There are many articles written on how Professional Federations, Sporting Leagues and Clubs have managed through the difficult times including the COVID-19 pandemic and also what they need to do to get themselves ‘amongst it’ again. Terms such as fan engagement, alternative revenue streams, digital marketing, strategy, communications, entertainment, player commitment, stakeholder engagement – the list is a big one.

Professional Clubs and Federations like their Grassroot counterparts also rely on volunteers.  Their brands are so well known and people are attracted and engaged to them. Volunteer numbers are not as vital because these professional organisations have paid staff to drive their everyday business and match day operations. Same can be said with some semi-professional organisations, as they too have paid staff albeit on a much smaller scale. However, it is a different story with Grassroots Community sports organisations.

As a whole they are run on a volunteer basis and in some cases a dwindling one at that.  Most Grassroots Community sports organisations are not cashed up.  They rely on volunteers to run their operations and if they lose volunteers or simply don’t have enough, they could wind up. That leaves their local community down in sporting offerings.

What can be done about it? Asking people, dividing up key roles such as the treasury and secretarial tasks, target people with a required key and specific skillset, University interns, and the list goes on. This method though can be too ‘scatter gunned’. A bit of strategy and planning will help.

Volunteer Plan

A Plan needs to be developed and implemented. The Plan should primarily focus on tasks that need to be performed as well as recruiting and retaining volunteers.  There should be a focus on the goals and objectives as well as the vision , mission and core values of the sports organisation and what positions and tasks are required to deliver for the organisation to run successfully. Job Descriptions are a paramount. This will help spread the workload,to efficiently manage programs and costs, and most importantly give people responsibilities and accountabilities.

Strategies should be be developed and implemented. These could include:

  • Recruitment and retention of people, especially targeting certain skill sets;
  • Where you should look, e.g. local business community, universities;
  • When to look;
  • Approaching potential volunteers;
  • Volunteer offerings;
  • Screening of volunteers;
  • Recognition and reward;

Strategies should have activities attached to them. Also include actions, purpose, responsibilities, priorities and a deadline date.

The appointment of a volunteer coordinator or a sub-committee to drive the whole process should be considered.  Developing a task matrix should also be considered.

Resources

There are resources out there that people can access.

Sport Australia has resources available at  https://www.sportaus.gov.au/volunteering

Organisations that specialise in volunteering have resources available as do State Government departments that specialise in sport.

Talk to a sports consultancy/sports management firm to help you with your Volunteer planning and objectives.

Folk that run sports organisations may need help in recruiting, retaining, training up and even assessing volunteers. One thing though, just don’t recuit anyone – you’re better off not having a volunteer than having one that is of mediocre quality and not a good fit!

Insurance

Volunteers are covered by insurance (via the respective sports member federation insurance program) for personal injury. Through this insurance scheme, Committee folk are also covered by Directors insurance and the Sports organisations have Public liability insurance coverage.  If the sports organisation is a privately run business (e.g. a privately owned Academy) then they source their own insurances.

Why Do People Volunteer

Some of the reasons why people volunteer are as follows:

  • They are retired and have spare time;
  • To meet new people;
  • To give back to the local community;
  • Family or friends are involved with the organisation;
  • University students as part of their course requirements;
  • Learn new skills;
  • Enjoyment;
  • Leave a legacy.

Why Don’t People Volunteer

Some of the reasons why people volunteer are as follows:

  • Time poor;
  • Not asked;
  • Perceived as too time consuming;
  • Don’t want to commit:
  • Not appreciated;
  • Abuse;
  • An ageing population therefore people are obligated to look after older family members.

The Challenge Ahead

Consider contacting students studying sports management. Work placement is a part of their degree completion so they’ll welcome the opportunity for any hands-on experience. Retirees are another option when seeking motivated helpers keen to encourage healthy communities through sport.  Local community people should be targeted. Putting a simple message out on Social Media will help.  Local Government Councils maybe able to help. Nowadays people have to have clearances such as a Working With Children Check and also sign a Code of Conduct to be able to volunteer.

In Australia, the big challenge now is getting people to re-engage with community sports as they redefine life outside of lockdowns.  This includes engaging volunteers to run the local Club/Sports Organisation.

Grassroots sports will play a vital role for the community in winning back the hearts and minds of a lot of people looking to participate in organised activities.

My suggestion is to focus on promoting the primary motivations for community sport involvement like:

  • boosting mental health;
  • positive social engagement.

Sport is a great vehicle for bringing people together.

I use a statement that epitomises this:

Every member of our community will experience the teamwork and social inclusion created by participating in their chosen sport.