The single greatest impediment to increasing participation in sport is attracting, training and retaining the volunteers that sport relies on to deliver events and programs.
Attracting and retaining volunteers is not easy, largely because volunteering involves freedom of choice on the part of the volunteer. People who feel empowered, rewarded and appreciated in their volunteer role are more likely to contribute to and continue in that role.
Why people volunteer
Implementing a comprehensive and successful volunteer program requires time, commitment and personnel, as well as an understanding of why people volunteer. Typically people volunteer for one of more of the following reasons (in order of importance):
- Help others/community
- Personal/family involvement
- Personal satisfaction
- To do something worthwhile
- Social contact
- Felt obliged/just happened
- Use skills/experience
- Gain work experience/reference
- To be active
- Religious beliefs
- To learn new skills
- Volunteers in total sport organisations reported a variety of reasons for volunteering with the 3 main reasons being to help others in the community (53% or 1.0 million), personal satisfaction (46% or 0.8 million) and personal or family involvement (46% or 0.8 million).
- There were some differences in the reasons for volunteering among males and females. A greater proportion of females than males reported personal or family satisfaction (54% and 40% respectively) as their main reason for volunteering in total sport organisations.
- In comparison, males reported helping others in the community as their main reason for volunteering in total sport organisations (54% of males compared with 52% of females), followed by personal satisfaction (47% and 45% respectively).
A well designed volunteer program will acknowledge these reasons for volunteering and strive to meet the needs of the volunteers by recognising their contribution. Success in doing so will return many benefits, both to the volunteer and the organisation they work for. The benefits include:
Volunteer satisfaction, which will translate into:
- More productive volunteers
- Improved volunteer retention and recruitment
- Better programs and activities delivered by volunteers
- Member satisfaction because the organisation will be able to develop and deliver more and better events and programs efficiently and cost effectively
- Competitive advantage because the organisation is able to offer members and potential members so much more than it's less well resourced competitors
- Promotional credibility because satisfied members and volunteers will speak positively about the organisation
- Innovation and creativity arising from the ideas and energy of a motivated volunteer workforce.
The ASC highlights the importance of a volunteer program valuing diversity:
Australia has a very diverse community. Indeed, multiculturalism is one way in which Australia defines itself. Valuing diversity is conceptually different from equal opportunity and affirmative action, which are primarily concerned to reduce racism and sexism. Valuing diversity means behaving in a way that creates community among people and gains benefits from their differences. While diversity is the reality, surprisingly, many people are unprepared to handle it. Many have had little personal experience with other cultures, and their previous experience may not have covered the kinds of situations that arise in today’s multicultural settings. Various cultures may have different ideas about volunteering, work habits, communication patterns, social roles and a myriad of other issues, all of which need to be treated empathically.
Diversity within sport and recreation organisations will often enhance the creativity of members. Ideas and experiences that various sections of the community can bring to the table can greatly enhance the problem-solving ability of sport and recreation organisations. Not only does diversity introduce new ideas and experiences, but it also provides a measurable increase in knowledge and skill. New ways of looking at things and doing things gives organisations greater adaptability in a changing environment. A further benefit of diversity is that organisations can make better decisions based on differing perspectives through the generation of a wider range of alternatives and a more rigorous analysis of these alternatives. An organisation that values diversity provides more appropriate services to diverse populations. Diversity can also help develop new markets that might use the services offered by sport and recreation organisations.
Valuing diversity allows you to recruit from a larger pool of potential volunteers. By not being restricted to a certain demographic, sport and recreation organisations are able to recruit from the whole community, using the unique skills and abilities of individual volunteers. In essence, valuing diversity helps create an environment that nurtures the multicultural fabric of the community within sport and recreation organisations.
Softball Australia is developing a toolkit to assist Associations and Clubs with the management of their volunteers. Meanwhile, the following Volunteer Management Checklist provides a snapshot of the components of an effective volunteer program and should result in a positive volunteer experience.