Volunteers are the lifeblood of Community Sport.
Based on success stories of grassroots footy clubs throughout Australia, the following are some simple yet useful tips to consider for your current & future volunteer recruitment needs:
The saying “perception is reality” should be considered by the club. Finding out the actual experience of volunteers will help determine whether the club is genuinely on the right track. The club committee needs to have an open and honest discussion about whether the club is putting its best foot forward when it comes to looking after its current volunteers & whether it would be attractive to new volunteers. An important step here is to seek feedback from current & past members as well as people no longer with the club to provide invaluable insights.
Ask things like:
- Could the club do more to make it more attractive for someone to volunteer
- Is it clear to the volunteers exactly what needs to be done (& where they can go for help) through a formal induction program?
- Is there a regular check-in?
- What examples can be given for how the club make volunteers feel special throughout the year?
- What examples are in place to actively seek to recruit more diversity (gender, background, age)?
- How does the club provide a benefit to each volunteer (not just focusing on what benefit the club receives from the volunteer)?
Assessing the views of current & past volunteers to these questions will help the committee prioritise what (if any) actions it will focus on to recruit more volunteers.
Two options are available here to help clarify what needs to be done – Either by simply focusing on filling the traditional roles with the same task list as the person currently filling that role … or through ALSO focusing on seeking to allocate some of those tasks to people based on their available time – to help share the load.
- Traditional structure. A more traditional Position Description method where you focus on the role (e.g. Vice President, Secretary, Social Coordinator, Bar Manager etc.) that includes the various tasks to seek to fill those roles. As a minimum this just needs to include the role title, key tasks & last updated date. Ask the current person completing that role to complete a draft for the Committee to review.
- “Micro-volunteering”. To help connect more people to volunteering roles, look at opportunities that suit any of the following (skills that people have, skills that the club needs, time that people have available).
To help with this approach, list out all key tasks that need to be filled and consider when this task can be complete and how long it might take. This list will be extensive and include tasks that take only minutes to complete (e.g. cleaning rooms, line marking, putting up goal post pads, picking up canteen supplies, adding content to a social media page, helping to set up for a social function, selling raffle tickets at a match etc) through to the bigger roles (helping to fill merchandise orders, overseeing the trophies – ordering, obtaining details of winners, grant applications etc.).
Many roles don’t require people to even be at the club to complete. Widely promote the fact that everyone is needed to help with at least one task / role and a role can be found to suit their needs / available time. The more ‘micro’ tasks that can be completed, the more that people feel connected to the club and the more than can be removed from the core volunteer roles – e.g. Sam may be able to come down to the club every second Tuesday & Thursday afternoon for 2 hours. You could allocate relevant tasks to Sam that could be done during that time that may normally sit across 2-3 separate Position Descriptions. This then lightens the load for those 2-3 Positions.
Neither option is better or worse, however matching the time (& skills) that people have with ‘micro’ tasks will be better for that volunteer and help reduce the burden on others. If one method works well for your club – stick to it. If it doesn’t, consider the other method. Either way, remember people may feel daunted when new to the club or sport, however clarity on what needs to be done will always help.
Whilst recruiting volunteers for even the core existing roles is difficult, the thought of adding a new role may be too daunting for many clubs. A Volunteer Coordinator role however would be a highly valuable position to help the club run effectively. They would help manage recruitment plans, help with induction, regular check-ins with volunteers to make sure they are supported & listened to and also oversee the all-important volunteer recognition/reward plans. They can oversee an annual volunteer health check to ensure you are then well placed for the next year (what works, what does the club need to improve), track how well volunteers are going with Safeguarding Children requirements etc.
An alternative to a Volunteer Coordinator role is to establish a process where all new volunteers at least have a ’buddy’ – someone with experience within the club that a new volunteer can go to & the committee takes on the role (proactively gaining regular feedback from volunteers & acting on this feedback).
