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National Volunteer Week 2024

14 May 2024

Volunteers are the lifeblood of local sport. Regardless of where your club is located, what sport you play and what level you compete, it simply could not happen without volunteers.

This Monday, May 20th, National Volunteer Week kicks off across Australia, shining a light on the importance of volunteers in Australian grass roots sport. More than 50% of Australians regularly volunteer in some capacity, or role in their community, either formally or informally, however, when considering formal volunteering, some concerning trends have emerged.

Many volunteers left their posts during 2020’s Covid-19 outbreak, and are yet to return, with statistics showing that there are significantly less volunteers today than there were in 2019, across all age groups and genders. So why are we seeing this drop and who is picking up the slack?

Aside from the obvious (that most sporting clubs needed to close their doors for some period of time throughout 2020 and 2021), there has been a social shift in the way Australians are living and where they are placing their priorities. Firstly, the cost of living has increased significantly, directly effecting the time, money and resources Australians can contribute to local sport as players or volunteers. Playing fees are now a luxury not every family can afford, and those substituting their income with additional employment now have less time spare to invest in their local clubs.

Furthermore, many Australians have adopted a more active focus on their mental health, by replacing competitive sports with more relaxing recreation like hiking or yoga and placing more value on their free time, sometimes at the expense of stressful volunteering roles.

The reduction in the number of volunteers nationally has created a greater workload for those still volunteering, putting them at risk of becoming burned out and creating a challenge for clubs to achieve all their goals, and not just the bare minimum.

What can be done to recruit more volunteers, and make the volunteering journey easier?

Creation of clear position descriptions: Having a clear description of each volunteer role at your club will make a volunteer role less intimidating for a new volunteer as they’ll have a good understanding of what’s expected of them. It will also help to improve the efficiency of volunteers as they’ll have a clear roadmap about which tasks they need to complete.

Ask for help, and delegate small tasks to new volunteers: Committee’s can often forget to ask for help, shouldering the bulk of the responsibilities in silence. Making a call out to players, parents and community members can be enough to encourage new volunteers, and asking for assistance with a small, clear task is a great way to encourage community members to volunteer. New volunteers are much more likely to engage with a small, approachable, short term role, (like cooking the BBQ at a once off sausage sizzle) than they are to accept a long term challenging role (like becoming the club’s treasurer or secretary), so consider ways to delegate small tasks to new volunteers.

Consider the professional skill set of your volunteers when deciding on roles, goals and responsibilities, and use all resources available to your club: Every volunteer, committee member, player, parent and supporter at your club will have a different skill set – use this to your advantage. If you’re club is considering upgrading facilities, assign a volunteer who works in the construction industry to oversee it; encourage volunteers with an accounting background to become your club’s treasurer; and search for a community member with graphic design or marketing training to run your clubs social media accounts. Assigning tasks to volunteers with the right skill set will save time and provide the best possible results.

Hand Over Committee Portfolios and Record Processes: Make sure your committee members, particularly those with specific roles and responsibilities record their processes and organise a handover at the end of their tenure. This will save new volunteers a huge amount of time and stress at the beginning of their volunteering journey and will have a huge impact on their confidence and energy levels as they settle into their role.

Create Sub-Committees: For fundraising, facility redevelopment or another club goal, a sub committee can be the fastest path to success. Clubs can create a subcommittee made up of committee members, volunteers and community members to take some pressure off the main committee member, and give volunteers who may have expertise in the area an opportunity to get involved.

How can clubs support, encourage and acknowledge their volunteers?

Support comes in many forms, and it is one of the most important elements required to retain volunteers. Support can be the recruitment of more volunteers to assist with a difficult or time-consuming task; it can be the purchase of software or equipment to make their position easier and faster; it can be access to training and education to help them develop their skills. But most importantly, support can be as simple as checking in regularly, giving volunteers the opportunity to ask questions and request more resources.

Maintaining morale and enjoyment can be a great way to keep volunteers happy, engaged and motivated. Adding short games or quizzes to committee meetings or hosting regular fun events for volunteers can be a great way to maintain a positive attitude at your club.

Finding a good way to acknowledge volunteers is important for retaining them. Volunteers don’t do what they do for the reward, the attention or the prizes, but it’s still a great way to show appreciation. Acknowledging volunteers by mentioning them at presentation evenings and on match days ensures volunteers know their hard work is seen and appreciated, and something as simple as movie tickets, a gift card, group dinner or a small gift can be a gesture that shows that the club values them. Remember, anyone can give a game day shout out to volunteers (not just the club President), so if you’re a player, parent or spectator, consider what you can do to acknowledge your club’s volunteers.

Every week, Sports Community works hard to help make volunteering easier and more enjoyable for Australians, and this National Volunteer Week, we’re hosting an informative and engaging webinar entitled: Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Volunteers in Your Sports Club. We’ll also be running multiple promotions throughout the week, so keep your eyes peeled, and check our website and social media accounts to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun!