Volunteer strategy

Volunteer recruitment and deployment

Volunteer management and retention

Volunteer development and training

Pillar 3: Volunteer Management & Retention

|||  PILLAR 3

Volunteer Management & Retention

||| Sub-Pillar 3.1

3.1 – Maintaining an inclusive, equitable, volunteer-friendly culture


In the first Pillar we looked at how you can work towards establishing a volunteer-friendly culture. In this section you will find resources to help you permeate this through the day-to-day running of your sport organisation, turning principles into practice to ensure every volunteering experience is a positive one. Particular emphasis is placed on the pursuit of equity and inclusivity in all your work with volunteers.

Key research findings – did you know that:

When we interviewed long-serving sport volunteers, they highlighted the following positive management practices:

  • Good leadership and communication from the organisation
  • The importance of organisations understanding the nature of volunteering and showing empathy for their volunteers
  • Providing motivational incentives and recognising/celebrating their volunteers’ achievements
  • Providing suitable methods of compensating volunteers for their expenses
  • Making good use of volunteers’ time and not wasting their time when they come to volunteer
  • Adapting to the needs of volunteers and providing a positive volunteer culture

The same sport volunteers identified negative management practices as:

  • Sport organisations profiting from their volunteers’ efforts
  • Lack of compensation for expenses incurred during volunteering
  • Sport organisations not communicating to volunteers how their work is delivering positive outcomes for sport participants and the wider community
  • Providing volunteer opportunities which are not appropriate to the volunteers involved
  • Lack of early information about volunteer opportunities.

When your organisation is thinking about how to best manage its volunteers, you might benefit from thinking about how you can maximise the positive volunteer management practices outlined above and minimise the negative ones.

Content area 1 : Monitoring the state of the organisation’s culture on an ongoing basis

A truly inclusive culture within a sport organisation will support all volunteers, irrespective of their background, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and abilities and allow them to work together productively within the organisation. It will embrace and celebrate differences – in experiences, backgrounds, and ways of thinking. This can help to create a sense of belonging and community within the organisation which in turn helps to develop long-term volunteer commitments and ensure that your volunteers have a positive experience.

As discussed in Pillar 1, Sub Pillar 4 , culture can be defined as the values and behaviours within an organisation. As such, the culture within an organisation can play a significant role in contributing to a truly inclusive environment. It is therefore important that sport organisation’s regularly monitor and review culture to identify what is working well (and to build on these elements) but also to identify any issues and take action to address them.

A strong culture will ensure that these values are understood and embraced by everyone involved in the organisation. A positive organisation culture should be committed to supporting and enabling inclusivity and diversity with all volunteers, members and staff working together to collectively ensure these values are embedded in everyday practices. A weak, negative culture is likely to do the opposite and may result in individuals leaving the organisation or not even joining it, and may contribute to unhappy and demotivated volunteers.

In general, people continue to volunteer because:

  • They feel valued
  • The feel their contribution is respected
  • They feel part of the group and do not feel excluded from decision making
  • They feel a sense of pride that they have contributed to the club

These are all connected to the development and maintenance of a supportive organisation culture. It is therefore important to monitor the culture of your organisation in a regular basis.

How can you monitor organisation culture?

1. Listen –
To maintain an inclusive culture, it is important to listen to what individuals within the organisation are saying about the organisation. This could be informal conversations, or comments overheard in passing or more formal interactions such as monthly meetings, annual general meetings, or one-to-ones. You could also undertake an anonymous survey of volunteers to gather feedback. Try and identify what is working well within the organisation with regards to inclusion and diversity, and what could improve and what is lacking.

2. Be proactive about asking for feedback –
you can often gain valuable insight and ideas from those involved in different parts of the organisation. This can also help you to deal with any issues before they become significant.

3. Be open –
you may receive some uncomfortable feedback and it is therefore important to remain open to see and see all feedback as usual and important even if it does not necessarily fit with your own experiences of the organisation. If someone has taken the time to identify an issue, it is likely to be important to them and if you ignore it, it is likely to become a bigger issue. Conversely, take on board positive comments and use these as building blocks to further embed positive actions around inclusion and diversity within the organisation.

4. Be inclusive –
try and ensure that you get opinions from all the different groups involved in the organisation and from all levels. This may mean you need to be flexible about how feedback is gathered to enable all individuals to contribute.

5. Take action –
once you have gathered feedback, it is important to action it otherwise the consultation is likely to be viewed as tokenistic and meaningless. It may also indicate a lack of commitment within the organisation to facilitate a genuinely inclusive culture.

How to spot a non-inclusive culture

The questions below can help you identify how inclusive and equitable your sport organisation is. It is important to consider these with an open mind – it may be that your organisation is very welcoming and well-run but could still do more to embed inclusion and equity within the organisation’s practices.

  • How diverse is your volunteer workforce and membership? Does it fully represent the communities it serves?
  • Could the organisation be more proactive about recruiting volunteers from outside its usual demographic? Research suggests that the workforce within organisations tends to reflect its members and can become self-replicating. Would having a more diverse workforce be beneficial to your organisation, help it to become more successful and inclusive, to therefore attract more members and contribute more fully to the local community?
  • Do all volunteers have an equal chance to progress within the organisation?
  • Does the organisation tend to lose volunteers quickly – are these volunteers from under-represented groups?
  • Do all groups within the organisation have an equal opportunity to influence how the organisation runs and the decisions making processes?

Remember, an inclusive and equitable culture is likely to be instrumental in an organisation’s success, growth, and volunteer satisfaction – it therefore makes sense to invest time and effort into maintaining such a culture once established.

Content area 2 : Maintaining an inclusive culture through good communication

Consistent and clear communication to your volunteers is an important element in maintaining a positive volunteering culture. Both formal and informal forms of communication will convey a certain impression of the organisation to current and potential volunteers. It is therefore important that the content and tone of communications support and reinforce an inclusive and equitable culture. Pillar 3 sub pillar 3 provides an overview of different communication methods you can use to communicate and consult with volunteers (and other members of your organisation), this sub-pillar will provide you with guidance on how you can maintain an inclusive culture by using suitable approaches to communication.

Tips for developing inclusive communications:

1. Consider the needs of your volunteers – this could include language needs, disabilities etc, it may also include consideration of the best methods of communication to use. Not all volunteers may be comfortable using social media for example, therefore you may need to send communications across different formats.

2. You should ensure that there is consistency of information and instructions provided to volunteers and ensure all volunteers receive similar messages.

3. Consideration is needed regarding the tone of communications – use your judgement and commonsense to ensure that messages are appropriate for all and avoid including comments or opinions that could be misinterpreted or misconstrued as slurs, demeaning or inflammatory.

4. Provide an opportunity for volunteers to respond to any communications, to ask questions and if needed to clarify information. Ensuring that ‘two-way’ communication channels are provided is crucial to make individuals feel included and valued.

5. Manage any open communication channels proactively – delete any comments that are offensive and if made by an individual connected with your organisation address your concerns with that individual. It is also advisable to include a statement on any open communication channels such as social media accounts that offensive comments will not be tolerated.

Content area 3 : Turning the principles of equity and diversity into practical actions

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three closely linked values held by many sport organisations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations. It is useful at this stage to provide some definitions for these terms, so that we can fully understand their relevance in relative to sport volunteers:

is about taking account of the differences between volunteers and groups of volunteers and placing a positive value on those differences.

refers to fair treatment for all people, so that the norms, practices, and policies in place ensure identity is not predictive of opportunities or volunteering outcomes.

refers to how volunteers experience the sport organisation and their role within it. The degree to which the organisation embraces all volunteers and enables them to make meaningful contributions.

