Volunteer strategy

Volunteer recruitment and deployment

Volunteer management and retention

Volunteer development and training

Pillar 1: Volunteer strategy and planning

|||  PILLAR 1

Volunteer strategy and planning

||| Sub-Pillar 1.1

1.1 – Assessing your volunteer needs – workforce analysis and skills gaps


Volunteers are vital to the success of many sports organisations, but how often do we take the time to map the size and nature of the volunteer workforce required for a successful operation?

Even if you know what roles in your organisation need to be done by volunteers, have you mapped the required skills and knowledge in each position? This section features analysis tools and helpful content that will help you gain a stronger appreciation for your ideal volunteer workforce, including the skills gaps you may need to fill with new or upskilled volunteers.

Key research findings – did you know that:

Sport volunteering is vital for the sport sector. Our desk research shows that 12 million EU citizens volunteer in sport every year, contributing over 97 million hours per month.

From the Global Survey of sport organisations we can see that:

  • 92.2% of survey respondents said that sport organisations simply could not provide the services they do without volunteers,
  • All seven key roles in sport organisations were filled either exclusively by volunteers or by a majority of volunteers.

Sport, at every level, must acknowledge the importance of volunteers, and every sport organisation should have a strategy for making best use of volunteers to improve its activities and reward their efforts.

Content area 1 : Workforce analysis – mapping your volunteering needs

There are two phases to the process of assessing your volunteering needs. This is one of the most fundamental tasks of ensuring your organisation has an appropriate team in place to enable you carry out your existing commitments as well as to enable you expand on the services you offer to your members and local community. The first phase – captured in this content area – is to analyse the current and potential workforce for your sport organisation. It might seem unusual, especially in a smaller organisation, to think of a group of volunteers as a ‘workforce’. This is useful, though, when considering the bundle of skills, knowledge and attributes required to successfully carry out your work.

So, for starters… how much do you know about your existing volunteer base? In Pillar 4 of this Toolkit you will find guidance on conducting skills audits with individual volunteers. Whilst this is aimed at supporting the process of helping them to develop, it can also be used to gain an appreciation of the skills you already have within your sport organisation. This can lead to pleasant surprises and potentially enable you to enhance and expand the activities your organisation undertakes. For the purposes of this exercise, understanding the range of skills, knowledge and attributes already present in your sport organisation is critical in working out where the gaps are. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s consider the basics of identifying your ‘ideal’ workforce. In order to achieve this you will need a very clear idea of the objectives of your sport organisation, which may be articulated in the form of an organisational strategy. This will enable you to identify, in a broad sense, the roles and responsibilities that someone will need to carry out in order to put your strategy into action.

Note that there are other types of workforce analysis, including ones that are focused at the level of entire industries, but what we are interested in here is the needs of your organisation.

Here is a summary of the process you will need to go through in the first phase:

Define objectives:
clearly outline the objectives and goals of the workforce analysis. Determine what specific insights you want to gain from the analysis. In this case the main priority will be on identifying skills needs.

Note down all roles and responsibilities:
working with relevant colleagues from within your sport organisation, make a master list or ‘map’ of all the tasks that need to be formed, from operational to managerial, in order to achieve successful operation of your sport organisation. Make sure that this information is organised into suitable categories, such as groups of tasks or the seven categories of volunteer work used throughout the V4V project (we’ll remind you of these in the next content area).

Engage stakeholders:
involve key stakeholders such as volunteers, staff, board members and participants. Seek their input on workforce challenges and opportunities, as they often possess valuable insights and unique perspectives.

Promote diversity and inclusion:
evaluate the organisation’s diversity levels and strive to create a more inclusive environment. One of the benefits of undertaking this type of analysis is to consider whether there is scope to diversify your workforce. This can lead to wider benefits, such as the sense of a more welcoming environment for people currently underrepresented in your sport organisation’s participant base.

Monitor and review:
continuously monitor the workforce’s performance, changes, and effectiveness of implemented strategies. This type of exercise needs to be conducted on a regular basis – if your workforce needs change this may generate new skills gaps.

Communicate findings:
share the results of the analysis with relevant stakeholders. Transparency and open communication will help build support for the proposed action plan and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Integrate workforce analysis with strategic planning:
as mentioned above, integrate the findings of the workforce analysis into the organisation’s broader strategic planning process. Ensure that human resource considerations align with the organisation’s overall mission and vision.

The organisational skills needs ‘map’ that you create via this process will therefore serve as a vital resource for future development. In the next section we will look at how to use the information you have generated in order to identify skills gaps.

Content area 2 : Workforce analysis – identifying skills gaps in your organisation

If you have followed the process in the first content area of this sub-pillar, you will have a reasonably comprehensive picture of the skills needs of your volunteer workforce. Next, it is important to compare this against the actual skills, knowledge and attributes currently available in your sport organisation. Prepare for surprises as volunteers reveal hidden talents you were unaware of! Being able to identify skills shortages in your sport organisation will allow you to plan for the development of existing volunteers as well as the recruitment of new ones. (These areas of work are covered in detail in Pillars 2 and Pillar 4 respectively.)

In the workforce mapping exercise outlined in the previous content area you will have created a structure by which to organise the information. Perhaps you used the seven V4V categories:

  • board or committee member/ governance
  • administration/ management
  • coaching/ training/ instructing/ leading activities
  • officiating (e.g. referee, umpire, judge)
  • organising or helping to run sport events
  • maintaining sport equipment and/ or sport facilities
  • supporting day to day sport organisation activities (e.g. bar, merchandising, transport)

Each of these could then be broken down into relevant skill areas appropriate the nature of your sport organisation. The V4V sport volunteer interviewees highlighted the key skills and attributes volunteers felt they brought to their roles, including technical skills appropriate to the role, communication, organisation, planning, social skills, cheerfulness, conscientiousness, courage and enthusiasm. These could be used as prompts for your own skills gap analysis.

Here are the key stages to undergo:

Collect relevant data:
gather data on the current workforce, including demographic information, skills, qualifications, roles, and performance. To ensure comprehensive data collection, use a consistent approach, perhaps by drawing up a standardised skills survey that all volunteers are asked to complete. This can be followed up with conversations for further clarification and depth. Your own observations as an experienced member of the volunteer workforce can also be valuable.

Analyse current workforce:
evaluate the data collected to identify patterns, trends, and areas for improvement. Look for skill shortages, diversity imbalances, volunteer turnover rates, and areas where volunteers might be underutilised. Remember in particular the points about diversity made in the above content area.

Assess future needs:
consider your organisation’s strategic plans and future projects to determine the workforce requirements. Anticipate potential changes in roles, skills, and capacity that may be needed to meet future goals. You could, if time and resources permit, analyse the current and future skills situations separately to allow for immediate action and forward planning.

Identify skill gaps:
compare the existing skills and competencies of the workforce against the skills required for future needs. Identify areas where additional training, recruitment or skill development is necessary.

Create an action plan:
develop a detailed action plan based on the findings of the workforce analysis and the identification of skills gaps. Prioritise objectives, allocate resources, and set measurable goals to track progress effectively.

Conducting a skills gap analysis in your sport organisation might not seem like the most obvious task when there are so many other things to do, but as we have shown it can make a fantastic contribution to optimal performance, diversification and securing a successful future!

1.1 Case studies

||| Sub-Pillar 1.2

1.2 – Understanding volunteering in context


How well do you understand volunteering and what it means to the individuals who undertake it? Is your organisation obtaining all of the potential benefits of a diverse volunteer workforce?

This section will enable you to research the nature of volunteering in your geographical area and the sport or sector within which your organisation operates. Find out how you can assess the ‘bigger picture’, including locating and using statistics regarding the levels of volunteering in your area/ sector, as well as insight into extrinsic drivers for volunteering such educational requirements. You will gain a better appreciation for why people volunteer and why they leave volunteering roles.

