Case Study

“I’ve learnt new skills and that’s given me confidence.”

Date published: 30 May 2023

Posted by: Joe Pick

Anna McLaughlin wearing an academic gown, leaning on a statue

Volunteers are very important to small charities like City Arts. Recently, we’ve been working with Anna McLaughlin, a University of Leeds graduate with Masters degree in Arts Management and Heritage Studies.

Anna joined us after seeing our request for volunteers, giving her time once a week to help process the huge amount of data we capture on our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This includes registering new participants, capturing surveys about the quality of our work and logging all our events. Anna also had the opportunity to volunteer with us at events like Nottingham Light Night, and to help hang exhibitions in The Window Gallery at City Arts.

Anna has since gone on to a job at the Audience Agency. She spoke to us about what she got from volunteering with City Arts…

My dissertation was about audience engagement. I proposed a new, decentralized model for museums that was more community-led. When I came across City Arts and read your website’s ‘about’ section it really married up with everything that I had been doing at Uni. That is the sort of work that I want to go into eventually. City Arts’ values are similar to my own.

I liked having a day where I could go into a work environment, have contact with people and get to know a bit more about the inner workings of an arts organisation. I was seeing how the organisation worked first hand, which was really nice to see.

People march through Nottingham street holding illuminated willow and tissue paper lanterns
The Light Night Lantern Parade 2023

Everyone at City Arts was really open and willing to answer my questions. That was really nice. I hadn’t quite expected the amount of support and guidance that I got. I was giving a few hours of my week and in return I was learning a lot of skills. I had a group of people to help me develop my skills, to be a reference for me and who I could bounce ideas off to do with job applications and interviews. It was a really equal exchange between me and the organisation. My parents don’t work in the arts, so it was great to have access to the knowledge that is in the room at City Arts.

Volunteering with City Arts help me better understand what’s going on in Nottingham. Not even just on the art scene, but in the community. I learnt about the kind of issues that are in the city, and how arts projects can play a role in addressing them.

A photography exhibition in the Window Gallery at City Arts
‘The Red Dress Project’ Exhibition by Manuela Benini

I don’t think I would have my current job without having volunteered at City Arts. I’ve referred to the work I’ve done with City Arts a lot during job interviews. I’ve learnt new skills and that’s given me confidence. It also showed me that there are a lot of roles in arts organisations that I might not have seen myself doing before. I’d felt that maybe facilitating workshops was the only way to feel like you’re actually making a ‘difference’. In reality there are lots of roles that contribute, communication and administration for example.  Being at City Arts, you really got the feeling that it is a team effort.

I think volunteering is perfect for people who are maybe looking for jobs and have the time in the week to go into the office and just do a few hours. City Arts is such a flexible organisation, it can fit around the person’s schedule. It’s definitely worth having on your CV if you are trying to break into the sector.

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