Research suggests that organisations which are diverse tend be stronger and better able to meet challenges. Therefore, sport organisations should consider how they can embed equity and diversity in your organisation. Think about the practical actions you could take to ensure your organisation is inclusive for all volunteers.

Embedding principles of equity and diversity in your organisation:

1. Lead from the top –
members of boards and committees, and those holding senior roles in the organisation need to be seen to embody and buy into the culture. They need to demonstrate inclusivity and equity in their roles and behaviour in order to encourage others to follow. This can be described as ‘purposeful leadership’ where leaders provide a compelling purpose and take action for change.

2. Share and celebrate successes of all volunteers.
Use case studies and stories online to highlight the work your sport organisation is doing around inclusion and equity. This can be a great way of attracting new volunteers and members.

3. Ensure that there are multiple ways for volunteers
to feedback their perspectives and experiences, and to share their stories. This will lead to open dialogue and more positive outcomes.

4. Utilise inclusive recruitment strategies –
does your organisation recruit equitably from its local communities? Could you be more proactive in recruiting a more diverse workforce? Think about how you could use some of the recruitment tips and ideas outlined in pillar 2 sub pillar 2 to help with this.

5. Consider nominating an individual
within your organisation to lead on matters relating to inclusive and equity. This could be a specific volunteer role or a specific responsibility for a committee member. This should not be a tokenistic appointment – the person given this responsibility should be supported with access to appropriate training and given support to implement new practices or activities to improve inclusion and diversity within the organisation.

6. Try to create inclusive spaces for volunteers
and other members of the organisation to interact. These can encourage people to get to know each other and help individuals feel part of the organisation. For example, arrange team lunches and other informal events where volunteers can casually connect with each other. If your organisation is large, consider creating a support group or network for volunteers from diverse backgrounds which can help them connect with others who share their experiences.

7. Provide training to volunteers on inclusion and diversity –
you may be able to access appropriate courses from your Governing Body or Federation. You may also wish to consider asking potential volunteers about inclusion and diversity as part of a selection process – see pillar 2 sub pillar 3.

8. Ensure that any volunteer recruitment materials
you produce or use are inclusive, particularly if you are targeting diverse communities. This could involve on a practice level, getting materials translated or ensuring that the colours used on materials are appropriate for individuals with learning difficulties to read.

And remember, an inclusive culture is a work in progress. You should revisit your organisation’s practices, policies, and procedures regularly to double-check that they are fit for purpose and to look for ways of further improving them.

||| Sub-Pillar 3.2

3.2 – Keeping volunteers and participants safe (including legal obligations)


The resources in this section will help you ensure you are meeting your legal obligations in terms of equity and diversity, health and safety, safeguarding and so on. Here you will find guidance to help you develop a suitable code of conduct that sets out the behaviours volunteers will be required to embody in order to ensure that all stakeholders in your sport organisation sport organisation are safe and included. Additionally, you will find resources to support you in identifying hazards affecting volunteers, evaluate them and install processes and procedures to ensure volunteer safety is not compromised.

Key research findings – did you know that:

From our Global Survey of sport organisations:

  • 71% of survey respondents stated that their organisation does not have written guidelines and procedures for managing sport volunteers
  • 49% of survey respondents stated that their organisations do not have anybody responsible for volunteer management.

Your organisation might benefit from having clear guidelines for managing their volunteers which are compliant with good practices and national legislation.

Your organisation might also benefit from having at least one person with responsibility for managing your volunteers.

Content area 1 : How to identify your country’s legal obligations for volunteering in sport

Most countries have regulations covering volunteer engagement in laws and regulations, which in most cases reflect the definition of volunteering, the circumstances under which volunteers can participate, provision of services provided to volunteers by a receiving organisation and regulation in regard to taxation responsibilities.

National strategies and policies play a crucial role in shaping a nation’s practices in connection to volunteering, but also contribute to how volunteer engagement and volunteer contribution is valued in a society, how it is developed, assisted and acknowledged. Strategies and policies facilitate volunteering or address barriers to volunteering as well. The overall approaches defined in policies and strategies influencing volunteering across different sectors in a society may also be important and influential to the sport sector.

There is no single definition of volunteerism that is accepted at the international level. However, certain key elements and values can be defined as activities which:

  • are performed with the free will of the individual
  • are developed in the framework of non-profit, non-government organisations
  • are non-paid and carried out for the benefit of the community or a third party.

Volunteering in general: National laws or regulations

A number of countries have in a place a legal framework to regulate volunteering, however the scope of regulation and the specific aspects of volunteering it regulates naturally vary and are influenced by the social, economic and political make-up of the country.

The laws or regulations show that in general:

  • They provide the right to volunteering
  • Most of the laws add a frame to volunteer administration and their activities
  • Some regulations specify the content, location and duration of the activity
  • Some of the laws determine the local and national development strategies for volunteering
  • Working conditions/protection of volunteering shows that in general the GDPR protects volunteers.

Volunteerism laws and policies are motivated by different considerations in each context, including economic impact, removal of legal obstacles, increased numbers of volunteer initiatives, and responses to certain domestic circumstances. These factors determine the scope and impact of volunteerism regulations. While laws and policies are adopted by governments, they are often initiated by international organisations and domestic civil society organisations.

If your organisation has or is considering utilising young volunteers, there may be additional legal considerations that you need to be aware of. You will also need to consider what roles are suitable for young volunteers, and you will need to ensure that any roles do not interfere with the young person’s education or training. You may also need to ensure that the organisation has parental consent for the young person to volunteer.

Volunteering in sport: Specific national laws or regulations

National laws or regulations specific to sports volunteering are not as general. Some rights and benefits attributed to individual volunteers can be in some cases specific to volunteering in sport (e.g. requirements related to qualifications and background checks).

National laws or regulations in other sectors also may have an impact on volunteering in sport. These sectors may be, for example, education or income taxation reductions or exemptions.

Safeguarding / Background checks

If your organisation involves working with children or vulnerable adults, you are likely to have a duty to ensure that there are safeguarding procedures in place. Safeguarding is simply what it suggests – keeping children, young people, and vulnerable adults safe from harm. Having a robust safeguarding policy and procedures also protects the volunteers working within the organisation. Seek guidance from the government or your governing body / Federation on the vetting procedures you are required to follow. You may also wish to consider appointing a designated safeguarding officer who has responsibility for ensuring that all volunteers have completed all necessary background checks but are also appropriately supported in their roles. This may be particularly important if you are utilising young volunteers.

If your sport organisation needs specialist legal advice on matters relating to volunteering, it is worth exploring whether you are able to access pro-bono legal advice available. Pro bono solicitors and barristers offer free legal advice, representation, and mediation to people and organisations who have no way of paying for it.

Content area 2 : Developing a volunteer code of conduct

Sporting excellence and enjoyment are only achieved by participants, volunteers and spectators alike through the adherence to moral, ethical and sporting standards. A volunteer code of conduct sets out the standards and expectations that are applicable to all volunteers involved with a sporting organisation or club. The codes are therefore a guide for individuals and clubs to think about, and monitor, how they, and others, conduct themselves in their roles.

It therefore provides a very clear understanding, between volunteers and the organisation they are working with, of what is expected when it comes to behaviour. It outlines how organisations are to conduct themselves when working with other volunteers and how volunteers conduct themselves in their roles. It can take the form of a signed agreement.

