Volunteers – keep them onside

Volunteers are more likely to stay at your club if they have a fun and rewarding experience, says Sport England. And with more than 32 million over-16s giving up their free time, the industry body offers top tips on attracting and keeping young volunteers.

Volunteers are more likely to stay at your club if they have a fun and rewarding experience, says Sport England. And with more than 32 million over-16s giving up their free time, the industry body offers top tips on attracting and keeping young volunteers.

Research shows that sports volunteers give more time per week and volunteer more frequently than the average volunteer. Making their experience as fun as possible and recognising their incredible commitment is, therefore, vital.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always what happens. In fact, sports volunteers are far more likely than volunteers in other sectors to quit – largely because they feel undervalued, unrecognised or because they’ve had poor experiences in an unorganised environment.

So, what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen at your club?

There are plenty of ideas you can employ to provide a fantastic experience at every point along a volunteer’s journey. It doesn’t have to be lots of work, and it is often the little things that make the biggest difference.

Providing a great experience won’t only help keep volunteers at your club, but they’ll also become your best ambassadors for recruiting volunteers in the future.

The welcome
Welcoming your new volunteers is vital to making a good first impression.

A well-planned welcome process, or induction, can help a new volunteer feel supported, informed, valued and can enable them to make a contribution straight away. Use the Induction Checklist to structure your introductions and make sure you don’t miss anything out.
Why not ask your current volunteers to think back to when they were new and ask them to suggest ideas which will help others feel welcome and supported?

Continue the connection
Setting aside some time to communicate with, and – more importantly – listening to your volunteers will help them remain motivated and committed to your club. It will allow you all to be working towards your shared club goals together.

Volunteers may have different ways they prefer to stay in contact – from texts and emails to social media. It’s a good idea to check what works best for them.

Ways to to stay in touch with your volunteers include:

  • Social media Facebook or Twitter and other Social Media sites can be great ways to keep your volunteers updated, as well as interacting with them on a range of topics.
  • Meetings Informal meetings, as a group or individually, will give volunteers a chance to ask any questions they may have, and suggest new ideas and projects.
  • E-mail The majority of volunteers will have email addresses so this is a good opportunity to keep them updated and help them stay in touch with each other.
  • Social events This is a good way to informally engage with your volunteers and participants. It is a great place for them to meet other volunteers, and it’s fun too!

Make them feel valued
As simple as it may sound, thanking volunteers for their time and effort is often forgotten about or overlooked. You could do this in a formal or informal way. Some ideas include:

  • Volunteer award evenings.
  • Volunteer recognition in newsletters, or other club
  • Personal thank-you letters.
  • Regular ‘shout-outs’ at the end of activity sessions.
  • A successful volunteer programme is a team effort, so share information about the vital role of volunteers, and the difference they are making to the club with staff, Board members and members,.

Recognising young volunteers
If you have young people volunteering with you, a great way to recognise their efforts is through vInspired awards, a charity which pairs organisations with young volunteers (14-25 year olds). Through vInspired, young volunteers can work towards their V10, v30, v30 and v100 awards, showing how many hours they’ve spent volunteering, which look great on CVs and as a discussion point in job interviews.

So, if your club currently has 14-25 year olds vol- unteering with you, or it could do in the future, you can sign-up with vInspired as an award provider. If your young people also sign-up with vInspired, they can start working towards their awards.

Around 850,000 young people aren’t in education, employment or training. At the same time, commu- nities are struggling. Volunteering, says vInspired, helps young people thrive, and transforms the com- munities they live in. It teaches them vital skills and prepares them for the future.

There are already more than 32 million over-16s volunteering. They make a massive contribution to communities, charities and individuals across the country.

Last year, vInspired helped 31,439 young people do 460,611 hours of voluntary work – the equivalent of over 52 years working flat out. It partners with over 4,400 charities around the UK and works with young people from the ages of 14 to 25, offering a full path toward training and employment.

Leadership, mentoring and coaching
Whatever role a volunteer takes on at your club, chances are they will be responsible for a particular things and this is likely to include supporting and working alongside others, whether it involves line- management or not. They will be developing leadership skills, such as prioritisation, time-management, delegation, trustworthiness and selfmotivation, as well as, soft skills like problem-solving and adaptability.

Take the time to discuss with your volunteers what they are looking for from a role; for example, if there are particular skills they would like to develop or improve upon. Check-in with them regularly to see if they’re happy with how they’re developing. In this way you can help create a meaningful, valuable experience for your volunteers.

Article published in Clubhouse Europe issue 18