We’ve compiled a series of questions and answers on the topic of planning and organising your volunteering organisation or project.
If you can't find an answer to your question, you can also get in touch with our volunteering team.
1. Should our club have a volunteer coordinator? Can a volunteer perform this role?Many, and in some cases all, roles in a sports club or group are voluntary. So, having someone to coordinate the recruitment and support of volunteers can be very useful. Read more
Having someone in charge of managing volunteers will almost certainly result in a better quality of experience for your volunteers. This will result in better retention and hopefully a steadier supply of new volunteers when you need them.
A volunteer coordinator can be a volunteer themselves, and in sports clubs and groups they often are. You can find out more information from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations about this role. Additionally, the Rugby Football Union website also has some useful information about club volunteer coordinator roles to further guide you.
2. What should I be doing as a volunteer manager/coordinator?Volunteer managers and coordinators are responsible for recruiting volunteers, supporting them in their roles and recognising the contribution they make. The way volunteers are supported will depend on your club, the role of the volunteer and what an individual volunteer’s motivations are. Read more
Support might involve arranging volunteer inductions, training, ongoing mentoring and making sure volunteers receive appropriate thanks for the work they do.
In some organisations a volunteer manager will directly support each and every volunteer. In others, another individual will oversee a volunteer’s work and provide support with guidance from the volunteer manager.
A big part of a volunteer manager’s job is ensuring that people within the organisation treat volunteers fairly and appropriately. They also need to make sure that volunteers understand their roles and entitlements properly. This often means putting a volunteering policy and volunteer agreements in place and making sure these are actively used.
The role of a volunteer manager or coordinator is a hugely important one in a sports club or group, because very often a club is run entirely by volunteers. You can learn more about the role of volunteer manager by visiting the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ website and reading the National Occupational Standards for volunteer managers.
It’s important to remember that these have been written for people who are in paid volunteer management posts. If you’re a volunteer yourself who helps your club in your spare time, remember that these are professional standards.
Don’t worry if you think you don’t meet them because they don’t apply to you: you contribute what you can, and this is very valuable. However, they might be a useful reference to help you understand the potential scope of your role.
3. Is there a forum for volunteer managers where I can get support?We hope that this section will answer many of the questions you encounter as a volunteer manager or coordinator. However, we know that you may find you have questions or issues you want to discuss with others in a similar role. You might also be keen to bounce ideas off other people outside of your club who work with volunteers. Read more
There are a few potential sources of support like this in the sports sector and voluntary sector, depending on your sport and where you are in the country:
- If your national governing body has a volunteering programme, they might have someone responsible for volunteer engagement. Visit your national governing body’s website or call them to find out if they offer help of any kind to coordinators
- Locally within your Active Partnership there will also be someone who supports volunteering, although it may only be a small part of their role. Visit your partnership’s website or give them a call to find out if there’s any support like this available in your area.
The wider voluntary sector also offers support to volunteer managers. Here are some groups that you could join:
- The Association of Volunteer Managers is a lively, friendly and participative networking and communication resource for all volunteer programme managers working in the UK
- You might also contact your local volunteer centre, which will have contacts with all the agencies they recruit through in your local area – they may have an established network.
4. What sorts of volunteer roles should there be at our club?The volunteer roles you need at your club will depend on the following: Read more
- The volunteers you already have
- The skills they bring
- The time they commit
- What you’re currently missing in terms of skills and capacity
- What your plans are for developing your club.
If you’re a volunteer coordinator, it’s a good idea to talk to other people at your club and get their views on this – their insight can help you get it right.
It’s best to start with the tasks you need doing first, then looking at the skills of your existing volunteers and working out where the gaps are. This will help make sure you only recruit volunteers that you genuinely need. For instance, there’s no point recruiting five new coaches if your club doesn’t need them.
Volunteers who don’t feel needed generally have a poor experience and often leave, but a bit of time and thought before you go out recruiting can stop this from happening.
While all clubs are different, there are some roles that most clubs have in common. Check your national governing body’s website to see if they have template role descriptions.
5. Should our volunteers have role descriptions?You’re not legally obliged to provide a written role description for your volunteers, but there are occasions when it can be helpful. Here are a few considerations to make that will help you to decide. Read more
Does the role involve formal responsibilities?
The chair of your club and the person who makes the tea on Saturday mornings are both volunteers. However, the chair is responsible for the overall running of your organisation, while your tea-maker is not. If a role involves formally conferring responsibilities onto somebody (which could be to do with health and safety, safeguarding, managing money or enforcing the rules of the club), then it’s good practice for them to have a role description.
Is your volunteer helping with a one-off task or will they be working with you for the long-term?
If you ask someone to help with your accounts once, then they may not need a job description because they’re an accountant and already know how to do the task, and once the task is complete, they’ll stop volunteering for you in this way.
However, if you’re asking someone to be your treasurer, then a role description will serve as an ongoing reminder of the scope of their role.