Behaviours and expectations of volunteers you can expect to find in a code of conduct include:

  • Abide by safeguarding policies and (if appropriate and where the role requires) obtain an acceptable background check
  • Follow other relevant policies and procedures within the sport organisation, for example risk assessments, health and safety guidelines
  • Co-operate fully with others involved in the sport organisation such as coaches, technical officials and team managers
  • Avoid swearing, abusive language and irresponsible or illegal behaviour, including behaviour that is dangerous to yourself or others, acts of violence, bullying, harassment and physical and sexual abuse
  • Not carry or consume alcohol or illegal substances while volunteering
  • Volunteer your time without discrimination on grounds of age, gender, sexual, cultural, ethnic, disability or religious preference
  • Respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person and treat everyone equally, regardless of background or ability
  • Be a good role model to other volunteers and members within the sport organisation

Young Volunteers (under 18 years old):

Children and young people may have their own volunteer codes of conduct and should be clear about their sport organisation or club’s expectations in terms of acceptable behaviour and conduct. It can be beneficial to ask children in their group/team to discuss and agree what the consequences of breaking these codes should be for them.

Disciplinary procedures

When a volunteer does not meet the expectations set out in the codes, disciplinary or performance management action may be taken by the sporting organisation or club. Disciplinary action may include a formal warning or dismissal.

Content area 3 : Risk assessment covering all aspects of volunteering

Sports organisations and clubs have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. Sports organisations and clubs should assess the risks around volunteering roles and activities and take steps to keep volunteers safe.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a simple and effective tool that sports organisations and clubs can use to ensure that all of their activities, equipment and facilities are as safe as possible. Having a risk assessment in place is a good way of controlling the risk of accidents or injuries to everyone involved in your activities, from participants and volunteers to visitors. The risk assessment process can be used to record, identify, and assess risks in order to help develop safe practices or flag further actions needed to help control and manage them.

Key areas of concern to consider in a risk assessment:

Physical hazards or risks –
You should identify and consider any unsafe or hazardous conditions, activity or equipment that may pose a threat.

Safeguarding –
risks related to keeping children and adults safe. This should be considered throughout your safeguarding policies.

Data protection and GDPR –
risks associated with data protection and security including data breaches or GDPR issues as you may find you need to store a range of information about volunteers.

Inclusion and equality –
risks that would prevent your organisation being open and accessible to volunteers.

Insurance –
You should carefully consider which type of insurance cover you need to protect your volunteers during their activities (e.g., a volunteer driver may need to inform their insurance company).

Travelling to volunteer or volunteering abroad –
Those wishing to travel internationally to volunteer should check the travel restrictions of that nation before doing so.

Once you have identified your risks, outline an action plan to resolve the concerns.

Who should carry out the risk assessment?

This should be carried out by a competent person. Additional health and safety training is not required, although would be recommended for a sport organisation or club with its own facility. Carrying out risk assessments is part of your sport organisation or club’s health and safety responsibility to your volunteers.

How regularly should a club carry out a risk assessment?

Recorded risk assessments should be regular activity for all sporting organisations or clubs. The frequency of assessments will often depend on a number of factors:

  • Venue / location
  • Type of groups involved (e.g., activity with underage or vulnerable people)
  • Scale of activity (e.g., a major event)
  • Type of sport and equipment involved.

Any risks highlighted should be recorded and addressed. We advise you reassess to ensure corrective action was successful.

If the risk cannot be mitigated in time for the activity to begin then this may require the activity to be cancelled.

Risk management measures

Once you have carried out a risk assessment, it is important to ensure that volunteers are managed appropriately to reduce risks. The following actions can form part of your organisations risk management plan:

  • Being clear about the volunteer role
  • Ensuring the volunteer has the necessary skills and support to fulfil the role
  • Sourcing references
  • Undertaking a safeguarding / background check for eligible roles
  • Providing a volunteer induction
  • Delivering training on equality issues and relevant aspects of health and safety
  • Providing further training appropriate to the role
  • Ensuring volunteers understand how to implement any risk assessments relevant to their role
  • Ensuring your sport organisation has adequate insurance to cover volunteer activities
Content area 4 : Creating and implementing health and safety procedures

One of the most important parts of managing and supervising volunteers is awareness of the requirements around health and safety. Your organisation will have a legal responsibility towards volunteers in this respect and so it’s important to be fully aware of health and safety requirements and to research any new ones that might come about from the activities that volunteers undertake. Appropriate insurance policies will also need to be in place.

Sport organisations or clubs are therefore required to ensure safe systems of work and a safe working environment for those involved in volunteering. It is good practice for sport organisations to have a health and safety policy which outlines the health and safety procedures that volunteers, staff and members are expected to follow and adhere to.

A policy is a written statement, usually comprises three elements:

A statement section:
To detail how safety will be managed and that demonstrates the organisation or club’s commitment to health and safety.

A club or organisation section:
this should detail where responsibilities are allocated and how volunteers fit into the overall safety management system.

An arrangements section:
To provide details of specific volunteer activities and how functions are managed. This could include such matters as risk assessments, fire safety, first aid and accident reporting.

Good practice when setting out a policy:

  • Your policy should be set out in such a way that makes it clear to everyone what is expected of them to comply
  • A good policy will show how the organisation protects those who could be affected by its activities
  • The policy should be of an appropriate length and relevance to the activities and size of the organisation.

Your sport organisation or club may also wish to consider whether it has the necessary insurance coverage for volunteers.

Insurance for volunteers

Check with your insurance company that your policy covers the range of volunteer activities you plan to undertake and if necessary, adjust the policy if needed. As volunteers are not employees, they may not automatically be considered as ‘Third Party’ under your Public Liability Insurance. Volunteers need to be specifically referred to in your policy. Insurance policies should cover all actions volunteers may carry out as well as the venues they will be operating in. If volunteers take part in strenuous activities, such as sports coaching, or use specialised equipment, then these will need to be covered in your policy. In addition, check that your policy also includes coverage for volunteer involvement at events.

It is also useful for the volunteer to know what activities are covered by the policy, so you may wish to include this information as part of the induction programme. Your insurance policy may need to cover using their car for volunteering purposes, theft of, or damage to, personal items whilst volunteering, and injury whilst volunteering.

||| Sub-Pillar 3.3

3.3 – Communicating with and consulting your volunteers


With so many options available, digital and otherwise, what is the most effective way to communicate with volunteers in different roles in your organisation? This section will enable you to review your current approach whilst identifying the most appropriate channels through which to keep your volunteers informed and involved. This will enable you to gather volunteer feedback, ideas and advice regarding improvements, helping you undertake timely and comprehensive consultation to ensure your decision-making is volunteer-informed.

Key research findings – did you know that:

From our Global Survey of sport organisations:

  • 25% of sport organisations reported it was difficult to maintain communications with their volunteers.

In terms of the communication methods which they used:

  • 81% used emails to communicate with their volunteers
  • 78% used telephone, text and messaging services
  • 72% used face-to-face meetings
  • 40% used social media posts and updates
  • 33% used online meetings
  • 26% used their website,
  • 18% used newsletters.

When it comes to the importance of consulting volunteers:

  • 49% felt that giving their volunteers more say over the running of the organisation would help to retain their involvement.

Your organisation might benefit from considering the full range of communication methods to maintain regular contact with your volunteers.

You may also benefit from seeking feedback from your volunteers and using that feedback to improve their volunteering experience.

Content area 1 : Methods of communication: verbal, written, digital etc.

The management of volunteers, specifically how their participation is planned and implemented, what roles and tasks they are involved in or how they are treated and handled during their contribution are critical in the formulation of their volunteer experience. Clear and consistent communication to volunteers is a key element of this. Unfortunately, many sport organisations fail to communicate effectively with their volunteers for a variety of reasons. For example, they may not provide enough time and space for one-on-one interactions, or they don’t have any proper mechanisms in place to receive feedback. Poor communication leaves your sport organisation at risk of increased misunderstandings, unhappy volunteers, and volunteer attrition. It might even deter some volunteers from getting involved at all! Of course, effectively communicating with a large group of people who may be spread out in different locations or have different communication needs and preferences is easier said than done. As such, this section of the toolkit provides some useful hints and tips for creating effective communications with your volunteer workforce.

