This module will teach you how to recruit, train, manage and reward your volunteers to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.
Volunteering Australia provides the following definition of volunteering:
In 2016, 3.6 million Australians aged 15 years and over were engaged in voluntary work through an organisation or group. This represents around 19% of Australia’s total population. Notably, in 2016:
17.1% of males over the age of 15 volunteered
20.9% of females over the age of 15 volunteered
The rates of volunteering are highest among males aged 45-54 and women aged 35-44
As humans, we are easily conditioned. We all look at the world through our own lens. The way that we see the world is affected by the lens through which we are looking, and this lens is influenced by our upbringing and conditioning.
Often, club volunteers become set in their ways and feel that they must continue to operate in exactly the same manner from one year to the next. Just because volunteers in our clubs have done things a certain way for years, and because that is how our parents and grandparents did things, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best or only way.
There are three phases of ‘roadblock thinking’ to avoid when managing people:
“We do it like this, because that's how we've always done it”
“We tried that once. It didn't work”
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it”
Be open to exploring new ideas and listen up when new volunteers make suggestions for how your club could streamline its operations and improve service delivery.
When recruiting new volunteers, it is vital that you focus on culture. For example, you might consider appointing ‘orientation volunteers’ to be responsible for showing new members around the club when they first join and explaining to them the different volunteer positions that make your organisation run. This helps to educate new people that in your club, ‘many hands make light work’.
When asking members for help, remember that it is very easy to ignore emails, Facebook posts or loudspeaker announcements. It is far more effective to approach people personally and ask for assistance face-to-face.
It is also important to be honest when asking for help. Give clear instructions and provide a realistic estimate of how much time you are asking the member to commit.
Selection and screening
Once recruited, volunteers should be screened to ensure their fit with the club and with the positions needing to be filled. For example, someone who has accountancy skills may be a good fit with the volunteer position of treasurer. However, don’t limit your search to only those members with current skills, as other members might be willing to learn. For example, an accountant might not want to look at numbers in their volunteer role, while a small business owner might be keen to improve their bookkeeping skills by taking on the job of treasurer.
In screening volunteers, assess the skills, experience and availability of potential volunteers to match them to the volunteer needs of your organisation. Also remember, there are legal requirements in screening volunteers, such as child protection legislation, privacy and accreditation, which must be taken into account when determining the best fit for volunteers.
Induction and training
It is important to make new volunteers feel welcome and comfortable within your club. A sound induction program can achieve this by addressing some organisation-specific subjects, which new recruits should understand. These may include:
A detailed tour of the club’s facilities
Position descriptions and duty lists to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them
Codes of conduct
Names of people to whom new volunteers can go for help
Club documents, strategic plans and other resources
Training volunteers helps to get the job done well and also provides opportunities for individuals to develop new skills. Your organisation may be able to access funding to pay for (or to subsidise) the costs of training for volunteers. Training and induction programs can be either formal or informal and should be delivered in ways which make the volunteer feel valued and appreciated.
Formal training is that which is provided in a structured manner, such as the training required for accreditation or certification (for example, coaching accreditation courses and first aid certificates). Informal training is non-structured education that is focused on conveying important information that will assist volunteers to do their jobs and to understand their roles and responsibilities but does not lead to a certificate.
Recognition and rewards
Recognising and rewarding volunteers obviously shows them they are valued and can help to encourage their continued service to the club. Recognising and rewarding volunteers requires an ongoing commitment from your organisation and should not be left exclusively to the end of the year or sporting season.
Some clubs have successfully rewarded and recognised their volunteers by:
Providing club shirts to volunteers in key roles, such as management committee and subcommittee members
Offering discounted club membership for the children of dedicated volunteers
Conducting a ‘volunteer of the month’ program to showcase those members who stand out
It is important to remember, however, that the best reward a volunteer can receive is to feel that they have genuinely contributed value to the club through their service. So, ensure your volunteers are recruited into roles they are happy to fill and offer suitable training and induction for all personnel, so they can carry out their duties confidently and successfully.
Systems are better than sweetheart deals
Unfortunately, many not-for-profit organisations rely on sweetheart deals such as handshake agreements with individual members, sponsors or landlords to ensure their ongoing success. Ideally, your club should focus on reliable systems, because good people may leave, but good systems will remain for future committees.
In most clubs, there is usually a small group of people doing most of the volunteer work. This significant input of time and effort from a core group of volunteers helps to keep the cost of participation down for the rest of the organisation’s membership.
However, many clubs are recognising that this model of workload distribution is unsustainable, as their few volunteers often burn out after only a short time.
Many clubs are therefore drawing a line in the sand between what people will do as a volunteer and what the club should be paying people to do. For example, incorporated sporting clubs are employing staff or contractors in roles such as canteen convenor, administrator, bookkeeper and handyman.
Remember, time is more valuable than money. You can spend money and always make more money. But once you spend your time, you can never get it back.
So, you should focus on sharing work around, identifying suitable paid roles and looking for tools to enhance efficiency for your volunteers. These might include software solutions that automate tasks like bookkeeping and installing a digital point of sale system to streamline canteen and merchandise sales.
A happy volunteer is someone who spends only the amount of time that they want to commit to volunteering, and spends that time doing exactly the volunteer work they love.
If your club is able to balance quality service delivery for members with effective management of your valuable human resources, you will be on your way to fostering a happy volunteer environment.
Remember, every volunteer can be a Happy Volunteer!