parkrun volunteers get cold fingers and toes and a warm feeling inside

parkrun is a growing movement that organises 5k timed runs for thousands of people every week. I first talked about it in my blog post The volunteering phenomenon of the decade. Since then the numbers have grown, and currently 253,000 people take part in parkruns at 170 locations around the UK.

If you are not familiar with parkrun, this is how it works: Each event will have a Run Director who leads a team of helpers, and these helpers can be runners or local community members. Runners can help as much or as little as they like; there is no obligation to help. Results are published and there are tables of fastest times and numbers of runs. parkrunning is addictive and competitive – not in terms of medals or places as it is not a race – but in terms of how many you have completed. There is a small but growing band of stalwarts who get to wear “250” t-shirts. Some events find it easy to get enough volunteers, others find it harder. Apparently only around 10% of active parkrunners volunteer. Anyone that wants to run just needs to register for parkrun and can turn up and run every week for free.

There has been a debate recently about the right level of recognition and reward for volunteers. Should volunteers get more recognition? Should volunteers not get any reward at all? Should all parkrunners be made to take a turn?

“It is absolutely our belief that volunteering should be done simply for the pleasure of doing it, not because you think you will receive some kind of material reward. ….I firmly believe that we should engage in volunteering because it is something we would love to spend time doing, and not because we will receive material goods in return. That doesn’t mean I don’t think volunteers should be recognised, they’re changing people’s lives every day through their amazing actions.” says UK Country manager, Tom Williams, who deals with the issues surrounding volunteers on a daily basis. parkrun weekly-newsletter-30th-January

Tom adds “They are contributing to the greater good of a healthier society, building communities, bringing friends and families closer together, creating true quality time in a World where that is lacking and building toward a greater good for altruistic reasons. Surely that is reward enough?”

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I believe that volunteering is not at all about “doing good” but instead it’s all about “making things you believe in happen” and enjoying yourself while you do. I think volunteers need to get something for themselves out of what they do. But this something is not a material reward. It is usually satisfaction, camaraderie, or a sense of community. If you are volunteering out of obligation then you won’t do it with good grace, you probably wont enjoy it and you certainly won’t keep doing it.

But despite all this, I had started to think of parkrun as more of a cooperative – that everyone who took part was obliged to take their turn organising, rather than truly volunteering. As a runner, and a Run Director, I had even started to fall into the mindset of feeling that I was “sacrificing my runs in order to volunteer”.

Whatever happened to altruism? I’m pleased to say that Tom has helped me to find it again. I enjoy my runs, but on my Run Director days I am happy to get cold fingers and toes and a warm feeling inside.

 

The good, the bad and the ugly of volunteering

The good:

The nine basic rules for volunteer recognition published by http://handsonblog.org/. Simple and succinct advice about giving volunteers the honest, appropriate, timely recognition they deserve.

The bad:

1st Feb: If you want to volunteer to help at the Ryder Cup in Perthshire, Scotland, in 2014, you will be asked to pay £75 to register. Gleneagles Ryder Cup Volunteer Plan “Unacceptable” 

The ugly Postscript:

By 2nd Feb, the Ryder Cup had received 9000 volunteer applicants BBC News. There’s golf for you!

 

CRB checks – new name – new system

It is good news for volunteers that CRB checks are to become portable. So if you have a CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) check for one charity, school, club or job you can use it for another. This change will save volunteers time and inconvenience and save taxpayer money.

The CRB has now been replaced by Disclosure and Barring Service and so checks in future will be known as DBS checks.

See further information from the Home Office.

Make a resolution to do something for yourself

… by volunteering?

Forbes Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make And Then Keep

#4 Resolve to find your purpose

“Starting a career, a company or any kind of journey that is based firmly on your purpose is foundational to success and happiness. If you don’t know your ……purpose, finding one is the worthiest of resolutions.”

A good way to find your purpose is by volunteering. What are you passionate about? What do you care enough about to want to change? Could you volunteer to make something you believe in happen in 2013?

#5 Resolve to support a cause

“If you’re reading this, chances are you are one of the rare people who know how to start things. Fortunately, there are people like you who have already started causes that make the world better—they feed the hungry; they save the rain forest; they fight cancer; they do good things. There is virtually a cause for everyone, and contributing will make your year happier. Promise.”

Good causes need time as well as money. How about supporting your cause by donating some of your time in 2013?

Whatever you do, I wish you a happy and fulfilled 2013.

 

Volunteers hold British sport together

“Paid only with badges, stickers and memories, those beige-trousered philanthropists held the greatest show on Earth together in exactly the same way volunteers hold British sport together.” Matt Slater, talking about Olympic Games Makers in his report “How unpaid volunteers make the sports world go round”.

I like being described as a beige-trousered philanthropist but I am worried by the statistic that 3/4 of UK clubs have not noticed a change in the number of people volunteering after London 2012.

Clubs need to find volunteers and volunteers need to be better looked after. In an earlier post I looked at what can be done – and what is being done – for volunteers in sport. Can we really deliver an Olympic Sporting Legacy? was written at the time when the Olympic Village was sweeping up after the Olympians and getting ready to welcome the Paralympians.

As we all turn our attention to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year this weekend, give a thought to the volunteers who make your sport (or your children’s sport) happen. And if you are brutally honest, do you do your bit to support them?

 

Volunteering experience counts – put it on your CV

Recent University research has identified that recruiters value relevant volunteering experience as much as paid work experience. This is good news for volunteers, whatever their age. So make sure you include your relevant experience on your CV and job application. Read more about this research on the British Psychological Society’s Blog.

