Orienteering is a sport that without volunteers, couldn’t bring enjoyment and activity to thousands of people of all ages. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any sport providing a wealth of experience and varying skills to ensure clubs are sustainable and continue to grow.
Across virtually every sport, clubs are always on the lookout for more volunteers, none so more than in Orienteering. For a sport which offers such a wide range of opportunities to get involved either on the club committee or within events, there’s something for everyone. Whether members have got a particularly strong skill set in one area or want to try something completely different, there’s something for them. Roles can even enhance many a CV or provide valuable experience for those studying at college or university for example.
The challenge to lay down is how do clubs get more people involved? How do clubs advertise their needs? Do we always consider the needs of the individuals in various roles? How do we support new and existing volunteers?
There are two key areas to consider, recruiting new volunteers and valuing those already involved.
Recruiting New Volunteers
In anything, we can often be guilty of overthinking how we find more volunteers and making things too complicated and difficult. We hear the old saying, "we tried it once and it didn’t work" or fall into the easy option of sending out un-personalised blanket emails. But it’s often the extra effort here that has the biggest impact.
There’s always new ways, but have we forgotten to reconsider the traditional methods?
How about asking the volunteers currently in your club, how they got involved and why? What do they enjoy and what do they think could help in the future? Insight, especially from those already involved is invaluable.
A question to ask is, have clubs thought about sourcing volunteers from outside the sport? A new and different route to seeing success in sourcing volunteers across community clubs and groups is registering for volunteers through local and national networks such as local County Sport Partnerships or the Sport and Recreational Alliance organisation. Many volunteer roles could be filled by people with no orienteering experience and by those simply wanting to help out. It’s certainly a new avenue with exciting possibilities.
For further information and ideas on the volunteer sector check out: www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/pages/volunteering.
Keeping Hold Of Volunteers
Recruiting volunteers is one challenge, keeping them is another. So, what do clubs do to ensure volunteers are happy, feeling valued and able to develop?
The Sport & Recreational Alliance has some great tips:
1. Be organised.
Make sure that volunteers are kept informed and up to date just as much as those running your courses. Let them know the various event plans or policy’s that they need to follow and ensure you have all the equipment they may need.
a. Do you have a role description in place that new volunteers can refer back to?
b. How do you communicate to volunteers pre-event or pre committee meeting?
2. Make them feel needed.
Don’t just give a volunteer a role and leave them to it. Spend some time thinking about what they’ll be doing throughout, will there be downtime where they could do something else or let them know when they can expect a break. Ensure you’ve told the volunteer just how a valuable role they are doing and the positive impact it’s having.
a. What structures do you have in place so volunteers feel valued?
3. Help them grow.
A volunteer may want to grow, develop and learn more about the role or others they could do. Having training sessions and resources will help ensure the volunteer continues to support your club. Sessions don’t have to be formal, they could be one night somewhere with current volunteers teaching the role and talking about their experience whilst the club funds drinks and snacks. Make it relaxed and enjoyable.
a. How do you help your volunteers grow?
b. What training and support do you provide?
4. Give them an ‘experience’.
What can your club do to go the extra mile and create that high point at an event? It could be the club chair spending time with them during the event or bringing them regular hot drinks and snacks.
a. Little things make a big difference, what does your club do to go the extra mile?
5. Say thank you!
Two small words that can make a massive difference and go a long way.
a. What does your club do to thank volunteers? Thank them on the day? Use communication channels to acknowledge all those who’ve helped?
Do you do something different that recruits and/or supports volunteers at your club? We’re keen to hear from you, highlight the great work taking place across the country and inspire others. If you have a story to share, get in touch with your British Orienteering Development Officer or contact Jennie Taylor, Communications Officer on Jtaylor@britishorienteering.org.uk