Regular contact with your volunteers will help to:

  • Keep volunteers engaged and ensure they feel valued
  • Create a safe working environment
  • Encourage repeat volunteering
  • Ensure volunteer roles and responsibilities are fulfilled correctly
  • Ensure policies and procedures are followed correctly

Methods of communication

There are a variety of methods and tools that you can use to communicate with volunteers. Many of these methods will be very familiar to you – the key is to select the most appropriate method for your volunteers. Remember, you may need to use a combination of different methods to reach all your volunteers depending on their own communication preferences and depending on what you wish to communicate. You may wish to discuss communication preferences with new volunteers during their induction.

The main methods of communication are:

Email offers a way of communicating consistently with large numbers of volunteers via the creation of a group email account or enables you to send more personalised messages to smaller numbers of volunteers. It is often a good communication method to use if you need to send detailed information and attachments.

There are a range of different social media platforms that you can utilise. You may wish to consider using different digital communication tools and group your volunteers based on their preferences. For example, for younger volunteers, TikTok and Instagram may be the most suitable social media tools to use, whereas older volunteers may prefer Facebook or WhatsApp. See the MTÜ Triatloniakadeemia case study for a great example of how social media has been used to recruit and manage volunteers.

On-line forums may be suitable if you are trying to recruit new volunteers or consult existing volunteers in large numbers. They are not an effective tool for managing volunteers and sharing detailed information about an event or regular activities connected to the sport organisation.

Using postal services now seems ‘old fashioned’ due to the technological advances in communication, but it still has its advantages over other methods. It can be more personal than using email or social media, so may be worth considering if you are sending out a ‘thank you’ or wish to some form of recognition or reward for a volunteer’s contribution.

Text messages are useful is you need to communicate immediately with a volunteer. But are more suitable to communicating individually or with a small number of individuals.

Face-to-face communication may be necessary if you need to discuss something sensitive with a volunteer or wish to have a detailed conversation. It can also make a volunteer feel more valued because you have taken the time to speak to them in-person rather than using one of the other methods above. This type of communication is often crucial and important in relationship building.

In summary, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, so you will need to choose the most appropriate method and be prepared to be flexible. You may also wish to consider the following ‘tips’ for effective communication:

Tips for effective communication

  • Keep communications short and brief (remember volunteers are often working full time or have other commitments).
  • Avoid using complicated and unnecessary jargon, especially when recruiting new volunteers who may have little-to-no experience. Too much jargon may confuse or disengage potential volunteers who may not understand your lingo. So as much as possible, keep communications simple and clear.
  • For important messages, communicate them several times in different formats. Don’t assume that sending it out once means it has been read and understood.
  • Include visuals where you can, pictures are always great for attracting attention.
  • Do remember that anything you post online is public, regardless of whether your organisation’s page or account is private or not.
  • Get to know your volunteers so you can understand the most effective ways to communicate with them.
  • Be flexible and use different methods of communication as needed. Your organisation and volunteers will all benefit if you learn to convey messages effectively while eliminating misconceptions.

And remember to say ‘thank you’ often. Your volunteers donate their time, attention, and skills to your organisation so showing gratitude is vital for communicating their impact on your organisation. A simple thank you can go a long way in making your volunteers feel appreciated and valued, which can, in turn, help you retain more of your volunteers year over year.

Content area 2 : Gathering volunteer feedback on all aspects of their experience

A key aspect of creating a good environment for volunteers is to provide them with opportunities to feedback on their experiences. This can help your organisation to improve the way it recruits, manages, and develops its volunteers, and thus contribute to their retention. This section of the toolkit will provide you with advice and suggestions on how you can gather volunteer feedback.

The first thing to consider is why you want this feedback. Is it in relation to a specific question or aspect of the volunteer experience or is it more generic feedback on the whole volunteer experience at your sport organisation. This is important, as it may determine which method of gathering feedback is most appropriate.

One of the best practices for collecting volunteer feedback is to make the process as easy and accessible as possible. This can include providing multiple channels for volunteers to provide feedback, such as online forms, email, or surveys. You should gather all feedback whether it is positive or negative and then act upon it. In addition to helping the organisation improve its volunteer management practices, feedback also helps volunteers to understand themselves and their role better, and to reflect on what works well as well as any challenges and problems.

Methods for gathering feedback:

1. Run an annual volunteer survey.
You can use online tools such as SurveyMonkey to help design, distribute, and gather responses from a simple questionnaire that asks volunteers about their experiences. This can then be used to help you plan or develop future strategies around the management of volunteers. See the template provided for sample questions you may wish to ask your volunteers.

2. Meet with volunteer leaders (if applicable)
regularly to provide opportunities for them to feedback on the experiences of their volunteers. This can be an effective way of identifying an issue early and addressing it before it becomes more problematic.

3. Organise group activities and get-togethers
such as picnics, dinners, or training sessions. This gives volunteers an opportunity to speak informally about their experiences and can do wonders for volunteer engagement. In-person interaction gives volunteers the chance to bond with each other and develop a sense of community and purpose. They also provide a value opportunity to share and gather information. Consider adding a question-and-answer session at the end of the activity to give volunteers a chance to raise issues or ask questions.

4. Give volunteers opportunities to voice their opinions.
Effective communication also means giving volunteers a chance to voice their opinions or concerns, ask questions, and share suggestions. Whether a volunteer needs advice or feels displeased with how a particular activity is being managed, they should know how to contact you and should have multiple opportunities to do so. This could include having a nominated individual that volunteers can approach if needed, or an email address they can use to raise concerns or make suggestions.

5. Make an effort to talk to volunteers
informally and ask them how their volunteering experience is progressing. This could be at a training session or event – the key is to ensure the contact is informal and relaxed. Listen carefully to what they say, and if they raise any concerns ask them for recommendations on how to fix the problem.

6. Organise specific meetings with volunteers –
these can be face-to-face or online. You can use these to discuss specific elements of the volunteer experience or gather more generic feedback about the volunteer experience at your organisation.

The next step of this process is to utilise the feedback you have gathered. We consider how your organisation can this in the next section.

Content area 3 : Incorporating feedback to improve the volunteer experience

The main goal of getting feedback to gather information that will be used to improve the volunteer management processes.

Firstly, it is good practice to always thank volunteers for their feedback, for example, respond to emails they may have sent, or send out a summary of any volunteer surveys your organisation has undertaken. It is important that volunteers feel their opinion has been listened to and taken seriously.

You should also commit to acting on the feedback you have received. This is known as a closed loop system. This feedback may need actioning at different levels of your organisation, so you may need to consider the most appropriate way to cascade the feedback to the different sections of the organisation or other volunteers / staff members who need to take action on the back of the feedback received. It is also important that you follow-up on the feedback to ensure it has been actioned, and to let the volunteer(s) know what actions have been undertaken.

How to make the most of the feedback your organisation has received:

1. Find an appropriate way to record,
store, or keep track of the feedback received. You could copy the feedback into a shared document or spreadsheet which can be accessed and shared by multiple people within the organisation. Organising your feedback in this way, will make it easier for you to analyse the responses you receive, share them, and then feedback to volunteers on what you have learnt.

