Consortium takes over Join In

Join in, the Olympic legacy volunteering project is in new hands. I’m interested, and excited to see that the consortium led by the Sport and Recreation Alliance includes the Do-it Trust – the recently revamped volunteer matching site, Volunteering Matters, Jump and VolunteerKinetic – a web-based volunteer management system. Having worked with several of these organisations I am quite optimistic for the future of sport volunteering.

For more information see ivo article.

Two great toolkits to copy

Here are some really useful resources that will help anyone managing volunteers for a club, an organisation or an event. They have been produced by large, reputable bodies and are freely available. So take a look, and start editing and adapting what helps you.

Adult Volunteer Management Toolkit from the DofE

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is the phenomenally successful scheme that challenges young people to learn skills, volunteer and embark on an expedition. The charity, which is celebrating it’s diamond anniversary this year, has transformed the lives of 2 million young people since it started 60 years ago.

Graphic showing 2 million young people have achieved their DofE

2016 is Diamond Challenge year

This toolkit is for adult volunteers who support organisations that are delivering DofE awards  – not to be confused with guidelines that are given to young people taking the award. The toolkit is mega! It has every template you could ever need, it’s downloadable and it’s just been updated. So if you are looking for good practice to copy – applications forms, interview questions, induction checklists plus guidelines to help you write your volunteer policy and handbook – it is all here. In fact it has 23 document templates that you might need for managing volunteers. It is a gem. Thank you DofE for doing such a great job.

Download the toolkit here:

Volunteer toolkit from England Athletics

Image of booklets that make up the toolkit

England Athletics Volunteer toolkit is aimed at clubs

This helpful resource separates into sections focusing on recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteers in a club environment. It also has a useful list of volunteer role descriptions and some editable posters to advertise volunteer opportunities.

Download the toolkit here:


How do you manage a mix of volunteers?

So you’ve worked hard recruiting volunteers for your big sports event. You’ve got local people engaged, maybe some volunteers who have helped at other big events, and you’ve got the regular bunch of helpers who know your sport inside out. How do you throw all of these people at an event and make sure it works? How do you manage a mix of volunteers with different backgrounds and experiences? This is how we did it at the World Orienteering Championships held in Scotland in  2015.

We appointed Team Leaders to manage specific functions. Some of these Leaders were sport specialists and others had specific technical skills. Each of these “Functional Team Leaders” managed a strand of the event delivery. They knew their function in detail and they were supported by the Volunteer Management Team who took care of all generic volunteer administration and communications. Here is how the Volunteer Management Team confirmed the process and responsibilities with the Functional Team Leaders:

Functional team leaders responsibilities for volunteers Functional team leaders responsibilities for volunteers2 Functional team leaders responsibilities for volunteers3


Last weekend, we celebrated my 100th run at Guildford parkrun. And somebody hummed this tune.

The build up to my 100 started with She’s the girl!!!!. And in the briefing, the Event Director informed 320 runners that they were all shivering in Stoke Park on a bitterly cold February day because of me. Because four years ago I helped set up Guildford parkrun. He joked that it had taken me four whole years to reach my century milestone – and hinted at my lack of commitment, and then revealed that it had taken so long because I had volunteered nearly 100 times too.

I’m pleased that I’ve earned a coveted black 100 T-shirt. Although plenty of runners have done it before me. In fact, at the time of writing, there are 13526 other runners in the parkrun “100 club“.

100 parkrun

I’m far more proud of my volunteering T-shirt and the part I have played in Guildford parkrun. Nothing beats the feeling that we’ve started something that will carry on – every week – free – and organised by volunteers.

And I know the current Event Directors are proud of our event and our parkrun community. Even the Council are proud of our parkrun. It made the front cover of the Guildford Sport Development Strategy.

This weekend I found out just how many people are proud of our 5k run in the park.

For all the volunteers, the core team and especially the present Event Directors, this is for us. Hum a little tune.

It’s a World Champs, we’ll need 100s of volunteers, and it’s 500 miles away….

“Congratulations to the organisers and army of volunteers who helped make this happen” Dougie Vipond, The Adventure Show, BBC2 Scotland.