Key research findings – did you know that:

When planning their strategy, it is really important for sport organisations to understand what motivates people to become sport volunteers.

From our Global Survey of sport organisations:

  • 85% of survey respondents said that people volunteer because they want to be involved in a sport which they feel passionate about,
  • 68% said volunteers want to be needed, valued and part of a team,
  • 44% said volunteers want to meet people and make new friends,
  • 41% said people want to have fun as part of their volunteering experience,
  • 34% said volunteers want to make a positive difference to the lives of others.

It is also important to know what discourages people from sport volunteering:

  • 71% of respondents mentioned volunteers’ lack of time,
  • 37% said lack of recognition as a volunteer is a problem,
  • 35% said people often lack financial resources to volunteer.

When your organisation develops its volunteering strategy, it will be important for you to consider what motivates people to volunteer and also try to minimise the things which discourage them.

Content area 1 : Understanding the determinants of volunteering – intrinsic and extrinsic factors

Volunteering is a powerful force for good. Great volunteering is where both partners benefit, those whom the volunteer supports and the volunteer themselves. Motivation is fundamental to volunteering and is often distinguished as an intrinsically or extrinsically motivated behaviour.

Intrinsic factors
Intrinsically motivated behaviour involves engaging in an activity for the satisfaction, or enjoyment inherent in performing the activity. When volunteers are intrinsically motivated, they participate in sports-related tasks because they find them inherently rewarding, enjoyable, and aligned with their interests and values. Volunteers receive an internal reward as a direct result of their activity and/ or from the outcome of the volunteer work they do.

Examples of intrinsic factors:

  • They volunteer because they are passionate about the sport/ activity
  • They get a sense of personal achievement
  • They can make a difference to the lives of others/ help others
  • Sense of camaraderie

Extrinsic factors
Extrinsic motivation involves performing an activity to obtain external rewards or avoid punishments. Helping others is then a secondary factor, such that extrinsically motivated individuals see volunteering as an investment and may expect external benefits or payoffs because of the activity.

Examples of extrinsic factors:

  • They can improve their curriculum vitae (CV) and employment prospects
  • They can gain new knowledge and skills
  • They gain opportunities to travel
  • Opportunities to meet new people/ expand their network
  • Receiving tangible benefits like event tickets, recognition, certificates, or other forms of incentives.

Since both extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors can explain why people choose to get involved in voluntary activities, it is important to achieve a suitable blend within your sport organisation. Sports volunteers often have a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. While they may be genuinely passionate about the sport and enjoy contributing to the community (intrinsic), they might also appreciate the perks or recognition that come with volunteering (extrinsic).

Other considerations include:

Long-term commitment:
intrinsic motivation has been linked to greater long-term commitment to sport volunteering, such that volunteers are more likely to stay engaged even when external rewards are limited.

Recruitment and retention:
extrinsic incentives can be effective in attracting new volunteers, especially in large-scale events or short-term projects. However, to ensure retention and sustained engagement, it is essential to foster intrinsic motivations, such as providing meaningful roles, opportunities for skill development, and a sense of belonging to a community.

Volunteer satisfaction:
studies have shown that volunteers who experience high levels of intrinsic motivation report greater satisfaction with their volunteering experience and derive more personal benefits from it.

Age and experience:
the factors driving volunteer motivations may differ based on age and experience. For example, younger volunteers may be more motivated by extrinsic factors, while seasoned volunteers might be more motivated by intrinsic factors related to personal growth and fulfilment.

As part of getting to know your sport volunteers, try to gain an understanding of their motivations as this will help you to fit them to the activities to which they are best suited. Remember: there is nothing wrong with being extrinsically motivated as long as the volunteer’s personal objectives overlap sufficiently with those of your sport organisation. Over time, if you provide them with a beneficial experience in a supportive environment, they may develop intrinsic motivations and their participation become permanent.

Content area 2 : Understanding the benefits volunteers can bring to your organisation

Involving volunteers can add great value to what your organisation does and helps you to achieve your objectives. In many voluntary sport organisations, such as local clubs, there can be a tendency to mistrust ‘outsiders’ who are potential volunteers, and a desire to ‘protect’ the integrity of the organisation. However, a healthy process of recruiting new volunteers (see Pillar 2 of this Toolkit) can constantly refresh your sport organisation.

Here are some of the benefits of involving volunteers:

Improve capacity:
to enable existing personnel to focus on their core tasks. You may be all too familiar with having to try and do everything yourself, so attracting volunteers is the key to being able to more things and do them better.

Efficient resourcing:
increasing capacity through volunteering can help you, for example, to be able to provide activities which your sport organisation could not otherwise provide (for free).

Improve diversity:
you can engage a more diverse range of skills, experience, and knowledge, as well as creating a sport organisation that is more representative of the local community.

Flexibility and adaptability:
volunteers can provide the organization with a flexible workforce that can be scaled up or down based on specific needs and demands. This adaptability is particularly valuable during peak seasons or when organising special events.

Improve quality of service:
you can draw on a wider range of expertise to improve your organisation or club, or activities. For example, you could seek to recruiting a volunteer board member to provide governance expertise that will improve the decision making of your sport organisation.

Innovation and creativity:
volunteers can inject fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and creative solutions into your sport organisation. Their varied backgrounds and experiences can lead to novel approaches to challenges and opportunities.

a strong volunteer programme can ensure that your sport organisation is able to navigate through difficult periods. Satisfied volunteers are also excellent advocates who can help in the recruitment of new volunteers.

Alongside the above, practical examples, there are community-based and strategic motives for involving volunteers:

Awareness raising:
the more people you have involved outside of your sport organisation, the easier it is to raise awareness about your activities and your profile.

this could also include bringing new people to your sport and access hard to reach groups. People that are currently underrepresented in your activities may respond better if your sport organisation includes people with whom they can personally identify (“if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”).

Relationships in the community:
in a broader sense, participants may engage more effectively with volunteers than any paid staff.

Building community capacity:
providing volunteering opportunities can support social inclusion, skills development, and potential routes to employment for a range of people in the local community.

In all volunteering, there is a balance of the benefits gained by the sport organisation and those obtained by the individual. However, before recruiting, your sport organisation may want to consider:

  • The skill level required for specific volunteer roles
  • The time, resource, and money you may need to invest in volunteers with training for specific roles
  • Sustaining a volunteer programme can be a challenge – from volunteer growth to succession planning.

Further guidance is given elsewhere in this Toolkit, but the principal message here is that in a well-managed volunteer programme, the potential benefits far outweigh the risks and inconveniences.

Content area 3 : Identifying volunteering trends in your geographical area

This is the first of two content areas that are designed to give you ideas relating to gaining greater insight into volunteering patterns that may impact your sport organisation. Here, we look at volunteering trends in the geographical area impacted by your sport organisation. The first thing to do is to identify a geographical footprint that you think is relevant to your sport organisation. You might be a sports club that is strongly identified with a particular community, making your geographical domain very straightforward to determine. If you do not have a such a strong and specific association with a particular geographical footprint, you still might like to pinpoint an area of interest, perhaps because you would like to recruit more volunteers and participants from there.

Either way, it is useful to build up a picture of the volunteering ‘scene’ in the defined geographical area. In general, volunteering trends are changing with more people volunteering but for fewer hours and shorter lengths of time. Volunteering patterns in Europe (and beyond) are influenced by various factors, including societal changes, economic conditions, demographic shifts, and the emergence of new technologies. Some of the current trends that may be reflected in your geographical area are:

Diverse volunteer roles:
volunteers in Europe increasingly engage in diverse roles beyond traditional charity work. Skilled volunteering, where individuals contributed their expertise and professional skills, is becoming a more popular way for people to give their time.