In an earlier blog post, I asked How can you get a job without having an interview? It is exciting to see this anecdotal evidence, of the benefits of gaining relevant experience and skills as a volunteer, now backed up by research.

Wilkin, C., & Connelly, C. (2012). Do I Look Like Someone Who Cares? Recruiters’ Ratings of Applicants’ Paid and Volunteer Experience International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20 (3), 308-318 DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2389.2012.00602.x

10 more inspiring quotes for volunteers

Quote

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Helen Keller.

Thank you vInspired for 8 inspiring quotes for volunteers who make a difference.These words sum up so succinctly how I feel, that I was motivated to make a list of 10 of my favourite quotes. Here they are:

  • “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try” John F Kennedy
  • “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Mark Twain
  • “When nothing in your life matters more than your own success you’ll likely have nothing in your life but your own success”  Steve Keating
  • “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” John F. Kennedy
  • “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Jim Watkins
  • “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
  • “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together” Vincent Van Gogh
  • “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others” Pericles
  • “Make things that you believe in happen” Me

Reflections from a PTA Chairman

Sometimes its good to look back and see how far you have come.

There is never a shortage of ideas, only people to do them.

Volunteers are a PTA’s most important asset and it should be a priority to nurture them.

 

Can we really deliver an Olympic Sporting Legacy?

If you want to have a go at athletics or hockey – or your kids want to take up cycling, rugby or football you will probably go to your local club. But this club will almost certainly be run by volunteers and will quite likely be close to reaching capacity. So, if we want to deliver a real sporting legacy of more children and adults taking up new sports, we need to find ways of building capacity.

I am proposing that we need a much more effective system for attracting and training volunteers to deliver entry-level sport.

Here is my idea: we don’t need senior (Level 3) coaches to deliver introductory sessions to newcomers – what we need are suitably trained volunteers that can inspire beginners and give them a positive and correct introduction to the sport. We should be putting much more emphasis in recruiting and training club helpers and new coaches to cope with Olympic-generated demand and free up the experienced coaches to concentrate on coaching elite club members. A good example of an effective training programme is England Athletics’ one-day “Leadership in running fitness” course.

Inspiration

The Olympic Games Makers have done wonders for the image of volunteering. If we can’t get sport volunteers to step forward now we never will. We need to build on the enthusiasm that we have from the Olympics to inspire volunteers to get involved and provide a pathway for them to do this. We should be making it easy for a dad to help at a cycling club or a university student to train as an athletics coach.

Recruitment

Clubs need coaches and team managers – and they also need volunteers to put out equipment, look after kit, manage membership systems and do a range of small jobs that you might not think of. If you are a club – how do you advertise these vacancies beyond your membership? If you are a potential volunteer, would you know where to look to get involved?

Welcome and preparation

Volunteers need to be nurtured. If they offer to help a club they should be welcomed with open arms and they need to know exactly what their job involves. Newcomers to coaching need to be trained by attending an Introductory or a Level 1 coaching course. As a minimum for certain roles they need to have safeguarding training. There is helpful Information on coaching courses here: http://sportscoachuk.org/

A fair relationship

Volunteers are entitled to enter into a fair relationship with the organisation they are supporting. The club needs a commitment from the volunteer to turn up at the agreed times and deliver. In turn, the volunteer needs to be properly managed and looked after. If we are to retain good volunteers they need:

  • affordable training – it’s right that volunteers make some investment in their own training, but £150 for a Level 1 Coaching course is a deterrent for many
  • a schedule that is workable for them and the club – volunteers have limited time available and fear of being asked to do too much is one of the major factors that puts people off volunteering. One idea: could a new helper be paired with another volunteer to job-share?
  • to be supervised and mentored – new coaches and other helpers need a contact they can turn to for ideas and advice
  • to be kept informed of how the part they are playing fits into what the club is doing as a whole

Clubs have needs too

In turn, the clubs are also going to need practical support to find and look after new volunteers. There is information on http://www.clubmark.org.uk/ about managing volunteers including an outline job description for a volunteer coordinator. This is a key post and one that needs to be filled by an enthusiastic and capable leader.

There is hope

Sport England has set up Sport Makers: http://www.sportmakers.co.uk/  as the official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sports legacy. They are aiming to recruit 40,000 volunteers to help make sport happen. If you are looking to volunteer in sport then go to this website today!

The last word

Much of sport in the UK is currently delivered through clubs. These clubs need more volunteers to increase capacity for new participants.  I sincerely hope that we can harness the inspiration and deliver volunteers to the sports clubs to make sure we really do make the most of the buzz we are experiencing after an amazingly successful Olympic Games.

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”  Let’s make our Olympic Sporting Legacy happen.

Please leave a comment with your legacy thoughts and ideas.

 

3 ways to be the perfect volunteer

1. Take on a role you feel happy to do

Start with a modest role that you can tackle confidently. You are aiming for something that gives you the right amount of buzz and avoids any sinking feeling of being overwhelmed.

2. Do it on time

Find out what the deadlines are before you say “yes” and then meet them. Other people will be depending on your timeliness and being late is being unfair to them. If something happens in your life that genuinely gets in the way, then let someone know early so they they can make other arrangements. Don’t put off giving bad news! Worrying and waiting until the deadline has passed and only revealing your problems when someone contacts you does not help anyone.

3. Enjoy it

Do your task with good grace and a smile. Enjoy the company of other volunteers and collaborate with them. This makes the job more fun all round. Feel a sense of satisfaction in what you achieve and do not allow yourself to be pressurised into doing more than you agreed and don’t feel guilty for saying “no”.