Volunteering is a vital part of the success of any sports club. Whether it’s providing helping hands for any events the club hosts or undertaking necessary tasks for match days or day-to-day business, volunteers can become important long-term members of your club, providing invaluable information or ideas for growth, organisation and planning.
But how do you hire volunteers? Where do you find them? How do you keep them motivated? This article seeks to answer these questions, providing you with a guide on how to recruit volunteers and what to do with them.
Why are volunteers important for a club?
A volunteer can be a passionate fan, a friend or family member of a player or staff member or simply a member of the public who is looking to give back to their community. Recruiting a diverse selection of volunteers can help you:
- bring new ideas and areas of expertise to the table when it comes to club matters
- give you extra pairs of hands for the general admin of any events or games put on by the club
- provide your volunteers with a healthy community that they are proud to be a part of.
Often in grassroots settings, we rely heavily on a few volunteers who go above and beyond. Every club has volunteer superstars without whom it seems impossible. However, relying on the good nature of a few individuals won’t lead to long-term growth, could risk using-up their goodwill and could put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a few.
Well-run clubs with good structure, communication and motivation in-place for their volunteers can successfully recruit, retain and utilise skilled and passionate volunteers who can make all the difference for your success.
How to recruit volunteers
1. Start simple
The best place to start when looking for volunteers is to think about easy volunteering recruitment opportunities, such as:
- friends of the club
- parents or associates of your players and staff members,
- existing staff members
- local businesses
You can then expand your search to local schools and colleges - in particular, those who might be interested in sports. You can contact your local Guides and Scouts groups, local volunteer groups and invite your club members to use their social media accounts to spread the word that you’re looking for volunteers too.
2. Be open
When it comes to who you want to recruit, be open-minded about those who respond. Volunteers can bring with them such a varied range of expertise and experience - and you never know when a plumber or an electrician might come in handy! Be grateful for any offer of help that you get and every pair of hands can be welcome.
3. Let people try
Offering people the opportunity to try their hand at volunteering before they commit to a role can be a great way to encourage prospective volunteers to ‘try before they buy’ and take the fear out of signing up.
If you host regular ‘give it a go’ volunteer events, you can hopefully attract lots of people who may be interested in volunteering on a more permanent basis. If they like what they see, they’ll be permanently on board in no time.
4. Bring a friend
Inviting your staff, existing volunteers or even players to ‘bring a friend’ to help volunteer for a specific event or occasion is an easy way of doubling your numbers and securing extra help for important events. When you’ve got your extra volunteers for a specific day, you can work on encouraging them to sign up on a more permanent basis.
5. Make volunteering part of your culture
Rather than tackling finding volunteers as an afterthought - make the concept of volunteering part of your club culture. Remind your paying members that you can’t host events without volunteers. Encourage friends and family to give up their time and shout from the rooftops about how important your volunteers are and how grateful the club is for their help.
A club which is open and upfront about their reliance on volunteers and grateful for their time is one which will succeed. You should also highlight how great volunteering can be for the volunteers too - they’re a part of a community, are doing important work and can make friends, build on their work experience and contribute to the success of their local club.
6. Incentivise them
It's important to remember that volunteering should be fun, but you can also incentivise your volunteers too. Whether you can provide free tickets to your sporting events, free refreshments while they volunteer or another small token of appreciation, this will go a long way to help you recruit and keep new volunteers.
What tasks can your volunteers do?
There’s no limit to the type of tasks which your volunteers can help your club with - it depends which jobs need doing, which skills you have amongst your volunteers and which events you need help with.
Typically, they help to marshal, manage crowds, provide assistance where necessary and even help with fundraising too.
It’s important to match your volunteers up with tasks that suit their needs - both in terms of skills and interest too, so be sure to consider who is the best fit for each individual task.
For example, you may have a keen artist who can help you to design some flyers, a business owner who can help with snack bar budgeting and keeping a spreadsheet (without treading on the treasurer’s toes!), or someone who enjoys the social aspect of volunteering, so would be a perfect fit for a steward’s role - taking tickets and other front-of-house duties.
Tip. If you’re looking to host a particular event at your club, then you should first write down the list of tasks which will need completing, both in the run-up to the day and on the day itself. You can then determine which of your volunteers are best suited to which tasks on the day, based on skills and availability.
How to motivate your volunteers
Recruiting your volunteers isn’t enough to help your club’s success - you’ll need to keep them on board too. Keeping your volunteers motivated and incentivised is how you’ll ensure their retention.
Here are 6 top tips for motivating your volunteers.
1. Welcome them to your club
While you might not be paying your volunteers for their time, it’s important to welcome each new volunteer to the club to let them know how important their work will be.
Whether you choose to write them a welcome letter, to officially introduce them to your club members and staff on their first day, or host a special event to thank all of your volunteers - be sure to make each and every volunteer feel like an important part of your organisation.
2. Be grateful
This might seem like a straightforward tip - but actually, one reason why volunteers may not stick around is because they feel like their good nature has been taken for granted.
Being openly grateful, expressing your thanks and letting each volunteer know exactly how invaluable their help is for the club is a great place to start when it comes to keeping your team motivated. Not only is it a nice thing to do, but it’s a nice thing to hear too!
3. Don’t take them for granted
Be realistic when it comes to the expectations you put on your volunteers. You may have some that are more keen to help than others, but it’s important not to take them for granted, so don’t ask too much of them.
While it’s fantastic to have volunteers who are enthusiastic, their tasks should also be manageable and enjoyable for the most part too.
4. Understand their motivation
In order to keep your volunteers motivated, it’s important to understand what it is that motivates them.
- Are they looking to give back to the community?
- Are they looking to boost their CV?
- Are they passionate about sports?
Ask them individually why they’re looking to volunteer and try to distribute your tasks accordingly.
For example: if you’ve got someone who’s keen to build their work experience, then perhaps let them help with more administrative tasks that will help for the future. If you’ve got a keen sports fan, give them the task of helping on game day.
5. Include them
Let your volunteers know how important their input is by including them on important decisions. Invite them to any committee meetings you’re having, ask their opinion on future club plans and give them a platform to share their thoughts and more importantly - to have their thoughts heard.
6. Return the favour
While the entire concept of volunteering is that you give up your time for no reward - it’s important to help out your volunteers wherever possible, should they need it.
A great example is there may be volunteers looking to boost their work experience, and a senior member of the club could provide a reference for their job applications.
Good volunteers are worth their weight in gold and will be incredibly beneficial to the success of the club. You’ll now know more about how to recruit volunteers, where to find them, how to put them to work, and how to keep them engaged. Good luck!