Youth volunteering:
young people continue to actively participate in volunteering activities. Many organisations and governments focus on promoting youth volunteerism through promoted initiatives – can your sport organisation tap into this?

Virtual and remote volunteering:
advancements in technology facilitate virtual volunteering, allowing individuals to contribute their time and skills remotely through online platforms. Not all of your new volunteers need to be able to attend your activities in person.

Corporate volunteering:
corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are now extremely popular, with many companies encouraging their employees to participate in volunteering activities as part of their CSR programmes. This provides employees with opportunities to engage in community service during work hours.

Social inclusion and integration:
volunteer programmes are developed to support social inclusion and integration, particularly for refugees and migrants. Volunteering offers a way for newcomers to connect with local communities and gain valuable skills and experiences, something that should be of interest to sport organisations wanting to embrace the ‘power of sport’.

Environmental and sustainability focus:
environmental and conservation-related volunteering are on the increase as concerns over climate change and sustainability increase. Could volunteers hold the key to promoting eco-friendly practices within your sport organisation? 

Note that these trends relate to all types of volunteering, but since volunteering in sport is so prominent it is reasonable to expect that they will be of relevance to your sport organisation. Other content areas in this sub-pillar look in detail at motivations for volunteering, but all of the above trends may give you some ideas for how to seek out your next influx of volunteers.

To gain further insight into volunteering trends and interests in your defined geographical area, find out who are your local volunteering agencies and make contact with them. For example, in the UK this would entail local agencies such as Doing Good Leeds or national bodies like the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. In Germany you might consult resources like the Vostel online platform. The most important thing is to be aware of volunteering trends in your defined geographical area and be ready to capitalise upon them!

Content area 4 : Identifying volunteering trends in your sport or sector

This is a companion piece to the previous content area, which looks at volunteering trends within your sport organisation’s geographical area of interest. Some of the key developments in volunteering, which are examined in more detail in the preceding content area, are:

  • Diverse volunteer roles
  • Youth volunteering
  • Virtual and remote volunteering
  • Corporate volunteering
  • Social inclusion and integration
  • Environmental and sustainability focus

Many, if not all of these interests are relevant when we look at volunteering within the sport or sector your organisation is part of. Sport often mirrors society and vice versa, so it is reasonable to expect that the preferences of the wider volunteering community will be found in the sport or sports in which your organisation is involved. As well as the wider trends discussed in the previous content area, sport volunteering is moving in new directions and it is particularly important for your sport organisation to monitor these trends and take advantage of them as you develop your volunteer workforce. Let’s examine them in a little more detail:

Major sporting events:
Europe regularly hosts major sporting events, which rely heavily on volunteers to assist with organising, managing logistics, and supporting participants and spectators. Can your sport organisation make a connection to events in your sport or sector to ‘capture’ people interested in doing more sport volunteering?

Inclusive sport volunteering:
federations are placing an increasing emphasis on making sport volunteering more inclusive. Efforts are made to engage volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including disabled individuals, ethnic minorities, and various age groups, to ensure broader representation and promote social inclusion. Is it time to diversify your volunteer workforce?

Skills-based volunteering:
similar to general volunteering trends, sport has seen a rise in skills-based volunteering. Volunteers with specific expertise, such as coaching, sports administration, event management, and marketing are offering their skills to sports organisations. You may be able to connect with interested individuals via your regional or national federation. Organisations such as Sported in the UK exist specifically to link skilled volunteers with community sport organisations – what is your equivalent?

Community sports programmes:
the rising popularity of ‘sport for development’ initiatives means that significant numbers of people are volunteering in order to use sport as a tool for social change. Connecting with such volunteers can help your sport organisation to forge better relations in the local community, develop interest in your sport and grow your participant base.

Recognition and training:
the importance of recognising and appreciating volunteers’ contributions is recognised by sport federations. Support may be available from your sport’s federation to help you provide training and support volunteers to enhance their skills and satisfaction in their roles (see Pillar 4).

Understanding current and projected trends in volunteering in your sport or sector will help you stay ahead of the competition when it comes to recruiting the quality and quantity of volunteers you require. Engage with your federation at local, regional and national level to obtain their insights into volunteering in your sport.

1.2 Case studies

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1.3 – Developing, implementing and evaluating a volunteer strategy/ plan


Once you have undertaken the underpinning research and enhanced your understanding of volunteering, you can use the resources in this section to help you map out your volunteering needs in the form of a broader strategy and a more detailed, operational plan. This will help you take a more informed and structured approach to managing all aspects of volunteering. You will also find a range of monitoring, evaluation and learning tools to help you gain deeper insight into the impact of your volunteers and the support you created for them.

Key research findings – did you know that:

From our Global Survey, sport organisations told us volunteers can bring a wide variety of benefits:

  • 73% of organisations strongly agreed that sport volunteers actively contribute to social, health and economic wellbeing
  • 60% said that volunteers provide energy and enthusiasm to sport organisations
  • 59% agreed that volunteers are vital in providing logistical support
  • 50% agreed that volunteers help to bring in new participants for sport activities
  • 40% agreed that volunteers help to build relationships with the local community (which are vital to growing sport participation by ordinary citizens).

When your organisation is developing its volunteering strategy, you may benefit from thinking carefully about all the potential benefits which volunteers bring and build these into your plans.

Content area 1 : Creating a vision for future state of volunteering in your organisation

This sub-pillar deals with something you might (understandably) have never considered: producing a strategy purely for the development of your volunteer workforce. Let us start by clarifying that this does not have to be a major, ‘scientific’ exercise, but setting out your hopes and expectations for your recruitment, deployment and development of sport volunteers will make so many other parts of your role easier. Any strategy for the development of sport volunteering should sit within the wider vision of your sport organisation (for example, there would be no point planning to recruit a cohort of event volunteers if you were not planning to stage any special events).

Creating a vision for your volunteer needs is a great start place for a strategy. Vision statements describe your organisation’s “why,” while mission statements describe the “who” and “what” of your sport organisation. Vision statements are essential because they reveal a common goal and direction for your volunteers.
You can craft a compelling vision statement by infusing it with passion, making it inspiring, and aligning it with your sport organisation’s values and goals.

An example could be:

  • Our Vision: Building strong communities through volunteering

Key steps to think about when creating a vision for volunteering in your sporting organisation are the following:

  • Determine who will shape your vision
  • Evaluate your sport organisation’s published (internal and external facing) documents and materials
  •  Hold workshops to brainstorm and explore your vision for volunteering
  • Get individual input (interviews/ honest feedback)
  • Check out other sporting organisations’ vision statements for learning and research purposes
  • Keep it short but meaningful
  • Create a longer version for leadership and senior management eyes only
  • Map out your sporting organisation’s biggest goals
  • Consider your sporting organisation’s potential local and global impact
  • Dream big, be daring but not generic
  • Consider creating a brand vision board (visually shows what you do/ key words).

Quick tips/ points to consider:

  • Project five to ten years into the future.
  • Dream big, and focus on success.
  • Use the present tense.
  • Use clear, concise, jargon-free language.
  • Infuse it with passion, and make it inspiring.
  • Align it with your sport organisations’ wider values and goals.
  • Create a plan to communicate your vision statement to your employees.
  • Prepare to commit time and resources to the vision you establish.

So, vision statements must strike a balance between being broad and ambitious enough for people to unify around, whilst being specific enough to drive the detail of the volunteer strategy. For example:

The best handball volunteer workforce in Finland” is a suitable vision statement as it meets these criteria.
To recruit twenty handball volunteers by the end of October” is not a vision statement as is it too narrow and specific.

