The difference we made


Helping Hands – a Cumbria-wide partnership programme involving more than 30 museums, theatres, arts centres, historic houses and heritage sites that ran from summer 2022 to spring 2024 – aimed to break down barriers to volunteering across the county and contribute to improved community wellbeing and increased workforce diversity.

Our project evaluation identified five key lessons learned about developing equitable volunteering programmes in cultural organisations, which you can read about below.

Helping Hands in Numbers

Programme Impacts


Benefits experience by volunteers

The evaluation has identified a wide range of benefits experienced by volunteers as a result of their participation in volunteering through Helping Hands: social benefits such as making friends and getting out more; increased confidence in the workplace; having more structure in their routine; sense of community; feeling included and welcomed regardless of their differences or additional needs; developing new skills and knowledge; feeling useful; improved mental health and reduced anxiety; and enjoying their engagement with arts and culture.

Impacts on individual cultural organisations

Impacts on individual cultural organisations varied greatly and the evaluation found that some more engaged partners had been able to benefit more than others. The benefits described by partner organisations as a result of the programme were: change in attitudes to volunteering; increased capacity provided by both volunteers and the Helping Hands programme team; deeper understanding of diversity and accessibility; and improvements to volunteer management systems.

Impacts for the sector

To develop and strengthen connections across the county, including: improved links between cultural organisations; connections with service providers across health, social care, housing, education and employment; and increased awareness services provided by Cumbria CVS. There is now a tried and tested training offer specific to the needs of arts and cultural organisations available across the county; and partners know where to go for specialist, locally tailored advice on aspects of diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

Lessons Learned


The evaluation identified five key lessons learned about developing more inclusive volunteering programmes:


1. Personal relationships and face to face contact are vital to the successful implementation of inclusive volunteering.

2. Barriers to inclusive volunteering sit mostly within the host organisations, and not with the volunteer.

3. There is significant value in creating a culture of care in volunteer management.

4. It is very difficult to make generalisations about best practice in volunteering.

5. Inclusive volunteering practice can benefit all volunteers, not just those with additional barriers to participation.


These should be read alongside the programme team’s work to articulate and share the ingredients of inclusive volunteering.

To download the evaluation report in it’s entirety, click the button below.

Our Funders

Skip to content