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

Where can you look for volunteers?

Positive cycleVolunteers and volunteering in sport: Some ideas, advice and agencies that can help you.

An extract of my presentation to a recent British Orienteering Conference.

 

Want to join in and help with a local sport event?

Saturday 27th July 2013 is the anniversary of the London Olympic Games opening ceremony. If you were inspired by the Olympic Volunteers a year ago, do you want to dip your toe in the water of volunteering now? No big commitment. No long journey. If you do, Join In UK has the answer by offering you a way to find a sports even near you that needs some helpers. There are more 10,000 events to choose from all between July 27th to Sept 9th.

I was lucky enough to be at the Olympic Park for the launch and I recommend you watch this video now for some inspiration!

And you can listen to Dave Moorcroft (Director of Join In Local) talking to Danny Norman of parkrun.

If you want to be part of the Olympic Games volunteering legacy, then Join In is the place to start. And if you are a club or group looking for volunteers you can register here.

Glasgow2014 reminding me of the excitement of volunteering

I’ve just been invited for an interview for the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow next year. And when that message landed in my inbox I felt a buzz. I am one of the 50,000 who had applied to volunteer at Glasgow2014 (and I’ve been an Olympic Games Maker so I know the routine) and yet I was surprised and really very excited by an e-mail called “Interview Invitation”.

As a Volunteer Manager, I’m more used to being the person who does the inviting. And when we contact our would-be volunteers, even though we are approaching registered volunteers – and not cold-calling random people – it is easy to think that we are intruding on their time. Why are we so hesitant to ask for help? What makes us reluctant to make a request? After all, we are taking up an offer they have previously made.

Volunteer Managers – be bold; be confident; be positive! Remember we are making the contact that our volunteers have been waiting for. We cannot guess what motivated them to offer: we shouldn’t make assumptions about their response. We should speak to every volunteer as if we are giving them the exciting news they have been looking forward to.

There are 15,000 places for the 50,000 applicants. Will I make it through? Watch this space!

 

 

Do you have a dream or a plan?

Be inspired by Simon Sinek’s view in How great leaders inspire action that ….

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

What applies to business is even more important for recruiting in the voluntary sector – so we should start with “Why”. Volunteers, Sinek says, buy into why you do something, not what you do.

Organisations looking for volunteers and volunteer managers everywhere – talk about what you believe in. Talk about your dreams if you want to attract those who agree with you.

In 2013, will you be selling “I have a dream” or I have a plan?

 

Sports clubs – looking for new volunteers?

Is your Clubmark club seeking new helpers?

Here are two sources of young volunteers that you may not know about:

  1. Young people taking Duke of Edinburgh programmes
  2. Students taking community sports leadership courses
DofE (Duke of Edinburgh) programmes are run by Schools, Further Education Colleges and other groups. You probably know that young people go on an expedition as part of the award. But you may not be aware that the award also has physical, skills and volunteering components. Young people do regular, long term stints as volunteers:
  • 3 months volunteering for Bronze – aged 14+
  • 6 months for Silver – aged 15+
  • 12 months for Gold  – aged 16+

There is a very helpful DofE website.

Sports Leadership courses are run by Schools, Colleges and Universities. Here is an example of courses.

How do you go about finding these volunteers?

Firstly, enquire among your own membership to see if there are any family members who would be interested in doing their volunteering with your club. It’s always easiest to start with people who know you and know what you do.

Secondly, it is worth building up a relationship with local organisations that deliver DofE and Sports Leadership courses. Bear in mind that DofE and education course programmes run to strict annual timetables and the students will be required to do their volunteering in a specified time window. So clubs need to plan ahead. Don’t expect an e-mail this week to generate a group of helpers for your event next weekend!

To start with, you are best to contact your local school or college – for attention of person in charge of DofE or Sports Leadership training – and let them know briefly:

  • the name and location of your club
  • what type of activities you organise
  • what regular volunteering opportunities arise
  • the likely times and duration of these opportunities
  • an e-mail and mobile contact number for the volunteer coordinator
  • the club’s website address

If you manage to make contact with the right person you can ask them about their needs and, most importantly, their time-scale. The ideal situation for a club to be in, is to be ready to give relevant information at just the right time for it to be distributed to potential volunteers.

Are you worried about what to say to students? Just describe your volunteer roles in language they will understand – and don’t assume they know anything about your club or sport. And be aware that they will be much more interested if they can work in pairs or small groups.

It might sound like a lot of trouble, but schools and colleges work on annual cycles and like to repeat what works. If you can get the right contact, build up a good working relationship and deliver worthwhile opportunities you could be setting up a system that runs for years.

And, while these young people may start as volunteers, their experiences with you may turn them into participants, members or even ambassadors for your sport. So make sure you look after them well.

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.

Volunteer matrix

Can you tell the difference between your team workers and your time-wasters? Take a look at my volunteer matrix to help you identify the different types of volunteers in your organisation:

Diagram showing different types of volunteers

Can you tell your team workers from your time-wasters?

Are you new to working with volunteers?

Have you just taken on a new job – paid or voluntary – where you work with people who are  doing their roles as volunteers? If so, this is for you:

Time and energy

When you are planning – whether its a project, an event, or a new direction – make sure you build in extra capacity because it will likely take more people and more time than you think you need.

Is it that volunteers are naturally inefficient? Not at all! Your supporting team will be fitting their volunteering around both work and family commitments and when unexpected things happen and take up their time, it is their volunteering that gets put on hold. Expect the unexpected! Get things done ahead if you can and allow a longer lead time to deadlines. And recruit a few more people – say 10% more – than you think you need  It makes for less stress if you do.

What do you know?

Your volunteers probably know less than you think. Make them feel comfortable by explaining the system, showing them how things work and getting them started. They might be too shy to to ask you for help but they will thank you for putting them at ease.

Hello – how are you?

Keep in touch with your team. I don’t mean bombard them. But check how they are getting on and encourage them to talk to you regularly. You will enjoy hearing the progress updates and good news from them. And if there is bad news then it’s better to hear it sooner rather than later.

Keeny beanies

Make the most of a new volunteer’s initial zeal. Some people love a new project and will bring huge amounts of drive and enthusiasm at the outset. If you can harness this productively the volunteer will have a much better experience and be more likely to move onwards and upwards. If they experience frustration and barriers in their early days they may give up on you.

Have you got any suggestions you would like to pass on to someone just starting out working with volunteers? Please leave them in comments.

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.