Content area 2 : Producing a volunteering strategy

A volunteer strategy shows your organisation is serious about volunteering. It helps everyone understand your vision for volunteers and why you’re involving them. A volunteering strategy sets out what you want to achieve with volunteering and how. It explains how volunteers will contribute to the organisation’s aims. It also covers how it will find, recruit and support them. It can be part of your organisational strategy or presented separately; however, it must align fully with your sport organisation’s overall strategy.

To make sure your strategy supports your aims, it should answer these questions:

  • What is the sport organisation’s overall vision and how will volunteers help to meet it?
  • What opportunities and challenges will the organisation face in the next three to five years?
  • How will these affect volunteering?
  • How will the organisation set tasks and activities for volunteers?
  • Who will make sure these tasks are meaningful?
  • What skills or attributes will volunteers need?
  • How will the organisation share volunteer opportunities?
  • How will volunteering activity be inclusive?
  • How will the organisation recruit, train and support volunteers?
  • How will the organisation value and develop volunteers?
  • What processes and policies will the organisation need to support volunteering?
  • How will the organisation show the impact of its volunteering?
  • How will the organisation seek feedback and use volunteers’ experiences to improve things?
  • What other resources or systems will the organisation need to make volunteering successful?
  • Who will make decisions about volunteering and the policies that affect it?

You cannot write a volunteer strategy on your own, as it is not a one person job. So who do you involve in producing a volunteer strategy? The answer is simple: speak to a range of people to help you write your strategy.

Below is a starter list of the people you might engage in the strategy development process:

  • Senior staff, volunteers and/ or trustees. Make sure you get senior support for your strategy and the resources needed to make it happen. Include people who are key decision-makers for relevant processes or funding.
  • Volunteer managers. Anyone already managing volunteers at your organisation will know lots of useful information. They can bring knowledge and experience from their networks too.
  • The people your organisation helps. If volunteers will help you provide services, speak to users of that service about their needs.
  • Paid staff. If paid staff may work alongside volunteers, consult with them about your plans. This can help to address any concerns they have.
  • Existing volunteers. If your organisation already has volunteers, they’ll have useful insights and suggestions.

It’s a good idea to give people different ways to contribute to your strategy. For example, you could hold focus groups and or do an online survey. Ask the people you want to reach how they would like to share their views. You can also bring in an external consultant to help develop your strategy (although this might be a more expensive option unless you can acquire their services on a pro-bono basis!).

Key steps to think about when creating a volunteering strategy for your sporting organisation are the following (the strategy needs to demonstrate the following points):

  • Informs volunteers about your mission
  • Educates them about different volunteer opportunities
  • Establishes goals for volunteers
  • Safeguards against common mishaps
  • Helps you learn more about them
  • Excites volunteers to make a difference

Quick tips/ points to consider:

  • Understand volunteer motivation (see sub-pillar 2)
  • Use your volunteer engagement strategy to tell a story
  • Provide orientation, training, and feedback
  • Be flexible
  • Encourage a sense of community
  • Stay in touch
  • Show appreciation
  • Engage more volunteers (throughout this process).

Whilst the production of a volunteering strategy may involve some short-term inconvenience, the benefits it can generate have the potential to be significant and long-lasting!

Content area 3 : Implementing your volunteering strategy through operational planning

To bring your volunteer strategy to life for your sporting organisation, you will need practical and robust action plans. They are also called operational plans. Operational plans support the broader strategy by setting out an action plan for a particular goal or project. They can also map out how individual strategies (i.e. volunteer strategies) or departments will contribute to overall organisational goals. The best operational plans have a clearly articulated objective that everyone in your sporting organisation is focused on achieving. Your operational plan will, therefore, be a useful document for your stakeholders.

How to create an operational plan
The success of an operational plan typically depends on how realistic expectations are. Without achievable goals, a business may never be able to succeed with its long-term goals. If you’re thinking about creating your operational plan, here are the four key principles that you can follow to ensure that your plan is achievable and realistic:

1. Define goals and objectives
To begin building an operational plan, you can begin by carefully thinking about the goals that you hope to achieve with this plan. These are the five main questions that you can answer when defining the goals and objectives of the operational plan.

The questions include:

  • What is your budget?
  • Do you have the right team?
  • Where do you want this sporting organisation and team to be in terms of the volunteer workforce?
  • How do you get there?
  • How are you going to measure your progress?

2. Assign resources and team members (part of the action plan – see below)

3. Determine the step-by-step processes that you’re going to take to achieve these goals (part of the action plan – see below)

4. Monitor progress (effective operational plans are only effective when you monitor them regularly – see next content area)

Creating an action plan

As with all strategic approaches, a sporting volunteer strategy should include an action plan with the following ingredients:

  • Organised around the objectives set out in the strategy
  • Prioritised actions and task lists
  • Targets (including timeframes) and responsibilities
  • Resources available
  • What staff/ volunteer resources or other support must be dedicated to implementing each action identified in the strategy?
  • Who is responsible for what? Sometimes it is appropriate to identify a lead individual, department, or organisation, as well as those responsible for providing support
  • What is the timeframe for implementing actions under the strategy?
  • Do some actions take priority?
  • Are some actions dependent on the outcomes of others?
  • What mechanisms will ensure ongoing volunteer community involvement in implementing the strategy?
  • How will you ensure ongoing collaborative relationships with other sporting
    organisations, such as national federations?

An action plan is relatively easy to draw up but much more difficult to implement. Progress should be regularly reviewed and communication amongst key stakeholders maintained. The plan needs to be clear enough that everyone is able to identify and deliver on their responsibilities, but it needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the inevitable ‘shocks’ that will be encountered during its implementation.

Content area 4 : Monitoring and evaluating the implementation of your strategy

The importance of monitoring and evaluation in the strategy process cannot be underestimated as it provides a way to assess the crucial link between deliverers and beneficiaries on the ground and decision-makers. (In a smaller, voluntary sport organisation these could be the same people, but hopefully you see what we mean.) In addition, it adds to the retention and development of organisational memory, in other words the more purposeful work that is delivered by volunteers, the more there is a to reflect upon and learn from. An effective monitoring and evaluation will have a positive impact on future fundraising and give you the chance to influence decision that impact your sport organisation, for example those made by your national federation.

Effective monitoring involves keeping on top of all activities and making sure that implementation is on the right path towards achieving your goals. Monitoring might reveal that your strategy is not working, that means you may need to change your strategy during the implementation phase. Monitoring and evaluation plays a key part in ensuring good programme results. While monitoring and evaluation is an accountability mechanism to ensure and report that activities are being delivered as planned, it should also be used for learning and adaptive planning.

Your action plan (discussed in the preceding content area) has already outlined the objectives and accompanying actions for the development of your volunteer workforce. Depending on the level of detail you are able to go into in the monitoring and evaluation process, you can set key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you understand how you are getting on at any given point in the process. KPIs are interim measures of achievement rather than end goals – they are used to monitor progress. They are only useful if they are well designed and relevant to the wider strategy and action plan. A simple example would be a KPI we would use to check if were on target to increase our volunteer workforce by the people over a two-year period. We might have reason to assume that the majority of new volunteers will be recruited in the second year, thus a total of three new recruits at the end of year 1 might indicate that we on track. KPIs can be much more complex and can focus on all areas of work, including financial performance, so consider how they can play a part in monitoring your action plan. Make sure that the ongoing monitoring process includes the following:

  • KPIs clearly defined and reviewed
  • Define data collection methods (eg counting numbers, financial information, conversations with key individuals) and timeline
  • Identify monitoring and evaluation roles and responsibilities: all paid and voluntary personnel can play a part but this needs to be clearly agreed at the outset
  • Create an analysis plan and reporting templates
  • Make sure that key monitoring and evaluation information is disseminated to appropriate stakeholders.