He was referring to the Event Team of 700 volunteers who have just delivered a Home World Orienteering Championships. A Team that was put together specially for this complex, week-long event that was broadcast live on TV. It was also held in parallel with the biggest ever Scottish 6-days making this the biggest and highest profile orienteering event ever staged in the UK.

It was a good year for Denmark, Ida Bobach World Champion at the finish of the Long Race in Glen Affric. Courtesy Liveblog

It was a good year for Denmark, Ida Bobach World Champion at the finish of the Long Race in Glen Affric. Courtesy Liveblog

The Challenge

In May 2012, British Orienteering’s Dave Peel, recruited me into the post of WOC2015 Volunteer Manager, as a volunteer, because he could see that the team needed experience from other major sports events. My brief: Recruit a workforce to deliver the World Championship and support the Scottish 6 Days in a remote part of the UK using volunteers from outside of Scotland, and ensure that most of the orienteering volunteers can take part in most of the 6-Days.

My induction came at WOC2012 in Switzerland. Here I learnt about silent starts and sponsors, quarantines and TV demands and strict International Federation Protocols that govern a World Championships. The London Olympics came soon after WOC, and my role as a Team Leader in the Aquatic Centre was a welcome inspiration.


We started by defining roles, identifying what could be done by people without orienteering experience, and recruiting and selecting the right people for different jobs. We had to develop our own recruitment and communication systems and I am grateful to Paul Frost, the SOA Web Developer, who helped me build a very effective volunteer recruitment website which was integrated with MailChimp for our sign-up and communication systems. I also promoted opportunities on the Volunteer Scotland website which enabled us to attract Commonwealth Games volunteers.

Of the volunteers, 120 came from outside of the sport of orienteering to do roles like sprint control marshalling, minibus driving and arena building. 580 were orienteers from all over the UK and Europe.

Volunteers came from orienteering clubs all over the UK and beyond, from local running clubs and parkrun, Volunteer Scotland, Glasgow 2014 and all of the organisations shown above

Volunteers came from orienteering clubs all over the UK and beyond, from local running clubs and parkrun, Volunteer Scotland, Glasgow 2014 and all of the organisations shown above


Everyone needed to understand the scale of the World Champs and the orienteers needed to see how it differed from regular multi-day events.  As nothing existed, we developed our own induction and training resources including videos from footage we’d recorded at previous WOCs. We wrote comprehensive briefing instructions for control marshals to make sure they didn’t jeopardise the integrity of a sprint race. We also produced safety and social media guidelines.

My team did some clever stuff with MailChimp to produce team and key contacts lists, and to send tailored, personalized messages to each volunteer, reminding them of their team and role and including relevant inductions. These tailored communications helped us achieve a 100% turnout of volunteers on the day.

Crowds getting ready to watch the Relay in front of Darnaway Castle, Moray

Crowds getting ready to watch the Relay in front of Darnaway Castle, Moray


All of the Event Team needed uniforms, photo accreditation passes and lunches – a significant undertaking. We also identified some unexpected obstacles which were extra challenges to overcome. Helping volunteers find affordable accommodation – we organised a homestay system. Overseas volunteers needed help with transport – we organised lift-sharing. Preparing non-orienteers for the vital role of sprint control guarding – we held a marshal training evening for local volunteers and it was a packed house. We worked closely with the 6-days to ensure that orienteers could have start times that were compatible with their WOC jobs. And there was one challenge that defeated us right until the end – providing helpful travel instructions to volunteers without breaking strict embargo rules of orienteering which keep map and location details strictly confidential until days before the event.


Minority sports can benefit from volunteers that are not involved in their sport. For orienteering, volunteers such as local runners, D of E students, and increasingly “Event Volunteer Tourists” can help at big events. And there are well established routes to recruiting them – like #BigHelpOut. But it takes an investment in time and the right people to recruit and support these volunteers. When working with volunteers who are not normally part of our specific sport’s culture we mustn’t forget to really look after them – tell them what to bring, train them and give them lunch.

