How to find the right volunteers for your club…and keep them.

Written by Natalie Doyle

October 27, 2021

A person with a volunteer t shirt on holding a clock

Volunteers are the lifeblood of grassroots clubs and if you find good ones, they are worth their weight in gold!  But with people living increasingly busy lives, it can be difficult to find people willing to volunteer that have the skills and commitment you need.  So how do you find these volunteers and keep them for the long term?  Here are some of my top tips:

1. Take the time to properly look at where your gaps are or where people might be overloaded. Before you start looking at recruiting volunteers, have a proper look at where you need them.  Are you struggling with player numbers and therefore might need support with marketing?  Are you not fully utilising your opportunity for sales in your tea hut at the weekend and need an extra pair of hands?  Do you have an existing volunteer who is considering leaving because they have too much on – perhaps you could split that role into two or more roles?

2. Make sure you are fully utilising your networks.  How much do you actually know about the parents, siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents of the children within your club?  Why not take the time to learn what they do for work, what their hobbies are, what skills and strengths they might have to offer your club?  This can be just by chatting to them at training or matches, or it could be a more formal form you could send out by email to gather the information.

3. Talk to the professionals.  There are a number of platforms that can help you advertise your volunteering opportunities.  DoIt or your local Volunteer Centre are great places to start. the National Council For Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) have some helpful information on their website too.

4. Make your opportunities as flexible as possible.  One thing that often puts people off volunteering is the lack of flexibility, but just as many paid roles are offering more flexible working, so can volunteer roles.  If people don’t have time to commit to every week, perhaps you could look at a ‘job share’ with another volunteer?  Perhaps the role can be broken down between multiple people so it requires less time per person and maybe plays to the skills and strengths of those individuals?  Are there certain elements of the volunteer roles you need that could be completed at any time and from home so people can fit it in around their busy lives?  Technology makes this easier than ever so try and use that to the advantage of you, your volunteers and your club.

5. Build relationships with local stakeholders.  Try and develop relationships with local colleges, universities and businesses.  There might be some students who are looking for experience in their chosen field, and this doesn’t necessarily mean just sports courses.  Students on marketing, finance, business courses, for example, would all have great knowledge to assist your club.  In addition to this, some business allow their employees to have ‘volunteering days’ so perhaps they could use those days to support your club?

6. Keeping volunteers involved.  There are a number of reasons why existing volunteers consider leaving their role.  One of the most common is feeling overworked and/or underappreciated.  If some of your existing volunteers have too many responsibilities, look at how you can spread these out and make them more manageable.  This could also help with succession planning – you could pair a less experienced volunteer with a more experienced volunteer and it’s likely they will learn from each other.  The more experienced volunteer can share the knowledge they’ve acquired through their experience and the less experienced volunteer might bring some new ideas and suggestions of new ways to do things.  The key to success with this is that both parties need to be open to learning from each other.  If you try to force it it can get messy!

7.  Show your appreciation.  Finally, think about how you can show your volunteers that they are appreciated.  This can simply be a ‘thank you’ for a job well done, nominating them for volunteering awards or giving them a token of your appreciation at your end of season presentation evening.  You can also help develop a sense of belonging by ensuring they have club kit, are invited to club social events, and that you regularly check in with them to find out the role is going.

Do you have any other tips for keeping and retaining volunteers?  I’d love to hear them so please feel free to share in the comments.

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