Evaluation of a volunteering strategy is a more reflective process. Whilst ongoing might answer the question “are we doing things right?”, evaluation looks at “are/ were we doing the right things?”. In other words, evaluation processes will consider whether the strategy is succeeding/ has succeeded and try to identify any variation from expectations. The same people that produced the original volunteering strategy should ideally be part of the evaluation process. Evlutaion during the life of the strategy may identify a need for changes to be made, hence the original strategy should have in-built flexibility. Evaluation will generally consider the strategy’s relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability, added to which your sport organisation might have agreed specific criteria for evaluation at the outset of the process.

Content area 5 : Learning to inform future strategic decisions

It is vitally important to use the learning from your day-to-day practices to shape future strategic decisions. If you have gone to the trouble of devising, implementing and evaluating a strategy for the development of volunteering in your sport organisation it only seems appropriate that the experience informs the way forwards. One methodology that can help shape positive decisions is evidence-based practice. An evidence-based approach to decision-making is based on a combination of using critical thinking and the best available evidence. You do not need to have a high-level education to engage in critical thinking – your experiences as someone with intimate knowledge of your sport organisation are vital in shaping future approaches and helping you to successfully recruit, manage and develop sport volunteers.

There are several key sources of information to help you find the meaning and significance of your experiences of working with volunteers:

  • Literature on management has become more readily available in recent years. Find sources that interest you and are digestible – think about how the management concepts contained in them relate to your experiences and the achievements of your volunteer strategy.
  • Monitoring data (see previous content area) must be examined. This data can come externally from participants (satisfaction, repeated attendance at your sport organisation’s activities), or internally from volunteers and paid staff (levels of ‘job’ satisfaction, retention rates). There’s also the comparison between ‘hard’ evidence, such as turnover rate or your volunteers, and ‘soft’ elements, like perceptions of culture and attitudes towards leadership.
  • Stakeholders, both internal (board members, volunteers, etc) and external (your sport’s national federation, suppliers, etc), may be affected by your sport organisation’s decisions and their consequences. Acquiring knowledge of their concerns will give more context to decisions you make about the future.

One very important element of evidence-based practice is collating evidence from different sources. There are six ways to do this:

  • Asking:
    translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
  • Acquiring:
    systematically searching for and retrieving evidence
  • Appraising:
    critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
  • Aggregating:
    weighing and pulling together the evidence
  • Applying:
    incorporating the evidence into a decision-making process
  • Assessing:
    evaluating the outcome of the decision taken so as to increase the likelihood.

Through these six steps, decision makers on future volunteering strategies can ensure the quality of evidence is not ignored are able to evaluate the trustworthiness of evidence available. Appraisal varies depending on the source of evidence, but generally involves the same questions:

  • Where and how is evidence gathered?
  • Is it the best evidence available?
  • Is it sufficient to reach a conclusion?
  • Might it be biased in a particular direction? If so, why?

This might seem like a painstaking process, especially in a sport organisation that might be led by volunteers who are already extremely busy, but if we are not committed to continuous learning, we repeat mistakes and find it difficult to progress. All of the content in this challenging sub-pillar, with its focus on strategy, represents a relatively short-term investment that should yield relatively long-term benefits and enable you to do a better job of recruiting, retaining and developing your sort volunteer workforce.

References/Key Links:

Volunteer Ireland – Click here
NCVO – Click here
Sopact – Click here
Chartered Institute of Personal Development – Click here
Volunteer Now – Click here
IRFU – Click here
Sport and Development Org – Click here

1.3 Case studies

||| Sub-Pillar 1.4

1.4 – Establishing an inclusive, equitable, volunteer-friendly culture


Volunteers that do not stay long with sport organisations often cite that they did not feel properly welcomed. Conversely, volunteers are more likely to stay and thrive if the organisation is configured appropriately around their needs. This includes developing a positive culture for volunteer success. This section therefore offers resources to help you deepen your appreciation of ‘culture’ and what it means in this context. In addition, equity, diversity and inclusion should be a central consideration when planning your volunteer workforce. This section therefore includes resources to help you ensure that volunteer opportunities and progression are open to all.

Key research findings – did you know that:

From our Global Survey of sport organisations, we discovered that:

  • 82% of the respondents feel that volunteering in sport needs to be more inclusive reflecting gender, disability and minorities in society

However, the same survey suggests that:

  • 58% of sport volunteers are in the age group 30-55 years old
  • Only 42% of sport volunteers are women
  • Only 12% are below 30 years of age
  • Only 21% are over 55 years of age
  • Only 19% of sport organisations have volunteers with disabilities
  • Only 11.4% have volunteers with mental health conditions
  • Only 24% of respondents felt it was easy for people with a disability to find opportunities for sport volunteering.

Our desk research tells us that people with disabilities and mental health conditions can gain a lot from volunteering which can boost their self-esteem and overcome feelings of depression and loneliness.

Our Global Survey also tells us that:

  • On average, only 11% of sport organisations offer their volunteers benefits and incentives such as reduced membership fees, ticket discounts for events, other types of discounts or vouchers and leisure sport services
  • Only 18% organise social events for their sport volunteers.

When you are considering what sort of culture you want to have in your organisation, you might benefit from thinking about how you can make the volunteering environment more ‘friendly’ to women, young people and seniors. Also please remember that, although they may need more support, people with disabilities and mental health conditions have a lot of skills to offer and they will gain a lot from sport volunteering.

Also think about how your organisation can celebrate and reward your volunteers with more social events, incentives and benefits.

Content area 1 : Understanding equity, diversity and inclusion in the context of your sport organisation

There can be a tendency in volunteer-led sport organisations, such as local clubs, for tradition to dominate and “we’ve always done it this way” to be heard from longstanding members. Whilst it is important to embrace lessons learned through extensive experience as these will undoubtedly contribute to the smooth running of the organisation, it is also vital to engage with the changes that are happening all around us to ensure that a modern, welcoming environment is created. In a voluntary sport organisation, the concepts of equity, diversity, and inclusion are essential for creating a positive and welcoming environment for all participants, regardless of their backgrounds, abilities, or identities. Harnessing these principles helps ensure that everyone feels valued, respected, and supported, leading to increased participation, enjoyment, and overall success of the organisation. The terms equity, diversity and inclusion have distinct meanings, so let’s look at each in turn:


Fairness and equal opportunities:
the essence of equity is fairness; in your sport organisation this means providing equal opportunities for all current and potential volunteers to participate and excel, regardless of their socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or other characteristics. It involves ensuring that resources, facilities and support are distributed in order to address potential barriers and disadvantages faced by some volunteers

Accommodating individual needs:
it is critical to recognise that different volunteers may require different forms of support or accommodation to participate fully. For instance, this could include providing adaptive equipment or modifying activities to be inclusive of disabled people

Removing barriers:
this involves identifying and eliminating any systemic or organisational barriers that may prevent certain individuals or groups from participating fully in volunteering. This might involve reviewing your organisation’s policies, practices, and procedures to ensure they are inclusive and fair.


Embracing differences:
a diverse sport organisation celebrates and appreciates the diversity of its members. As is discussed elsewhere in this pillar, engaging volunteers from more diverse backgrounds can lead to innovation and creativity as well as creating connections to new parts of the community

Creating a welcoming environment:
an organisation that values diversity will actively work to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and included. This might involve celebrating cultural events, being mindful of diverse traditions, and promoting an atmosphere of mutual respect

encouraging diversity in leadership positions is very important. When individuals from various backgrounds are involved in decision-making roles, it helps ensure that the club’s practices are more sensitive to the needs and preferences of different groups. This might entail established leaders in your sport organisation letting go of long-held responsibilities.


