfect volunteer may only have a small amount of time to give.”

“Digital volunteering can help open doors for all involved, keeping more of us connected to heritage. Organisations will benefit from the time and expertise of people who may not have been able to volunteer in person, and volunteers will be able to share and develop their skills while supporting the heritage they love. It’s a win-win situation for everyone and we are delighted to launch this fund, thanks to National Lottery players who raise £36million each week for good causes.”

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the heritage sector hard, pushing access to heritage solely online in many cases and proving just how key digital skills are. The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s 2020 Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) survey and report identified an appetite to develop digital skills across the sector, as well as the opportunity for organisations to benefit from ‘at distance’ volunteers.

This new funding responds to the needs highlighted in the survey, allowing organisations to develop their own understanding and use of digital volunteers – building vital skills and capacity. Successful volunteering models will be shared to continue to create a resilient and innovative future for the heritage sector.

Ros added: “This £1million of National Lottery funding will enable organisations to establish new kinds of volunteering roles, develop their digital capacity and provide new opportunities. These projects will help put the heritage sector at the forefront of digital volunteering. They will create opportunities for people to benefit from getting involved in something they just could not have before and allow them to really make a positive difference. We can’t wait to see the ideas organisations come up with!”

Applications to The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative open today. Visit our website for more information and to apply.

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