A little bit of legacy

We worked with the Scottish Club Development Officers to offer all the local volunteers – many members of running clubs who had been sprint control marshals – a free entry into events organised by local clubs Moravian, INVOC and BASOC following WOC2015. This was both a thank you and a chance for the volunteers to try the sport that they had seen so closely, for themselves.


To all of the individuals and clubs who worked hard in the lead up and during WOC2015:

Thank you and we hope that you were proud to be involved in the biggest and highest profile orienteering event ever held in the UK.

To Paul McGreal, Event Director who skilfully and calmly managed a very complex event – it was a pleasure working with you Paul. I believe that we benefited hugely from Paul’s leadership and his experience as ED for Celtman and World Duathlon Champs.

The heart of my volunteer management team

The heart of my volunteer management team

I’d also like to slip in a special thank you to my own team of 12, and in particular David Maliphant – Comms; Ann Haley – Data; Terry Williams – Newsletters; Craig Lowther – training.  We Skyped every fortnight in the 18 months leading up to WOC and only met for the first time in Nairn.

Postscript Focus Chief Exec's words

This post was published in part in “Orienteering Focus, The Official Voice of British Orienteering” in the Autumn/Winter 2015 Edition

Sports event generated £9.4m for local economy

The World Orienteering Championships, together with the Scottish 6-days “spectator races”, were held in Moray and Highlands regions of Scotland this summer with the Event Centred in Inverness. The VisitScotland Economic impact study has just been published and reports that these orienteering events, in which more than 8000 athletes took part, generated £9.4m for the Scottish economy. Guest houses, restaurants and shops among the businesses most to benefit. See BBC News Scotland piece here: Orienteering events ‘boosted Scotland’s economy’

This boost to the economy could not have happened without a massive amount of volunteering. All together around 1500 volunteers were involved in planning and delivering these events. The Scottish 6-days is staged every two years by the members of the orienteering clubs in Scotland. Hence the The World Championships, held concurrently, needed to look further afield to fill its “Event Team” of volunteers. The chart below shows where these people came from to stage this World Class event in Moray and Highlands.

WOC2015 Volunteers came from v2

Almost a third of the World Championships volunteers came from Scotland. More than half of these volunteers from Scotland came in the form of local runners, experienced in organising running races, who wanted to help stage a World Class event on their doorstep. Members of the Technical team were also local as they needed to make regular visits to the orienteering areas to plan the courses. The Event Team also included Commonwealth Games Clydesiders who had enjoyed their part in Glasgow 2014 and wanted more – bringing valuable experience of high-profile sports events to WOC2015. The majority, 65%, of the volunteers came from England and Wales, with most, but not all, being club orienteers. We even had volunteers coming from further afield including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

The World Orienteering Championships was a successful, high profile event, shown on live TV, that received great feedback from top athletes. We now know that it also had a positive impact on the local economy.

On behalf of British Orienteering, The Scottish Orienteering Association and all the athletes that competed, I would like to say a sincere thank you to all the volunteers that made these events happen. Thank you to the Clydesiders, the locals, the runners, the club orienteers, the Duke of Edinburgh students, and everybody involved. You signed up to support the event because it was local or it was your sport, and maybe becuase it sounded exciting, but we didn’t imagine that collectively us volunteers would contribute so much to the local economy.

Marshal photo

All things to all people – just not at once

As the Volunteer Manager of a big sports event, you might imagine that I get quite a few e-mails. Want to know what I do with them?

I give top priority to messages from……

  • people who are offering to volunteer – they only have me as a point of contact and they deserve to hear from us promptly
  • my own team who are developing and operating our volunteer management processes – I really want to support them and if I hold them up then everything slows down
  • those above me – the Event Directors – they have so much going on, they need their reports to jump when they say jump.

If you are none of the above, and you have contacted me, I will come back to you as soon as I can. I’m a volunteer, and I’m fitting all of this into my spare time.

