Make Your Mark campaign: Heritage Volunteering for All

Erin Burke, Communications Officer for the Make Your Mark volunteering campaign, gives an introduction to the campaign and focuses on why inclusive heritage volunteering is important for Scotland’s heritage and communities.

The Places of Worship Forum (BEFS Secretariat) was recently delighted to welcome both Erin, as well as Sarah Pearce from Heritage Trust Network to hear about MYM in relation to places of worship.

We heard how the value that volunteering can bring to individuals, and the benefits those individuals can bring to organisations, is ever more important at times of increasing social and economic need.

What is Make Your Mark?

The Make Your Mark campaign aims to increase the number and diversity of heritage volunteers in Scotland and is part of the current Our Place in Time, Scotland’s national strategy for the historic environment. There are currently 79 volunteer-involving heritage organisations in Scotland signed-up to the campaign.

The campaign is supported by a partnership of major stakeholders in Scotland’s heritage and voluntary sectors, including Historic Environment Scotland, Volunteer Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, NatureScot, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Archaeology Scotland, Heritage Trust Network, National Galleries Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Scottish Council on Archives and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland.

Why is inclusive heritage volunteering important?

Who engages with heritage has implications for the sector and wider society. Currently, according to the most recent Scottish Household Survey (2019), those most likely to attend historical, natural or archaeological sites are predominantly people of privilege.

Engagement with the historic environment has many individual and community benefits, such as empowering people and building a sense of place (Our Place in Time, 2014). In addition to the benefits of engaging with heritage, volunteering has also been shown to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing, support skills development and strengthen social bonds within and between communities (Volunteer Scotland, 2019). If, however, these benefits continue to be unequally distributed amongst society’s privileged few, heritage organisations will continue to perpetuate inequality and miss out on a major opportunity to transform society.

With the onset of COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, inclusive heritage volunteering has only become more important. The pandemic and increasing prices have disproportionately impacted marginalised people, and the most recent Heritage Pulse Report (2022) has highlighted that 80% of organisations surveyed involved volunteers, with 28% of those reporting recruitment challenges. Increasing the number and diversity of heritage volunteers will support volunteer-involving heritage organisations by increasing the human resource, tools, and assistance available to preserve, restore and animate our heritage.

In a time of deepening societal inequality and increasing sectoral precarity, inclusive heritage volunteering is key to building a more equitable society and resilient heritage sector.

How can Make Your Mark support your organisation to involve a more diverse range of volunteers?

The Make Your Mark campaign supports heritage organisations to create inclusive volunteering programmes by:

  • Connecting heritage volunteer coordinators Scotland-wide. The Make Your Mark Volunteer Organisers Network hosts informal networking events for campaign members to connect, share their expertise and support each other.
  • Hosting free events for volunteer organisers. The Make Your Mark Volunteer Organisers Network also hosts inclusive volunteering case study events about a range of topics related to inclusive volunteering, such as removing class barriers, recognising racism in volunteer engagement and ethics in volunteer engagement.
  • Sharing inclusive volunteering practice. The Make Your Mark website is a hub of information about inclusive volunteering. The website also hosts a database of volunteer centres and community groups across Scotland that organisations can reach out to for additional advice about their volunteer programmes or to co-design volunteer opportunities.
  • Promoting volunteer opportunities. The campaign offers a free volunteer portal for members to advertise their volunteer opportunities. It serves as a centralised hub of heritage volunteering opportunities in Scotland.
  • Celebrating the achievements of volunteers. Make Your Mark invites members’ volunteers to submit short blogs and videos about their roles and why they volunteer, which are promoted on the campaign’s website and social media.
  • Advocating for change. The campaign has partnered with the University of Strathclyde to create a data baseline for the demographics of heritage volunteers in Scotland. This resource is currently being developed, but will be used to push for wider change and funding for increasing inclusivity across the sector.

How can your organisation join Make Your Mark?

Any heritage organisation in Scotland that works with volunteers or would like to begin working with volunteers can join Make Your Mark, including public, private, charitable and other entities. The campaign has a wide definition of heritage, and welcomes built, natural and cultural heritage organisations and projects.

Joining the Make Your Mark campaign is free – the only requirement is that organisations sign the Make Your Mark Expression of Commitment to signal their dedication to inclusive volunteering.

More information about Make Your Mark can be found at