2. Evaluate your feedback.
It is important to consider all feedback you receive and to recognise that some of this may be negative. This is the feedback that you can use to make positive changes to your volunteer management procedures. If the feedback has an overly negative tone, or is impolite, don’t be offended and don’t disregard the feedback. Look at the feedback, pick out the points they are trying to make, and turn it into a useful piece of feedback. When you have received enough responses, you can start to have a look for patterns. Are the respondents identifying the same area that needs improvement? This should be the first thing you focus on. If the feedback does not identify any potential improvements, you may need to ask your questions in a different way or make the feedback anonymous to get honest opinions. While you are evaluating the feedback, think about how it compares to your perspective, and then think about it from the volunteer’s situation. Putting yourself in the volunteer’s shoes should give you some perspective on the reasoning behind the feedback.

3. Use the feedback to make an action plan
or integrate the feedback into any strategic planning you may be doing around volunteer management within your organisation. Once you have evaluated the feedback you should have an idea of what areas need to be improved. Create a list of areas or procedures for improvement based on the feedback and prioritise these based on their importance. This should allow you to work on the most important areas first. You may also wish to create a schedule for when you want these changes to happen by, what needs to be done to make those changes, and who is responsible for implementing these changes or improvements. Be realistic, considering what time and resources you have available.

4. Try and avoid just focusing on the easy fixes.
If the feedback has identified an important area that needs improving but which will take longer to action, you may wish to focus on that first as it may have the biggest impact on improving the volunteer experience at your sport organisation.

5. It is also important to follow up on the feedback
received with the volunteer(s) themselves. If the feedback is not anonymous, you should verbally, or via email, thank the people who provided it. If their feedback is something you are going to action, let that person know what you will do, and when it has been actioned.

The key to using feedback effectively is to act on it. If you ignore it, this is likely to contribute to a poor organisational culture and a negative volunteering experience. If you demonstrate your willingness to act on feedback, this will contribute to the development of a strong and supportive culture for volunteers, and is likely to help recruit and retain volunteers.

3.3 Case studies

||| Sub-Pillar 3.4

3.4 – Monitoring volunteers’ performance and acknowledging their contributions


In order not only to measure the wider impact of volunteers, but also to ensure the effective day-to-day running of the organisation, volunteer performance must be routinely monitored. This should be a positive activity for all parties, supporting volunteers to do the best possible job in a welcoming culture as well as enabling you to thank them for their contributions. In addition to having more formal implications for career development, this will aid with retention and volunteer performance as they are more likely to feel like a valued part of your sport organisation.

Key research findings – did you know that:

Maintaining the motivation of sport volunteers is very important to retaining their services. The desk research and interviews highlight the importance of compensating volunteers for their efforts and giving small material rewards.

But our Global Survey results show that only a minority do this, for example:

  • Only 46% of organisations provide clothes and uniform
  • Only 42% of organisations reimburse volunteers’ expenses
  • Only 11% offer incentives such as reduced membership fees, leisure sport services or discounts for tickets

Research also shows the importance of acknowledging volunteer contributions in non-material ways. Yet, once again, the survey results show only a minority do so, for example:

  • Only 37% provide awards, certificates and celebrations for their volunteers
  • Only 24% offer access to training
  • Only 18% organise social events.

Rewarding your volunteers for their time and effort will be very important to retaining their services. Encourage your organisation to think about how it can show gratitude to your volunteers in ways that they will appreciate.

Content area 1 : Monitoring performance: what to measure and how

Monitoring performance helps sport organisations and their volunteers to achieve better results in a more effective way. Monitoring is the process of collecting information on the work that takes place within your organisation, so that your processes and procedures can be reviewed and updated as necessary. Monitoring can provide feedback on the organisation’s progress towards specific goals and can also help monitor volunteers’ performance. Ideally, monitoring and evaluation should take place on a regular and systematic basis based on clearly defined criteria and methodologies.

Most organisations will keep internal records of numbers of volunteers, volunteer hours, qualifications, and skills. This can be used to support volunteer deployment and management but may also be important for supporting the submission of funding applications. Monitoring and evaluation does not have to be too time consuming, but it is important that any monitoring activities are not just a paper exercise. Once you have collected data from your monitoring activities, you will need to evaluate and analyse what that data tells you about volunteer performance. This process will help you to identify any gaps and improvements you can make to improve the volunteer experience in your sport organisation.

Why monitor and evaluate a volunteer programme?

  • To measure the quality of the volunteers’ experience within your organisation
  • To identify the impact that volunteers have on your organisation, both in terms of their contribution and their economic value
  • To identify areas in your volunteer programme that may need improvement
  • Funders may require you to monitor and evaluate your volunteer programme.

What to measure:

Your monitoring and evaluation activities may produce both outputs and outcomes. Outputs are quantitative measures such as facts, figures and statistics. Outcomes are the changes generated through volunteer management activities. They are typically qualitative impacts such as the new skills volunteers have developed or the difference a volunteer has made within the organisation. The combination of outputs and outcomes will provide you with valuable insight into the effectiveness of your volunteer management activities.

The first step in monitoring and evaluating a volunteer programme is to identify your aims and objectives, so that you can measure the outputs and outcomes of your volunteering programme i.e. what do you need to know more about.

Outputs can include information such as:

  • How diverse are our volunteers?
  • How successful are our recruitment methods?
  • How well do we retain volunteers?
  • How did our volunteers find out about our volunteering opportunities?
  • What is the economic value of volunteers to the organisation?

Outcomes may include:

  • What’s the volunteer experience like?
  • Do our volunteers feel properly supported?
  • Are current volunteer policies and procedures relevant?
  • How does the training we provide enhance the volunteer experience?
  • Are the volunteers happy?
  • How much do volunteers contribute towards the organisation?
  • In what ways have volunteers benefited the organisation?
  • Is there a suitable way of thanking volunteers?

Undertaking monitoring activities:

A key consideration when undertaking monitoring and evaluation activities is to ensure that your volunteers understand why they are being asked to provide information and understand how this will help the organisation to become more effective and to improve the volunteer experience. As such it is important that:

  • Organisation objectives are measurable, achievable and understandable to the volunteers
  • The evaluation procedure is motivating for volunteers not onerous
  • The evaluation criteria are clear and transparent
  • There are fewer rather than more evaluation criteria
  • Sufficient time is planned for the assessment.

There are a variety of methods of evaluation available to sport organisations to use. These include:

  • Observations
  • Group discussions (‘focus groups’)
  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires
  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Informal chats

It is important to recognise that some of these methods are better for generating outputs (i.e., numerical data), for example, satisfaction surveys and questionnaires, whilst others will generate qualitative data and information about outcomes, for example, interviews, discussions and observations. You should therefore select the most appropriate method depending on what information you require.

For example, collecting demographic data on your volunteers may help you to assess the diversity of your workforce, supporting the organisation to subsequently target certain areas or groups in your local community that may be underrepresented. Alternatively, a discussion with a group of volunteers may be helpful in generating insight on their experiences within the organisation including recruitment and induction processes, training and development activities and whether they feel that their efforts are adequately recognised and rewarded. Information gathered can then be used to implement any improvements or further develop areas of strength.

In the process of monitoring and evaluating volunteer performance, it is therefore important to:

  • Discuss and compare the results achieved with the agreed results
  • Set new and agreed objectives
  • Discuss options and plan possible changes
  • Plan and identity the actions needed to achieve the new objectives and allocate responsibility for actions to specific individuals
  • Document and communicate what has been agreed. This involves providing feedback to volunteers to keep them informed of future actions and progress against these.
Content area 2 : Providing feedback and guidance to volunteers

Feedback provides information and tools to help a volunteer reach a goal while keeping that individual on track. It also helps to maintain or fuel motivation and a team spirt. Feedback should be specific, and within sport organisations involve two elements. Firstly, the organisation may provide generic feedback to all volunteers based around the overall volunteer experience for example the contributions made by all volunteers to the organisation’s success, or actions that the organisation is taking to support its volunteers. Secondly, feedback may be provided to individual volunteers on their progression and contribution. This feedback may be connected to their personal development and performance and focus on improving their skills, knowledge, and attributes. Providing support and regular feedback to individual volunteers on their performance and development will directly contribute to the organisation’s overall success, so it is important to get it right!