Is the volunteering role at a one-off event?
If the answer is yes, a role description will be useful when you advertise for and train your volunteers. Your volunteers only have a limited time in which to understand their role, so writing it down will help with this.
When you write a volunteer role description, it’s important you make it clear it’s not a paid job description and that the volunteer is in no way contractually obliged to perform any of the tasks.
Click here for more information on the differences between employees and volunteers.
6. How do I write a volunteer role description?As with volunteer agreements, it’s important that volunteer role descriptions don’t in any way suggest that the volunteer is obliged to perform tasks in the way that a paid job description would. Read more
This is because it may result in a volunteer being viewed as an employee in the eyes of the law, which should be avoided as it will entitle them to the same rights as one. Find out more on the differences between volunteers and employees by clicking here.
7. Should we have volunteer agreements in place?There’s no legal obligation on a club to have written volunteer agreements in place. However, it’s considered good practice to have them for the following reasons: Read more
- They give guidance as to how volunteers are encouraged to behave in their roles and references to the club’s policies and procedures
- They clarify what sort of support the club will aim to provide to volunteers in return for their commitment.
If you do have agreements in place, it’s very important that they don’t suggest or imply that volunteers have any contractual obligations to your club or vice versa.
Unlike employment contracts, volunteer agreements shouldn’t create any contractually binding obligations. Any agreement which reads like a contract may result in a volunteer being viewed as an employee in the eyes of the law, which should be avoided as it will entitle them to the rights of an employee. You can find out more on the differences between volunteers and employees by referring to question two in our volunteering and the law Q&A section.
8. How do I develop a volunteering strategy?A well thought-out and executed volunteering strategy will help your organisation to reach its goals. Read more
Defining your overall strategy
Finding out what those goals are should be the starting point of your strategy. Is your group looking to grow numbers of participants, attract people from more diverse backgrounds, or upgrade its facilities?
If your club doesn’t have an overall strategy written down, talk to the club management about what their aims are for both the immediate future and the longer term. By identifying these you’ll then be able to think through what sort of volunteers the club needs and whether you already have skills in the club.
For example, if your club is aiming to build a new junior team, you might need the following volunteer support:
- Promoting new participation opportunities through local schools, youth groups and social media
- Coaches to deliver the sessions
- A driver to take the team to away matches
- Admin support with collecting subs, communications to parents, etc.
- Catering support to provide refreshments at training sessions
- Qualified first aider to attend training and matches
- Help seeking sponsorship for the team.
If you break down each of your club’s goals in this way, you can work out exactly what sort of volunteering resource you need and how much of this is already in place.
Your current volunteering experience
As part of your volunteering strategy, also look at the volunteer experience at your club and compare volunteer management with best practice standards. An ‘audit’ of your current volunteering programme might include:
- Volunteer numbers
- Diversity across your volunteers
- Skills your current volunteers have
- Policies and procedures that relate to volunteering (if any)
- Current recruitment strategies and their effectiveness
- Systems you already have set up to support volunteers
- Training and development opportunities
- Current approach to thanks and recognition
- Current approach to managing volunteers who leave.
It’s a good idea at this stage to also get feedback from those at your club on how they think volunteering is working. You could ask your management and your members what they think works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, you should ask your volunteers what the experience has been like for them and what they think could be improved. You might be able to draw on your most recent volunteer survey if you conduct them regularly, or set one up if you don’t.
Objectives and activities
From here you might want to write some further objectives that relate to improving the volunteering experience. It’s important that your strategy identifies what volunteers themselves need and not just what you need from them, as a better volunteer experience will help you to retain them.
Next, break down each objective in your strategy into activities – what activities will have to happen to make sure you achieve your objectives? Set out a timeframe for achieving these activities and define a measure that will help you to identify when you have completed each objective.
Then, identify the resources you’ll need to achieve these objectives.
For instance, will you need funding to buy a volunteer management system? Does the volunteer coordinator need some administrative support from another volunteer? Securing these resources is very important to the success of your strategy and you’ll need the rest of your club to be on board.
It might fall on you to recruit someone to help with admin, but setting the club’s fundraising priorities is a wider responsibility and you should make a case for any extra financial resources that might be needed.
A volunteer strategy should probably cover the same sort of timeline as your overall club strategy as it will support its aims. Set a date at which to review it and start preparing a new strategy.
9. How do I develop a volunteer policy?A volunteer policy will help define the role of volunteers in your organisation. It’ll also create some standards that will help to ensure everyone is treated equally and fairly. Read more
The following links are useful resources designed to help you include everything you need in your volunteer policy:
10. I’m in charge of organising the volunteers for a sporting event. What do I need to think about?There are lots of similarities between organising event volunteers and organising regular volunteers for a club or group. Read more
For example, you should ensure you have:
- A clear idea of how many volunteers you need, what sorts of roles need fulfilling and what skills these require
- A plan for how you will recruit these volunteers
- A budget to pay for volunteer travel, uniform/clothing and refreshments on the day
- A plan for how your information about volunteers will be stored securely and shared appropriately
- Insurance that covers your volunteers as well as your participants.