Active participation:
this means encouraging and facilitating the active participation of all interested volunteers, regardless of their skill levels or backgrounds. This might involve assigning mentors to less experienced volunteers in order to ensure a positive experience

Fostering belonging:
it is vital to build a sense of belonging and camaraderie among all members. This can be achieved through team-building exercises, regular communication, and recognizing and celebrating the contributions of every participant

Open communication:
encouraging open and respectful communication between members and the club’s leadership. Listening to feedback and addressing concerns helps create an inclusive culture where everyone’s voice is heard.

 Overall, embracing equity, diversity, and inclusion in a voluntary sport organisation is not only the right thing to do morally but also contributes to the success and sustainability of the club in so many ways! You may need to be prepared to change well-established ways of working, but the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Content area 2 : Understanding organisational culture in the context of your sport organisation

Organisational culture is a fascinating and useful concept that will help you understand why things are as they are in your sport organisation. It is also very helpful in determining what kinds of innovations and management styles are likely to work well in a range of situations. Organisational culture is defined in terms of the values and beliefs held by the people who work (or volunteer) in an organisation as well as their ways of working. Every organisation, including voluntary sport organisations, has its own culture that makes it unique. We use the word a lot in everyday conversation, but it is helpful to dig a bit deeper into it in order to be able to improve things for the volunteers in your sport organisation.

Because culture is connected to the deeply-held values and beliefs of members of your sport organisation, it is not always possible for us to observe it directly. Instead, it is often necessary to make conclusions about organisational culture based on factors we can see. There are many ways of thinking about this, but one of the most useful is a model called the Cultural Web pioneered by Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes. This consists of six elements that we combine to tell us more about the culture of any organisation (including yours!). We have adapted it slightly for the purposes of this Toolkit:

Stories –
the way people talk about their workplace is very revealing. In voluntary sport organisations there may be ‘myths’ and ‘legends’ handed down about heroic or villainous individuals. There may be repeated complaints about unfair working conditions, favouritism and a host of other gripes. Whether or not these stories are true is beside the point to some extent. The fact that they exist and are passed on between individuals solidifies them and creates an impression of the organisation in the minds of newcomers that can be hard to shift.

Symbols –
the way people dress in sport volunteering situations, the state of the physical environment, the logo of a sports club: these and many other things are all symbolic of underlying attitudes and give a fantastic insight into the culture of your sport organisation. For instance, most sports clubs with their own premises proudly display trophies, pictures and other artefacts from their history. Do they convey welcoming images of inclusivity and community, or do the images represent a narrow segment of society (eg all-male, non-disabled)? The choice of symbols presented to the world provides useful insight into the values of the key people in your sport organisation.

Rituals and routines –
organisational habits are very informative in communicating elements of the underlying culture. Do you have certain tasks that are only ever done in one way by the same person, regardless of the potential for others to do it better? Are you a sports club in which the social element of your sporting gatherings has equal or greater importance than the sport itself? Working routines and social rituals differ from organisation to organisation and say a lot about the character of the individuals and their collective mindset. Routines and rituals can very effectively include or exclude newcomers depending on how they are configured.

Organisation and power –
the way you choose to structure the roles in your sport organisation has a profound impact on lines of communication, decision-making and autonomy for individual volunteers. It tells us a lot about where the power really resides and is reflective of other aspects of your sport organisation’s culture. Some people in positions of responsibility are unwilling to relinquish power, thereby stifling opportunities for enthusiastic and skilled volunteers to make a more meaningful contribution.

We can think of culture as similar to an iceberg in the sense that there are visible signs above the surface but a lot more happening underwater! The observable aspects of the sport organisation give us clues as to the underlying attitudes that inform them. If a sports club, for example, has unwelcoming symbols, people in powerful positions that do not appear ready to let go of their responsibilities and stories about formidable coaches that are best avoided, we are most likely dealing with a culture that is insular, unfriendly and less likely to attract new volunteers. Understanding and being able to modify your sport organisation’s culture is therefore essential to your ongoing success.

Content area 3 : Analysing the culture of your sport organisation and identifying future improvements

(Please read the preceding content area on understanding organisational culture before using this one.)

In the preceding content area, we broke down the concept of organisational culture and showed why is a useful concept for sport organisations working with volunteers. As we explained, there are a number of phenomena that can be observed, and which give us clues as to the deeply held beliefs of organisational members. So, therefore, how do we go about capturing the culture of the sport organisation so that we can make positive changes? It is particularly important not to over-complicate the process, so here are some achievable actions you can take to enhance your appreciation of the culture of your sport organisation:

spend time practices, games, events and meetings. Observe how members interact with each other, coaches and volunteers. Pay attention to rituals, traditions and the general atmosphere during activities.

Surveys and questionnaires:
develop and administer surveys or questionnaires to members, coaches, volunteers, and stakeholders. Ask about their perceptions of the club’s culture, inclusivity, communication, and overall satisfaction.

Interviews and focus groups:
conduct one-on-one interviews or focus group discussions with key stakeholders, including leaders, long-time members, newcomers and individuals from diverse backgrounds. This allows for in-depth conversations and a deeper understanding of different perspectives.

Review policies and documents:
examine policies, mission statement, strategy code of conduct, and any other written materials. This can reveal the organisation’s stated values and the extent to which they align with its actual practices.

Feedback mechanisms:
assess your organisation’s existing feedback mechanisms. Are there opportunities for members to provide input, suggestions, and complaints? Evaluate how feedback is collected, addressed, and utilised for improvement.

Leadership styles:
observe the leadership style and of the organisation’s officials. The actions and behaviours of leaders often shape the overall culture of the organisation.

Inclusivity and diversity metrics:
analyse the demographic composition of the members and leadership to gauge its inclusivity and diversity. Assess whether efforts are being made to attract and retain participants from different backgrounds.

Assess organisational climate:
The organisational climate refers to the overall perception and feelings of members (including volunteers) regarding their experience there. Analyse factors such as motivation, communication, teamwork and member satisfaction.

Comparison with club’s values:
compare the observed culture with the organisation’s stated values and mission. Evaluate whether there are any inconsistencies or gaps between what the club claims to uphold and what is practised.

Feedback and collaboration:
share the findings of the analysis with members and stakeholders. Encourage open discussions and collaboration to develop strategies for enhancing the culture and fostering a more inclusive and positive environment.

Note that some of the above actions are better suited to being undertaken by ‘insiders’ to your sport organisation, whilst others lend themselves to inviting external people to observe without prejudice. You could, for instance, partner with a local university and invite students and academic staff to conduct an analysis of your sport organisation’s culture. Having conducted an honest appraisal of the culture it is possible to identify areas for enhancement and modernisation. This links clearly to this sub-pillar’s other themes of equity, diversity and inclusion, and ensuring that these are in place should be a prime focus of any investigation into the organisation’s culture.

Content area 4 : Embedding equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the volunteering experience

The preceding content areas in this sub-pillar have shared information regarding the nature of equity, diversity and inclusion and shown how these impact, and are impacted by the culture of your sport organisation. Hopefully there is a lot of impetus behind the idea of initiatives to make your organisation’s culture more volunteer-friendly and welcoming to volunteers from all backgrounds. What, then, are the practical actions that can be taken to install positive changes that promote equity, diversity and inclusion? One start point, as well undertaking an analysis of the organisation’s culture, is to conduct a diversity audit of the volunteer workforce (and all other members if you wish). You can compare your findings to local/ national demographics to understand if your sport organisation is at least reflective of the wider picture.

Here are some other activities to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion:

Diverse and inclusive leadership:
ensure that the leadership and decision-making positions in your sport organisation are diverse and inclusive. Having leaders from different backgrounds can help bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table. This may take a long time to establish if your leadership is not currently diverse, but it is always a good investment in individuals to give them more responsibility in the short term.

Clear mission and values:
establish a clear mission statement and core values that explicitly emphasise the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in the sports volunteering experience. Communicate these values consistently to all volunteers and participants.