Giving feedback is necessary and beneficial for both parties – the volunteer and the sport organisation:

  • Feedback helps volunteers to understand themselves better and guides and motivates their behaviour and may result in improvements in their performance
  • Good feedback (even if it is to address an issue) is helpful and motivating
  • Feedback will also help the volunteer to assess their learning and personal development
  • Feedback should be balanced – it is important to recognise good performance but also to discuss areas for improvement and development.

Providing feedback to volunteers:

If your organisation undertakes regular monitoring and evaluation activities with volunteers (as discussed in the previous section), it is important that the outcomes of these activities are fed back to volunteers. You should share the findings of these activities, and how you will use this information to help improve their volunteer experience. As this information is about the organisation as a whole and not individual volunteers, it can be shared via email or in a large meeting to ensure that it reaches as many volunteers as possible.

When managing or supervising individual volunteers in sport organisations, it is important to let the volunteer know, how he or she is doing on a personal level, and what they can do to improve and how the organisation can help with this process. In addition, if the volunteer is doing well, this should also be acknowledged and recognised. If the volunteer needs to improve, this should be specifically, yet sensitively and constructively addressed. Ideally, feedback provided to individual volunteers should be done in-person as this is more impactful and a better way to have open and honest discussions about the individual’s progress and contribution.

Some reminders about feedback:

  • Feedback should focus on the volunteer’s behaviour and activities. It should focus on the volunteer’s recent performance and contributions, not on his/her personality
  • Feedback should be given directly to the individual by their supervision or mentor, not via another person
  • Feedback is the opinion and impression of the person giving the feedback therefore it is important that it is carefully thought-through and balanced
  • Feedback should be development-oriented and focus on providing support to the volunteer.

How to give feedback:

  • Ideally, feedback should be provided in-person and face-to-face
  • Any problems or issues relating to volunteer performance or contribution should be reported and dealt with as quickly as possible in an open way
  • Choose the right time and place to provide feedback and ensure you have allowed sufficient time to discuss it with the volunteer
  • Prepare in advance, so that you are organised and know what points you wis to make. Provide opportunities for the volunteer to contribute to the discussion and listen carefully to their perspective. At the end of the discussion, try to agree actions or goals that the volunteer can work towards to either further develop or if necessary to address issues with their performance.
  • Avoid making judgements of the volunteer before you have spoken to them.
  • Speak for yourself, use ‘I’ language as feedback comes from your observations
  • Avoid generalisations such as “always” or “never”. It is better to use terms such as ‘sometimes’ or ‘occasionally’
  • Observe if behaviour changes or if the volunteer continues to progress/improve and provide feedback on an ongoing basis.

Using feedback to help manage volunteer performance:

When providing feedback to individual volunteers, it is important to recognise that volunteers will want to do their best and be good volunteers. If there are issues with volunteer performance that require you to take action to address, it is worth asking yourself whether any of the following situations could be affecting their performance:

The volunteer does not know what is expected of them.
Have you clearly discussed the expectations you have of each other? Do you give feedback to the volunteer on their performance when you are both satisfied with the performance and when there is room for improvement? If volunteer does not know that he or she is doing something wrong, they will not know how to change their behaviour or actions.

The volunteer does not know why they should do certain activities or tasks.
Volunteers often don’t realise the importance of tasks and how they are connected to larger activities undertaken by the organisation. It is therefore important that they understand how their work contributes, for example where their specific tasks fit in the overall sequence of activities needed to help the organisation deliver activities or events, and therefore its importance.

The volunteer does not know how to do a task.
Tasks that seem simple to you and that are done in a casual way can be difficult for new volunteers, and therefore cause uncertainty. It is therefore important to ensure that you have adequate an induction and training programme in place and that volunteers have access to ongoing support from a named individual within the organisation. Check that the volunteer is happy with what they are expected to do.

The volunteer thinks his approach is better.
We want to encourage volunteers to demonstrate initiative and independence, but it is important that tasks and responsibilities are completed appropriately. It is possible that a young volunteer, by doing things differently, is not ignoring the instructions, but is taking what he or she thinks is an innovative approach to the task. Be clear about boundaries and where there is flexibility (and where there isn’t. You should also consider whether the new approach demonstrated by the volunteer has merit – it may actually help improve practice and enrich the day-to-day activities of the organisation.

There is no direct or indirect positive outcome to the volunteer’s activities.
People tend to prefer to do the kind of work for which they are rewarded and recognised. This does not necessarily have to be in the form of a material reward. The provision of positive feedback and recognition based on the volunteer’s work are sometimes more motivating than financial reward. Alternatively, if the volunteer if not completely their tasks or responsibilities instead of discussing with them directly, they are given lighter tasks or reduced hours etc. This is not a ‘good practice’ – it is always better to discuss issues with the volunteer directly and come to an agreed solution. Just reducing their hours or responsibilities without explanation is likely to be de-motivating and confusing.

Depending on the volunteer and their performance, you may also wish to consider using a volunteer mentoring system to help support volunteers. Ideally, the mentor should be somebody within the organisation with the right skills, knowledge and attributes to perform this role, who can act as a role model and support for the volunteer in their specified role. The mentor’s role is to support the volunteer to learn on the job – getting used to the tasks, learning new techniques, setting goals, evaluating results, etc. This should therefore someone with whom the volunteer works directly on a day-to-day basis, and who can give direct feedback, guide the volunteer in analysing situations, and clarify connections and background.

Content area 3 : The value of acknowledging and rewarding volunteer contributions

Volunteer recognition is a critical part of volunteer management. Recognition involves acknowledging the efforts and contribution of volunteers and thanking them for their efforts. It can take on many forms from formal events to a simple timely thank-you. It shows appreciation for the work that volunteers do for your sport organisation and provides volunteers with a sense of belonging and contribution. Volunteers give their time willingly and without expectation of a reward; however, appropriately recognising volunteers demonstrates how much your organisation values their contribution.

Taking the time to recognise your volunteers can help organisations to retain high-performing volunteers and recruit new ones. Recognising volunteers is closely linked to motivating them, it reinforces a sense of belonging and helps to show that their contribution is important and valuable. When volunteers feel appreciated and important, they are more likely to continue their involvement. Research suggests that volunteers who are recognised and rewarded for their work will be driven to do even better work in the future. For many sports organisations who depend on volunteers, it is therefore crucial that volunteers feel appreciated and connected to the organisation. Let your volunteers know the impact they have on and within the organisation.

A comprehensive recognition and reward system should be balanced and will acknowledge participation and effort, progress towards goals and excellence.
Rewards enhance productivity, boost engagement, and increase productivity. Perhaps more importantly, having happy and motivated volunteers will contribute towards the development and continuation of a supportive organisation culture.

It is crucial to align recognition and reward systems with the organisations overall strategy so that any rewards provided are directly connected to the organisations goals. For example, if you are trying to increase the skills and knowledge of volunteers, suitable rewards for good practice may include access to additional training or formal recognition of volunteers who have completed specific qualifications. This would help to embed desired behaviours within the organisation culture whilst also recognising the efforts and commitment of volunteers. You may also wish to recognise volunteers who demonstrate the right behaviours to promote them as positive role models.