Your challenge should you choose to take it

We want you to find some volunteers to organise an event – running race marshals, that sort of thing. About 600. It will be exciting – it’s for a World Championship. By the way we are going to hold it in the north of Scotland where there is not a huge local population so you’ll need to bring volunteers in from the rest of the UK. We want the athletes and spectators to have the best experience coming to this event, so the races will be in some of the most beautiful places including one of the most remote glens in Scotland. Of course, we need to build a suitable spectator arena in each of these places, with catering, and facilities for 5000 plus big screens, commentary and TV coverage so we’ll need practical people too.

So far so good.

These marshals that you have found. We need to make sure they all go to the right places, but we cannot tell you where these places are. This is a World Orienteering Championships, it is vital that the athletes do not know where the races start, finish or what route they take. So we are closely guarding this information.

OK, systems in place, we can handle that.

The volunteers that you have recruited from within the sport, you know that they also want to take part in the spectator races on at the same time. Do what you can to organise suitable start times so they can fit in their volunteering shifts.

Getting there….

A day in the life of a Volunteer Manager

The World Orienteering Championships start at the end of July 2015. As a minority sport, this event is being delivered by a tiny group of part-time professionals and a large “Event Team” of volunteers. I’m the Volunteer Manager and I’m a volunteer. Our event team currently stands at 400 and I’m pleased to say that all lead posts have been filled. We are still building the delivery team and expect to reach around 600 volunteers in total.

The event is now hitting the local press and volunteers are pouring into my inbox. We are appointing and organising, informing and introducing, nurturing and updating a workforce that is spread all over the UK and Europe. We have sports people specialising in planning and event organisation. And we have volunteers with experience gained at the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games.  I’d love to be sharing what we are doing as we are doing it. But we are just too busy getting on with it. All I can do for now is share some advice about what I think is helping:

  • start early – thank goodness I started 3 years ago
  • plan for scale – we built and refined our opportunities pages, and our sign up system before the rush
  • build up healthy working relationships – I’m enjoying the strong and trusted relationships that I have with colleagues
  • build a good team around you – my collaborative and good-humoured team are one of the highlights of this event for me. We Skype’s fortnightly and keep in close touch
  • talk to people – you can feel like a real human being, achieve good things, and avoid painful misunderstandings by speaking sometimes instead of e-mailing

A typical day in the life of an Event Volunteer Manager starts at 7, ends at 11, includes a run and far too much time at a computer. It has laughs and lists of lists and occasional desk-thumping frustrations. Overall it is pretty damn good. I haven’t got time to write a day in the life. When it is all over I’ll write about how we did it. Let’s get there first!

So, I’m worth £16,000

… one of the 3.2 million people who regularly volunteer in sport.

Join in, the volunteering organisation, set out to calculate the true value that a sport volunteer contributes to society. Using information on the “Social Value of Volunteering” from the Bank of England, Join In has released ground-breaking research in it’s report Hidden Diamonds.They evaluated the increase in wellbeing and improvement in mental health for both the volunteer and the sports participants and found that:

A volunteer creates the capacity for at least 8.5 people to participate.

One volunteer in sport creates wellbeing worth £16,000

Join in talks about us volunteers as investing our time, skills and energies in creating opportunities for others to take part in sport. In doing this, we are seen to be creating community assets. Hardly surprising then that a volunteer in sport is significantly more likely to feel good about their community than someone who doesn’t volunteer.

Join in compared the community feel-good factor between volunteers and non-volunteers and demonstrated that volunteering boosts happiness and wellbeing.

Compared to those who have never volunteered in sport, 87% of people who volunteer agreed that their life has meaning.

If you volunteer in sport you are significantly more likely to trust people in your community

We know that sports clubs and volunteer-led events like parkruns bring communities together and we feel happier as a result. I believe that quite a few people go home from volunteering feeling better than they do after competing. But is nice to see the social value of volunteering being recognised and hear the Bank of England’s chief economist describing volunteering as a hidden jewel.

You might also like to read:

“In giving, how much do we receive. The social value of volunteering.” Bank of England speech

“Jo Pavey: Volunteers enabled me to fulfil my dreams in athletics” The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

parkrun newsletter in which Tom talks about the potential of this research for parkrun which had 33,000 volunteers in 2013,