Training and education:
provide training and education to volunteers on topics related to diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias and cultural competence. This can raise awareness and equip volunteers with the knowledge and skills to contribute towards inclusive environment.

Inclusive recruitment:
adopt inclusive recruitment practices to attract volunteers from diverse backgrounds. Reach out to underrepresented communities and use language that emphasises the organisation’s commitment to equity and inclusion.

Accessible opportunities:
create opportunities for individuals with diverse abilities and backgrounds to participate as volunteers. Make sure that volunteering roles are accessible and accommodating for everyone.

Inclusive communication:
use inclusive language and communication that avoid stereotypes and promote diversity. Ensure that all volunteers feel represented and included in the organisation’s communications.

Create safe spaces:
foster a safe and supportive environment where volunteers feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their experiences. Address any instances of discrimination or bias promptly and decisively.

Celebrate diversity:
celebrate and highlight the diversity of volunteers and participants. Acknowledge and appreciate different cultural events, traditions, and milestones.

Collaboration with diverse groups:
collaborate with other organisations or community groups that represent diverse communities. This can help build partnerships and increase the organisation’s reach to a broader range of volunteers.

Feedback and evaluation:
Regularly seek feedback from volunteers about their experiences and suggestions for improvement. Use this feedback to continuously enhance the organisation’s approach to equity and inclusion.

Set targets and monitor progress:
set specific targets and goals related to equity, diversity and inclusion, and regularly monitor progress. This can help measure the organisation’s efforts and identify areas that need further attention.

Recognise and reward inclusive behaviour:
recognise and reward volunteers who actively promote and embody inclusive behaviour. This can reinforce the importance of equity and inclusion within the organisation.

Be open to learning and adaptation: be open to learning from mistakes and continuously adapt the organisation’s practices based on new insights and understanding.

1.4 Case studies


Diversity and inclusion in sport volunteering – Click here
The importance of diversity and inclusivity in sports volunteering – Click here
Sport and the Social Inclusion of Migrants & Refugees – Click here
Chartered Institute of Personal Development – Click here
Volunteers are the public face of community events – Click here

||| Sub-Pillar 1.5

1.5 – Seeking financial and other resources for volunteering


Funding is one of many important resources that can support the successful implementation of your strategy for volunteering in your sport organisation. Other resources include equipment, facilities and less tangible assets such as knowledge and influence. Find out how your organisation can identify its resource needs and acquire the resources required to support volunteering.

Key research findings – did you know that:

Building a volunteer-friendly culture is vital keeping your volunteers engaged in the organisation. From our Global Survey, the respondents highlighted the following methods of retaining volunteers:

  • Offer material benefits, such as sport kit, uniforms, reimbursement of expenses (51%)
  • Provide social events for volunteers (44%)
  • Give volunteers training opportunities (41%)

All of these things come with a cost, so it will be important for your organisation to think about how it can raise funds specifically to support your sport volunteers.

Content area 1 : Understanding tangible and intangible resources

One of the many ways in which we can analyse your sport organisation is by thinking of it as a ‘bundle of resources’. A resource can be thought of as a strength controlled by an organisation that can lead to competitive advantage. Put another way, it is “what we have”. In the case of your sport organisation and the management of volunteers, the resources that you have or are able to access provide a possible ‘competitive advantage’ because of their potential to make a welcoming and developmental environment. The term competitive advantage was promoted by Michael Porter and others, and originally referred to the ways in which commercial businesses can gain leverage against their competitors. These days we think more broadly about the different forms of ‘advantage’ your sport organisation can gain by having a strong resource base and using it well. This can lead to being more competitive in sporting competition, recruiting volunteers, gaining sponsorship and all other aspects of your organisation’s work.

We should therefore also think of resources as assets. These can be broadly categorised as tangible and intangible. Tangible assets have a physical existence and can be felt, touched or consumed in some way. In the context of your sport organisation, examples may include sport facilities, buildings, vehicles and equipment. Material assets such as these are precious, but they also consume other resources in order to maintain and develop them. As with certain intangible resources (see below), we tend to think of those that are owned or controlled directly by your sport organisation, but we must not overlook those on which you depend and may have some influence over but do not directly control, such as shared sport facilities. Of all physical resources, money is one of the more critically important ones as it is difficult to imagine any voluntary sport organisation existing without it. Money is the best illustration of how tangible assets can change over time or their value fluctuate. Buildings decay without regular attention, IT equipment becomes obsolete, etc., so it is necessary to constantly take a flexible view of resources.

Tangible assets are, of course, only half the story of resources. A different category of resources exists that is much less visible and potentially altogether intangible: skills, knowledge, experience, influence, goodwill, image, relationships with key stakeholders. Self-evidently, these are related to people rather than material things. Valuable resources are those which create a service/ product that is of value to customers/ participants and enables your sport organisation to respond to environmental opportunities or threats. Intangible assets can therefore include intellectual property, a sport organisation’s brand or market influence and other assets without a physical presence, such as brand recognition, copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade names, a functional website and even consumers’ feelings about the organisation. Each member of your volunteer workforce is therefore a ‘bundle’ of intangible assets and it is important for these to be mapped against the resource base as a whole, for example when considering skills gaps.

Volunteer roles will often incorporate some sort of stewardship over aspects of your physical and intangible resource base. It is, therefore, essential to incorporate a resource-based perspective into induction and volunteer development programmes. Judicious use of resources can be made when it comes to rewarding volunteers for their contributions. Tangible rewards for volunteers could be physical items such as medals, certificates and diplomas, whilst intangible rewards such as praise and recognition are often highly valued.

A summary of this content area’s key points may help as you move on to the other resource-focused ones:

  • Resources (or assets) that are owned or controlled by your sport organisation can lead to competitive advantage
  •  Resources can be tangible (physical) or intangible
  • Resources can change or be developed over time
  • It is crucial to think about how you use your resources in the recruitment and development of volunteers.
Content area 2 : Identifying resource needs to support volunteering

Elsewhere in this Pillar we looked at the process of conducting workforce analysis and identifying skills gaps within your sport organisation to be filled by new or existing volunteers. From the first content area in this sub-pillar we know that we can think about these skills as intangible resources. We can therefore plan to ensure that all of the right resources are in place in terms of the skills and competencies of our volunteers. The process of achieving and maintaining this situation will, in turn, consume both tangible and intangible resources, so we need to ensure that these are available. In some cases this will necessitate the addition of new resources to your sport organisation’s asset base, and this is dealt with in the following two content areas. Here, we look at how to identify the resources necessary for successful volunteer operations as well as considering what those resources might be. These are categorised under recruiting, deploying and developing volunteers:

Resources for volunteer recruitment

(In Pillar 2 we look in detail at the volunteer recruitment process, so please go there for further information and ideas.)

A well-resourced volunteer process will require intangible resources such as:

  • Suitable skills and knowledge on the part of those doing the recruiting
  • Contacts/ connections that can be leveraged to ensure the volunteering opportunities are promoted widely
  • ‘Soft skills’ to ensure the process is conducted in a welcoming fashion.

The process will also demand tangible resources like:

  • Appropriate physical facilities in which to conduct interviews and inductions
  • Suitable IT equipment and software
  • Catering and other means of providing a comfortable experience for applicants.

Resources for volunteer deployment

On a day-to-day basis, volunteers are giving your sport organisation a most precious resource that can never be replaced or duplicated: their time. However, their activities may involve the consumption of other resources that can be provided or reimbursed by you, for instance:

volunteers may incur transportation costs while commuting to and from the organisation’s premises, sports venues, or events. In some cases they may also require the provision of transport.

Personal equipment:
depending on the nature of their volunteer roles, individuals may use their personal sports equipment, such as sports gear, uniforms, or safety gear.

volunteers may use their personal phones or internet services to communicate with the organisation, fellow volunteers, or participants. In some instances they may incur additional costs on their bills as a result.