In addition to this, there are a few other things worth considering when you’re managing event volunteers.
- Not everyone who signs up will turn up. You should over-recruit and allow for about 25% of your volunteers not to show up on the day
- If you’re over-subscribed, it’s worth having a reserves list and letting people know they’re on it
- If you need a lot of volunteers, then an application process is a good idea
- Select volunteers for the roles with the person who oversees that aspect of the event. Make sure you communicate your decisions to people who have applied as soon as possible
- Communicate regularly with your volunteers in the lead up to the event – it helps to keep them engaged.
- Think about your volunteers’ training needs. Some may need training in advance of the event. Others performing very simple tasks could receive a briefing before their shift
- Whatever the role, all volunteers need to be given a clear understanding of their tasks, the conduct you expect, health and safety information, information on what to do in an emergency, an understanding of the site and what is happening at different times, and an introduction to their team leader.
- Unless it’s a very small event that requires few volunteers, put your volunteers into teams
- A team might be a group of volunteers all located in the same area or a group who are all doing the same job that are able to communicate with each other (e.g. via radios or phone)
- Try to have a mixture of new and experienced volunteers on each team, and ensure that team leaders are aware of volunteers who may need extra help (e.g. those who are very young or who have disabilities)
- Assign team leaders to each team – these will ideally be people who have experience of volunteering and of the tasks their team will be performing. They'll keep each group of volunteers motivated and on-task, ensure they get their breaks and refreshments, solve problems, answer volunteer questions, and say thank you at the end of the shift. They'll also communicate any major issues on the day to you
- Set up a roster so that your volunteers all get breaks during their shifts and so that you have the cover you need throughout. Tell volunteers what their shifts will be as soon as you have planned them
- Think about where volunteers will be able to store their valuables and take their breaks. It’s good to have a designated volunteer area or room.
Saying ‘thank you’
- Thank people. Make sure team leaders thank volunteers at the end of their shift and that you thank your team leaders
- You should also email everyone after the event to thank them. You could even think about a ‘thank you’ party
- If your event has sponsors, then perhaps you could ask if they can donate products for a volunteer goody bag you can hand out at the end of the event.
11. I want to start using a volunteering management system. How do I go about this?If you have a lot of volunteers, an electronic system may help you manage them. Read more
12. How can I get feedback from volunteers?Getting feedback from volunteers can help in all kinds of ways: Read more
- Feedback from volunteers on the support they’ve received from you can help improve your volunteer management
- Feedback from event volunteers can help you plan events more effectively in future
- Volunteers can offer suggestions that will help you run all aspects of your organisation better.
Surveys, questionnaires, evaluation forms and interviews are all useful ways of collecting feedback. Collecting information anonymously will encourage your volunteers to respond honestly, so where possible you should do this. Our Volunteer Survey Guidance is designed to help you run the best possible survey – click here to find out more.
Likewise, if you’re interviewing volunteers about their experiences of being managed, it could be worth getting someone who isn’t the volunteer manager to conduct these interviews.
Collecting feedback could be something you schedule in regularly to help with your planning, so you might think about conducting a survey every six or 12 months. Getting the views of volunteers who are leaving is also worthwhile, as it can help you further develop your volunteering programme.
13. How do I accredit volunteer training?To accredit training means to align it with internal or external standards. It’s a way of validating that someone’s performance meets an agreed level that has relevance in the wider world outside your club. Read more
Not all training needs to be accredited. Accredited training is often most appropriate for volunteers in roles where there is a defined national standard (e.g. coaching qualifications). It’s also useful when volunteers are looking for formal recognition of the work they've put in through volunteering, which is often the case if they’re developing their CVs.
If a volunteer is on an externally-provided course (such as a coaching qualification), the training will already be accredited. If you’re developing your volunteers through your own efforts, there may be ways you can get your volunteers’ inputs externally recognised.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations feature a useful guide to accrediting volunteer learning on its website.
Additionally, Volunteer Now has also produced a detailed fact sheet on accrediting volunteering. While it’s specific to Northern Ireland, many of the principles it refers to are relevant to schemes in any location.
14. I want to sign our club up to timebanking. How do I go about this?Timebanking is a new way of volunteering where you can give your time and skills and, in return, receive another volunteer’s time and skills to help you or your organisation. It can be done from person to person, from organisation to organisation, or from person to organisation. Read more
Once you become a member, for every hour you volunteer you’ll get a time credit that you can exchange for an hour of another member’s time. So, if for example you do an hour’s book-keeping for an organisation, you’re entitled to an hour’s help with something else.
Timebanking could be a great way for your club to get skilled help with an ad-hoc task. There are over 290 local timebanks set up throughout the UK – click here to find your nearest timebank.