It is also important to understand the difference between recognition for an achievement, versus appreciation for effort for someone, even if they did not perhaps achieve the desired results. Both are noteworthy and in need of acknowledgement. Effective volunteer recognition is an ongoing process – it is not just a one-off event each year. Consideration should be given to how volunteers can be acknowledged more frequently. This should be considered in any reward and recognition system you are considering developing within your organisation. Any rewards or recognition provided to volunteers should be authentic, timely and aligned to results / behaviours. The next section of this sub-pillar looks at how your sports organisation can implement a volunteer reward and recognition system.

Content area 4 : Implementing a system of volunteer rewards

As volunteers are very diverse, there is no one-size-fits-all method or system that will work ‘best’. It is likely to depend on your specific sport organistion, its infrastructure and the nature of your volunteers. There are multiple ways to recognise the contributions made by volunteers – you will need to consider what works best in your organisation.

One way to identify this can be to consult with, and talk to, the volunteers themselves. Guidance on how to involve volunteers in the ‘Communicating with and consulting your volunteers’ section within this pillar. Remember, you may need to develop a system that includes different forms and types of recognition that ‘suit’ the different volunteer roles within your organisation and the different types of volunteers (e.g., younger volunteers, long-term versus short-term volunteers).

Thanking volunteers can involve:

  • Providing tangible items and gifts, such as badges, clothing and kit, thank you notes, mementos and the like.
  • Informal approaches that help the volunteer feel satisfaction with their achievements, a sense of pride and higher self-esteem. For example, simply verbally congratulating and thanking volunteers on their work and contribution can make volunteers feel valued.
  • An organised and formal recognition and reward system incorporating the tangible items and gifts listed above combined with formal events such as a ‘thank you event’ or ‘volunteer awards evening’ and the development of a volunteer recognition system with clear criteria.

There are lots of way you can thank and recognise volunteer contributions, and which can be incorporated into a formal volunteer recognition system or policy. These include:

  •  A simple “thank you!” for a job well done
  • Thanking volunteers by name and highlighting them on the organisation’s website, publications, and other information materials
  • Letters of thanks, tokens of appreciation, decorations, awards
  • Remembrance on special occasions (birthday card, small Christmas gift etc.)
  • Appreciation events – collective thank you for volunteers (thank you dinner, small party or annual volunteer awards and recognition event)
  • Joint outings, hikes, and cultural events
  • Giving gifts with the organisation’s logo
  • Feedback on the work done from the chairperson of the organisation
  • Nominating your volunteers for awards at national, local and sectoral recognition events
  • Offering a letter of recommendation from the organisation to a volunteer, help through volunteering, describing skills and experience gained on a CV
  • Giving volunteers a meaningful title based on their activities (e.g. volunteer project manager), ‘promoting’ the volunteer to a more challenging position in the organisation
  • Articles on volunteers in the media
  • Encouraging interaction between volunteers (e.g. volunteer meetings, joint events etc.)
  • Facilitating participation in training courses and seminars (both at home and abroad)
  • Token gifts (e.g. gift cards)
  • Celebrating International Volunteer Day within your organisation on 5th of December each year.

You can also read about how some sports organisations have implemented volunteer reward and recognition activities in the case studies below.

3.4 Case studies

||| Sub-Pillar 3.5

3.5 – Coordinating volunteers and managing turnover


Regardless of whether the size of your organisation, it is necessary for at least one person to be responsible for the ongoing coordination of the volunteer workforce. In addition, volunteers’ engagement in sport organisations is always life-limited, so it is operationally critical to plan for succession. This section therefore includes some practical management resources to help you to coordinate and manage your volunteers. This includes tools to help you respond to volunteer resignations by mapping the gaps they will leave and identifying and supporting their successors.

Key research findings – did you know that:

The Global Survey results show that 60% of sport organisations find managing volunteers either difficult or very difficult.

The main difficulties sport organisations identify are:

  • Volunteers not available when we need them (82%)
  • Volunteers do not have the same motivation as paid staff (25%)
  • Volunteers are not as reliable as paid staff (22%)
  • Volunteers do not have the same skills as paid staff (21.3%).

When you are thinking about the best ways of coordinating your volunteers, there are some important lessons, for example:

  • Plan well ahead and give your volunteers early information about when they will be needed
  • Reinforce your volunteers’ motivation by giving them positive and constructive feedback
  • Plan how you allocate responsibilities to your volunteers so that they match their availability
  • Plan their work and put them together with more experienced people so that they get the chance to learn new skills.

When it comes to volunteer retention:

  • 71% of the Global Survey respondents reported a lot or some difficulties retaining volunteers.

The main reasons for retention difficulties were reported as:

  • Time constraints (77%)
  • Changes in personal circumstances (56%)
  • Volunteers do not feel the long-term benefits of volunteering (31%)
  • Volunteers do not feel their contributions are recognised and celebrated (31%).

These finding reinforce the importance of being flexible in matching volunteering opportunities to the individual needs of your volunteers and of recognising and celebrating their achievements.

Content area 1 : Implementing appropriate supervision arrangements for each volunteer

Once volunteers are recruited and onboard, it is essential to implement an appropriate supervision arrangement for each volunteer. By doing this, you can make sure that you build a comfortable and supportive environment for them. It also gives the organisation a way of monitoring the volunteer to ensure that they are operating safely. You should aim to provide the right level of supervision and support to your volunteers throughout the time they are volunteering. This can depend upon the demands of their role, what you can offer, and what is best for both you and the volunteer.

Why is supervision important to volunteers?

  • To ensure that volunteers understand what is expected from them
  • To get feedback for their involvement and contribution
  • To identify areas for improvement for their future involvement
  • To ensure that they feel properly supported and that their work is appreciated and important.

Why is supervision important for organisations?

  • To track the amount of time the volunteers are spending in their role and to ensure that this is manageable
  • To understand how the role and the demands are perceived by the volunteers. This will help to identify potential risks, particularly in relation to emotional burden and to safeguarding
  • To establish a clear understanding of the tasks and issues involved in the volunteer role
  • To identify volunteers needs, for example additional training or guidance
  • To identify potential issues or problems that need to be addressed.

Implementing supervision arrangements

It is important to inform the volunteers about how they will be supervised and supported. Some volunteers may see support or supervision meetings as a distraction from the reason they wanted to volunteer in the first place. You should aim to make sure they understand it is for them to feedback about the organisation, others in the team and their role, and to ensure that the organisation is supporting them appropriately. Ideally hold supervision sessions at convenient times that fit within their usual volunteering pattern to reduce placing additional burdens on the volunteer.

How can you supervise the volunteers?

  • Directly observing their work
  • Asking for feedback from those responsible of the volunteers’ management
  • Asking for feedback from other volunteers
  • Creating buddying systems (either alongside other volunteers or a paid member of staff) – these have the advantage of making sure there are two people present in any situation
  • Volunteer meetings where peer support and discussion is encouraged
  • Formal supervision meetings which allow for a regular one to one discussion following a set agenda
  • Less formal, but regular meetings (including by online channels) that have the same purpose.

Some key questions to ask:

  • What has gone well or what do you like about what you did?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What support do you need from me or others?
  • Have you got any concerns about others you want to share?

The volunteer should receive clear direction from you and your management committee or trustees, feedback on their work, support and advice, and if needed an opportunity to vent, fret, and question both their own actions and other’s actions. The supervision activities should you ensure that you have a clearer understanding of the tasks and issues involved in the volunteer role, and the volunteer’s perception of how things are going and any additional needs they have. They can also be a useful way of gaining views and ideas from the volunteer about the organisation as a whole.