Food and refreshments:
if volunteering for extended periods or during events, volunteers may consume food and beverages, either self-provided or provided by the organisation. They may require reimbursement for the purchase of these items.

Printing and materials:
volunteers may use their printers or purchase stationery and materials for administrative tasks, flyers, or informational materials.

Health and energy:
volunteering can be physically and mentally demanding, and volunteers may experience fatigue or temporary depletion of their energy reserves.

Volunteer expenses can therefore be incurred in a number of ways. Your sport organisation should reimburse reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, in line with an expenses policy establishing what volunteers can usually claim for in their role with limits as to how much they can claim.

Resources for volunteer development

In Pillar 4 you will find detailed support for volunteer development and training. Here, it is briefly worth noting that the process of training and providing other development opportunities for your volunteers will consume similar tangible and intangible resources to the above two categories, with particular demands being placed on the time, skills, experience and knowledge of those responsible for the development programme. Prior to any volunteer recruitment activity, therefore, it is highly beneficial to consider the resource implications of the entire cycle of recruiting, deploying, retaining and developing a new generation of volunteers. Is your sport organisation currently in a position to this?

The one underlying, tangible resource that may be needed to facilitate all of this activity is of course finance. Intangible resources in the form of social capital (personal contacts and connections) will help in terms of leveraging favours, but ultimately money will need to be spent to promote volunteering and all other aspects of your sport organisation’s work. The next two content areas look at how we can access money and other resources to keep the operation afloat.

Content area 3 : Identifying possible sources of tangible and intangible resources

The search for resources to sustain and develop volunteering in your sport organisation is an ongoing and evolving process. It will necessitate looking in a variety of different places, depending on whether the desired resource is tangible or intangible and whether it is something you already have or are seeking for the first time. The purpose of this content area is to give you ideas to help you identify resources in new locations, whilst the next content area looks at how to make the case to potential providers of resource support. The focus here is on resources to support your work with volunteers, but the principles are universal so you can use them to help seek resources for other purposes relevant to your sport organisation. Note that you can think about how to use existing resources to leverage new ones. This is in line with the idea of resources leading to competitive advantage.

Prior to seeking new resources to support your work with volunteers it is first important to confirm that you are making the most of what you already have. Seeking new resources is often a time-consuming and costly exercise, so if you have underutilised resource there maybe a quicker fix to a perceived shortage. The VRIO model, promoted by Barney and Hesterly amongst others, asks you consider each key resource as follows:

does the resource add value for your sport organisation or customers/ participants? If not, this could lead to competitive disadvantage and you will be wasting time and energy maintaining an unproductive resource.

do you control a resource that scarce yet in demand (this could be your unique sport facilities, for example). If the answer here is no, if the resource nonetheless has value, this might put you in a situation of competitive parity with comparable sport organisations.

is the resource difficult for others to copy? If it is valuable and rare but easily copied, this affords you temporary competitive advantage but others could catch up soon. This could apply, for example, to being the first sports club in your area to have volunteers complete a new technical qualification.

this is the key to sustained competitive advantage. Whatever the resource in question, even if it is valuable, rare and difficult to imitate, does your sport organisation have the necessary structure, culture and systems in place to capitalise upon it? Without this, you will have unused competitive advantage and any search for new resources might not be the most efficient use of people’s effort at that time.

 Assuming you have applied VRIO to the principal resources connected to your volunteer operation and found that you are already maximising their value, it will likely be necessary to go in search of tangible resources like money, equipment, transportation, maintenance equipment and materials as well as intangible resources like influence, media access, patronage, knowledge and skills. Here are some sources to explore:

Local community:
engage with the local community to find volunteers, sponsors, and potential donors. Attend community events, collaborate with local schools and colleges, and build partnerships with other community organisations.

Online platforms:
utilise online platforms and social media to reach a broader audience and promote your organisation’s needs.

Corporate sponsorship:
approach local businesses and corporations to seek financial support or in-kind donations. Many companies have corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and may be interested in supporting sport organisations in their community.

Government support:
national and local governments will often offer grants for sport organisations, so check what is available in your country/ locality.

Regional and local federation:
connect with your sport’s federation at regional or national level to explore funding opportunities, training resources, and networking possibilities.

Member subscriptions:
leverage your organisation’s membership dues and organise fundraising events to generate funds for activities and projects.

Sports retailers:
approach sporting goods stores or manufacturers to inquire about potential equipment sponsorships or discounts for your organisation.

Local media:
partner with local media outlets to gain exposure and attract new members, volunteers, and sponsors.

Alumni networks:
reach out to former club members and athletes who might be interested in supporting the organsiation or returning as volunteers.

Universities and colleges:
collaborate with educational institutions to find student volunteers or seek support, particularly through sport management programmes.

Existing supporters:
engage with your current members, volunteers, and supporters to tap into their networks and seek referrals for additional resources.

Community foundations:
explore opportunities with local or regional community foundations that may provide grants or financial support for community sport projects.

Professional athletes:
reach out to professional athletes with ties to your community who may be interested in supporting or endorsing your club.

Content area 4 : Acquiring resources to support volunteering

This final content area of Pillar 1 is focused on how to persuade outside organisations and individuals to support your sport organisation with tangible and intangible resources. (See the previous content area for more detailed advice on where to look for support.) The single, overarching principle of how to make resource-sharing arrangements work for your sport organisation is to see each one as a partnership in which each party stands to gain in some way. You may be able to secure individual handouts without doing this, but the key to sustainable partnerships is to understand your partner’s objectives and motivations so that you can provide them with value even as they support your volunteer operations.

Sponsorship, for example, is usually thought of as a commercial arrangement in which one party provides financial or in-kind help to another. It is important, however, not to overlook ‘what’s in it’ for the sponsor. If you are seeking commercial sponsorship to help recruit, deploy and develop volunteers in your sport organisation (or indeed to support any other activity), you should identify in advance what you are able to offer in exchange for the resource you are seeking. You will need to think about the connections that can be made between your sport organisation’s brand and activities, and those of potential sponsors. The sponsor will be looking for enhanced public awareness of their brand, goodwill by association with a ‘good cause’ and ultimately a commercial return on their investment in the form of changed purchase intentions amongst the intended audience. Think carefully about which of your existing resources you can leverage to make this possible. In the context of volunteering, remember that in-kind sponsorship is possible in the form of training and other developmental experiences for your volunteers.

When seeking resources from public or third sector donors, the partnership message is just as strong. Find out as much as you can about any government agency, federation or body from whom you will be applying to receive grant aid or similar support. As well as the explicit funding criteria you will need to meet, you may have the opportunity to illustrate to them how your sport organisation can contribute to them meeting wider strategic goals. The greater the overlap between your objectives and those of your partner, the greater the likelihood of a successful funding application. Outside of grant applications, partnerships between multiple agencies (including sport organisations such as your own) can be put together for any purpose, including pooling resources, seeking resources and developing resources to support volunteering. The key resources needed are the skills of your organisation’s representative(s) in engaging people from the ‘outside’, understanding their motivations and finding common ground.

Finally, whenever resources have been secured from external sources to support the recruitment, deployment and development of your volunteers, ensure that this is communicated throughout your sport organisation. For instance, volunteers can be asked to collaborate in raising the brand awareness of sponsors. This can be as simple as word-of-mouth promotion within their personal networks. Where less commercially-oriented partnerships have been entered into, the shared partnership goals should be disseminated amongst the members of your organisation as they may be asked to interact with representatives of partner organisations. To sum up, it is rarely the case these days that a handout approach will help you sustainably grow your resource base to support volunteering in your sport organisation, so a partnership mindset that is adopted by everyone from the casual volunteer to the most senior board member is the key to success.