To often, clubs don’t directly ask for help. Either not wanting to be a burden, or being concerned by a perceived lack of skills / culture fit. Actively & regularly promote that the club is a volunteer run club and many hands make light work. Share the list of tasks you need help with widely and follow up any interest.
As noted earlier, think about matching the available time or interest that someone has to a set of tasks or specific role. Most volunteers connected to a local footy club enjoy their experience but remember everyone will want something different from the experience based on their circumstances (time, interest, skills). Think laterally when looking for help:
- Current and past players & their places of work
- Use of social media
- Write a “welcome to the club” email to parents of new players – reminding them of where to find out more about the club, key contacts, reminding them of the importance that volunteers play within the club & ask for help. Note the relevant support available from the club to help new volunteers.
- Approach club sponsors / suppliers
- Set up an ad on “Seek” or other job search platforms
- Promote via local community website/newsletter
- Local schools, unis, tafes
- Does the committee or council have any connections to places such as retirement villages, men’s shed programs etc.
- Consider incentives to those who volunteer (&/or for those who refer a new volunteer) – similar to the way many business reward staff with a referral incentive, a player or club member who refers a new volunteer go receive an instant prize (e.g. fee discount) or go in the draw for a major prize (perhaps an offer from a local sponsor)
Remember that the roles conducted by the committee / match day volunteers are simply the main tasks that help a club run. Even the small roles like parents getting players to & from training, selling raffle tickets, getting a neighbor to attend a club event are all unpaid tasks that help a club run.
When you get some interest to help (however small), make sure you follow it up and get them involved. It is confusing for people who offer to help to then be ignored
Don’t just assume that the people currently doing that role will be around forever. Successful clubs can come unstuck when one or more of the key people who practically do everything are no longer involved. Benefits of succession planning include:
- Continuity for the club at times of volunteer turnover and minimises disturbance to club activities;
- Recognition and reward for long serving volunteers as they become mentors to new volunteers and can share their knowledge – be seen as leaving their ‘legacy’
- May help someone be more prepared to step up when a key person moves on. This may be from a Match Day role to the Committee … or from the General Committee to an Executive role.
- Ensures effective information sharing and record keeping avoiding the loss of critical information
- Helps reduce burnout fatigue of existing volunteers (through extra hands to take on key tasks)
The succession planning process doesn’t have to be daunting and can be broken down into some easy steps.
Starting the Succession Plan Process
To start the succession planning process, you first need to get an understanding of where your club is now and where it wants to go in the future. This is where the club’s Strategic Plan will come in handy!
Once you have looked at the club’s current position and future goals, it is essential to identify the vital roles that play a part in the current and future success of the club. Start by making a list of these roles, and the responsibility and skills required by the roles. When making the list, ask yourself:
- What roles are important to the success of the club now?
- What individuals are at risk of leaving the club in the near future?
- What roles / key skills are needed in the future?
- What roles / skills can the club not survive without?
- Does the club know anyone with those skills?
- What training / support could be provided to a new volunteer?
- Who is responsible for seeking to address the succession plan needs?
This is where your position descriptions and Volunteer Database will be helpful. Compare the skills required for the role (as listed in the PDs) with the skills of current volunteers as listed in the volunteer database. This will help identify potential successors and determine whether the club needs to look externally for new successors. The volunteer management information will help with the recruitment and induction of the potential successors.
Essential Documents for Succession Planning
The key to ensuring successful succession planning and smooth transition of volunteers is record keeping and information sharing.
Too often clubs are left stranded because a key volunteer kept all the information in their head and didn’t share it, leaving a black hole when they go. To alleviate the risk, ensure important information is recorded and stored in a central location that is easily accessible.
Important documents and information for successful succession planning includes:
- Club Strategic Plan
- Various club plans e.g. communication plan, recruitment plans etc
- Position Descriptions
- Various club databases e.g. volunteers, sponsors, members, past players etc.
- Work instructions, volunteer manuals and handover notes
- Polices and procedures
For more volunteer recruitment ideas check out the resources & links via the following organisations: