The principle barrier is time, or more to the point, lack of it. To counter this, we run a range of volunteer sessions on both weekdays and at weekends. When it comes to helping out on our nature reserves there’s also no minimum level of time commitment - once you’ve registered you can just come along to the sessions when you’re free.
Another, possibly more problematic, barrier is a lack of understanding of what the work involves and an assumption that people make that they won’t have the necessary skills to help make a difference. In the past we’ve made this barrier worse by using technical management terms when advertising volunteering opportunities. Terms such as coppicing, a traditional form of woodland management, are not common knowledge and more general terms such as ‘conservation work day’ are so vague as to mean very little. Both make it hard for people to assess whether they have the necessary skills to help.
We now make a real effort to make it clear that anyone who’s fit and able enough to do some gardening tasks such as pruning, digging and raking will be well placed to lend a hand on our nature reserves - but we still need to do more to make volunteering easier to get involved with.
Over the past few months we’ve been overhauling our volunteer programme and we’ve now streamlined the registration process. We’ve also committed to it running a number of ‘have a go’ sessions where people can just turn up with no need for pre-applications or registration. By being clearer about the skills and help we need and by making it easier to get involved we hope that we can engage a whole new army of volunteers to work alongside the hundreds who already help us promote and protect the county’s wildlife.