Providing feedback to volunteers

This is discussed in more detail in the previous sub-pillar, but it worth considering briefly here too. There are different ways that you can provide feedback to volunteers through supervisory activities:

  • Create a feedback form with ranked scales that will enable you to rank the work of the volunteer. If you are using one, this can be presented to the volunteers before they start their mission. Over time, the form can be reviewed to monitor if the volunteers have made any progress in their activities. Be aware though, that volunteers may disagree with your rankings, so a scale such as this should be used to prompt a open discussion rather than be presented as final.
  • You can use one-to-one meetings as part of an ongoing feedback model. These can be in a more formal, or in a less formal setting. These give volunteers the chance to have uninterrupted time to discuss their involvement, review their performance and identify any components that might affect their experience. Through one-to-one meetings, you can also get to know your volunteers on a more personal level.
  • Direct supervisors or line-managers of volunteers should provide feedback as they are the most suitable people to assess their involvement and to identify ways to improve their overall experience.
  • One-to-many meetings can also be a good mechanism for passing feedback to volunteers involved in the same task or project. This way they might get a better idea of the impact of their overall work. It can also be an opportunity to strengthen the bonds within the team by addressing issues that haven’t been discussed in other settings. This also has the benefit of not singling out individual volunteers, so may be an appropriate way to bring up issues or areas for improvement that are relevant to multiple volunteers.

The key aspect of establishing supervisory arrangements for volunteers is that the volunteer is clear on these arrangements and their purpose. It is important that volunteers have a named individual within the organisation who is responsible for their supervision and whom they can approach with any issues or problems.

Content area 2 : Deploying your volunteer workforce to ensure key tasks are fulfilled

You have hopefully recruited volunteers with the rights skills, knowledge, and attributes by following some of the good practice guidelines outlined in pillar two. Now that you have recruited your volunteers, you need to deploy them. The process of deployment involves allocating volunteers to specific roles and ensuring that you have enough volunteers to cover all the necessary aspects of those roles, activities, or tasks.

Before deploying your volunteer workforce, it is essential that you have considered:

  • All the tasks and activities that need to be fulfilled by your volunteers. Individual tasks and activities can be grouped into more complex volunteer roles. It is important to make sure that these are clearly defined and time bound. Ideally, you should create volunteer role descriptors to ensure that the volunteer and the organisation is clear on the responsibilities and duties connected to each role.
  • Your available volunteer workforce. This should include the number of volunteers available and the dates and times of their availability. It is also important to keep track of their skills and abilities.
  • Which volunteers are suited for each role and would work well and complement each other. If there are tensions between certain volunteers it may be important to ensure that they are not asked to work together. Alternatively, you may wish to team certain volunteers up because they work effectively together.

Once you have considered the points above, you should be able to match your volunteer needs with the available volunteer workforce.

Other considerations to bear in mind:

  • Make sure that the availability of the volunteers hasn’t changed since you were last in contact with them
  • Send (and if necessary, re-send) the role description to the volunteer to prevent discrepancies and clarify expectations
  • Give volunteers some time to get acquainted with the rest of the team before starting their volunteer tasks
  • If necessary, provide training to volunteers to make sure that they get used to the technicalities of the roles
  • If you work with big groups of volunteers identify team leaders who can improve the overall communication flows and act as contact points for volunteers.

Whilst tasks and activities are being completed, it is also important to:

  • Keep an evidence of all tasks and follow their completion status.
  • Check in regularly with volunteers to ensure that they are still happy in that role and have everything they need to undertake it. This applies equally to short-term and long-term volunteers.
  • Use team leaders or nominated volunteers to feedback on the competition of key tasks or update on progress. If needed, you can then make tweaks to volunteer deployment if additional support if required etc.
  • If tasks are completed earlier than expected, consider reallocating volunteers, or finishing their missions earlier.
  • Try to create fellowship within the volunteer groups.
  • Reward volunteers when tasks are completed (you can find ideas of how to do this in the previous sub-pillar)
Content area 3 : Identifying and planning for gaps left by volunteer resignations

Although most volunteers are very committed, at some stage it is likely that your organisation may need to replace volunteers. This could be due to a change in the circumstances of that volunteer or because their time at your sport organisation has naturally come to an end. There may be some circumstances where volunteers leave because they are not happy volunteering within the organisation.

The first step to dealing with volunteer turnover and attrition is to understand why volunteers leave or reduce their involvement. There could be many reasons, such as personal or professional changes, burnout, dissatisfaction, lack of recognition, or mismatch of expectations. In these cases, it is important to find out and assess whether the organisation could have done anything to prevent this from happening. This gives you an opportunity to see if the situation can be remedied or/and to ensure that it doesn’t occur again in the future.

Therefore, when a volunteer quits, it is important to:

  • Ask for feedback – try to understand why they have decided to make this decision
  • Explore options – will they be available to help in the future, or they don’t want to volunteer ever again for your organisation
  • Show them praise and thank them for the contribution they have made. You want the volunteer to leave on good terms
  • You may also wish to ask them to recommend replacements or for ideas on how you could recruit new volunteers with the right skills, knowledge and attributes to replace them.

Planning for volunteer succession

You may also wish to plan ahead and put processes in place that help the organisation to minimise the disruption that a volunteer leaving may cause. Succession planning is planning for when a person who currently holds a key position or important skills moves on or is no longer available. Succession planning is also about retaining current volunteers as well as engaging new volunteers. By taking a few extra steps, you just might keep some of your best volunteers from leaving in the first place. In addition, by cultivating your volunteers and building up your relationship, you can help ensure that they have nothing but good things to say about you and your work.

Creating succession plans doesn’t mean making your key volunteers replaceable. Instead, it’s a method you can use to make the volunteer experience more enjoyable and more rewarding. At its core, it’s about developing and retaining talent. A succession plan helps you nurture those volunteers so they can gain the skills and experiences they want. And it helps your seasoned volunteer’s step back from positions they no longer enjoy. The result is a happy, nurturing relationship. that’s critical to your organisation’s success and reputation.

Steps you can take to support volunteer succession:

  • Ensure that you recognise and reward your volunteers for the work they do – this helps to create a successful organisation culture, helping to retain existing volunteers and making your organisation a desirable place for other people to volunteer.
  • Undertake a skills audit of volunteer needs regularly (ideally each year) to ensure you know exactly what type of volunteers you require.
  • Build capacity within the organisation via the implementation of a training plan to ensure that there are multiple volunteers with the key skills, knowledge, qualifications and attributes needed for key roles. This can help you to redeploy volunteers to cover gaps or promote volunteers into more senior positions as needed, without leaving the organisation vulnerable should a key volunteer leave.
  • To replace sudden resignations or no-shows, have a back-up list of volunteers that can come in and fill in on a temporary basis.
  • If you suspect or have been told that a volunteer is likely to step-down, start looking for a suitable replacement as early as possible. This can involve looking inside the organisation, and externally. You may need to be proactive to identify and recruit a suitably skilled replacement.
  • Have open conversations with volunteers about future organisational needs – some may volunteer to take on additional responsibilities and/or shadow others so that they understand what those roles require should they need to fill in or replace other volunteers. This involves identifying up and coming volunteers who are ready to step-up when needed.
  • Build succession into volunteer roles – every few years check whether existing volunteers want to carry on, or would like to step-down, reduce their contribution, or change roles. This is about being proactive in how you manage your volunteers and can help to minimise disruption.

By implementing these steps, you can ensure that your organisation is not disadvantaged when a volunteer leaves. Instead their contributions to the organisation are celebrated, and their leaving is viewed positively as creating an opportunity for the development of other volunteers, or as a chance for the organisation to recruit new volunteers with additional skills who can contribute positively to the ongoing development of the organisation.

3.5 Case studies