In this episode, Renata discusses the issues with finding and keeping volunteers. She provides solutions to approaching volunteers and walks you through how to build a culture of volunteering.
This is the Your Sports Resource Podcast, where each week we’ll discuss strategies that you can implement, so the operations of your club, support your coaching staff, and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.
All right, welcome everybody to today’s episode of Your Sports Resource Podcast, and today I’m going to go over recruiting and retaining volunteers.
Volunteers or the lack thereof is a sensitive topic with clubs. It’s interesting every club goes through its ups and downs when it comes to volunteers and I’m not really talking about the ones that help with practices or competitions or where were your brain went as far as the basics with volunteers and youth sports clubs.
I’m more talking about those volunteers who need to take on a bit of a bigger role, whether it’s operational or administrative and function or organizing an event to raising money, something a little bit bigger. But like I said, every club goes through their ups and downs when it comes to retaining or actually even recruiting before you retain those volunteers.
And what I’ve noticed is those who are really struggling are those who don’t actually have the best volunteer culture, and by that it could be the culture of, you know, your membership getting behind you to the culture of they feel like everything is so disorganized. They really, you know, don’t want to step forward to try to clean things up.
But what we’re going to talk about today are some of the issues, and then I’d like to provide some solutions that you can put into practice.
I tell my clients that a successful club is one who plans to achieve their goals, serves their members with integrity, and makes meaningful contributions to the community, and this encompasses how you approach your volunteers.
I want to quickly go through why people volunteer and then address our myth understandings when it comes to volunteers. Yes, I said myth understandings.
So, if you have ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you know that we as individuals have 5 levels of needs as a human being. So those five levels are at the bottom your psychological needs, so air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing. You have your safety needs, which are personal security employment resources. Then you have love and belonging, friendship, intimacy, family sense of connection. Then you have esteem which is respect self-esteem, status and recognition and the top level is self-actualization. The desire to become the most that one can be.
Now my personal opinion is that the volunteer aspect is actualized in the top three levels, so that’s that love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. And even those who are volunteering just for show. They also are trying to meet these needs in some way, shape or fashion. And I believe no volunteer truly puts their hand up for show purposes only. It may end up being that way or feeling that way, but I think the way that we go about to attracting volunteers is really the problem.
And I do want to talk about that in a minute, but ultimately my belief is that no one signs up to be a failure. People do have the best intentions. It’s our approach, and their overestimation of the time they have and, or the skill set they have that usually causes the problems, but I believe that we can solve this.
So, let’s talk about the real reasons why clubs don’t have the volunteer base they need. I feel it comes down to two areas, our false assumptions or myth understandings and our failure to plan.
So, what are the myth, understandings or false assumptions?
And I want you to understand that these are actual statements that have been said to me. I’m not pulling them out of thin air. So, false assumption #1. People don’t want to volunteer. #2. That only members will volunteer and #3. Everyone knows we need volunteers, why don’t they just come forward, right?
So, let’s break these down. The first one is people don’t want to volunteer.
We assume that they’re too busy, that they have too much going on, or that they don’t want the responsibility, and that might be true for some, but studies have shown that 25% of the population between 14 and 75 years of age would like to volunteer. So, this also addresses number two that only members will volunteer.
People do want to be involved, they just need to know and understand what they’re signing up for, which we will address in the planning phase, right? And 2nd, if 25% of the population want to volunteer, chances are they just don’t know that you exist, which is that third one when you say that everybody knows that you need volunteer.
To me that means you have an untapped market in the community that most likely has no idea that you’re even around and would love to give up their time and their skill set.
So, the assumptions that people don’t have time and that you have to go to your membership, you know those are false assumptions, those are myth understandings.
The next area and the biggest area where we need to improve is in our planning.
This is not only how it affects those who step up, but it’s also in ensuring that they stick around and don’t turn around and leave, right?
And mainly that’s because you have somebody that’s interested, or they have the skill set, but when they walk in, it is so disorganized they feel overwhelmed. In addition to that, if we don’t have our ducks in a row and we don’t plan these same people will turn around and tell others that the club doesn’t have their stuff together, so don’t bother even volunteering which, which is, you know, not a good situation to be in.
So, when clubs need volunteers it’s important that there are specifics and processes, so you get that engagement. So let me explain and I’ll use a significant example, but it applies no matter what the level of the role is, okay.
So, you’ve gone out and you’ve said we need someone to find sponsors for us. Hey, you’re great at sales will you come on board now? Now, they might say yes, but if you haven’t decided on what types of businesses are appropriate to align yourself with what the financial targets are? How much you actually have to spend to get this off the ground? Which months are important to get sponsorships assigned prior to? Who is going to help write up the documentation? Who will help market the information right? The list could go on and on.
Most of the time when you bring someone on and leave it to them with no support or no help or no direction, that’s where it all falls through. This person may have wonderful sales experience. But maybe they’re not real hot in the planning or documenting.
So, if the club doesn’t have a plan, then the appropriate request should have been… “we need someone to help us plan out a sponsorship program.” Now that’s a completely different volunteer, a different skill set. Then you’re recruiting for the right person to help build that plan, and then you go back to the person who can actually initiate the sales.
So, by not taking a step back and thinking it through, clubs tend to jump straight to the end result, which is often why larger pieces of work fail and volunteers feel like they’ve failed.
Okay, so I want to move into how to develop that culture of volunteering.
But first I’d like to tell you about my consulting services. Whether it’s helping clubs navigate situations like we’re talking about today, or if you need support and getting your club structured correctly and on the right path, my consulting services might be right for you.
My approach to working with youth sports clubs is to work in a way where you have a game plan to implement right away. I stay away from theory. Fluff drives me insane. I’m here to work and to ensure that your club can move out of old mindsets and sameness and move into running the club like the business it is. Together we can move from surviving to thriving with options.
Send me an email and we’ll schedule a no-obligation call where we can discuss your areas of concern. That email is email@example.com
Okay, I want to talk through how to attract volunteers, how to keep them, and how to empower them, and I’m sure that what I’m about to say is going to feel like common sense, which it is. But that doesn’t mean its common practice. Knowing something is not the same as putting it into action.
Okay, so how to attract volunteers? First don’t only look to your membership. Look outside and in your community, another great area to tap into is your past membership. You’ve heard me say this before. They already know your organization and they understand it. They’ve also grown up and have their own contacts and new skillsets. Your past members is a list you should be curating, and you should be communicating to consistently.
Which is the second part of attracting volunteers. You must be consistent in your communication on your website newsletters, social media, email, local newspaper handouts or programs at events, newspapers. Talk to your coaches. Have them talk to your parents. Local TV and radio. All you have to do is ask and ask often.
Again, the myth understanding is that people know about you as much as you think that they do, and they don’t. It’s proven that the communities don’t exactly, unless they have some relationship to your child. They don’t know that you exist in that you’re here, so you need to communicate often, and you need to broaden that net, okay? and tell your membership, hey, if this isn’t for you, that’s OK, but if you know of someone who would be a great fit for this piece of work, please tell them. Give them my email, give them my phone number, have them reach out to me, oaky? And the last part in attracting volunteers is to communicate early.
Please don’t try to find someone at the last minute. Everybody has an excuse as to why they do this, and they do it all the time, right? If you wait till the last minute, you’re not going to find or the chances of you finding the right person is pretty slim, okay. You’re either going to pile on more work to somebody else who’s already doing a bunch of work for the organization, or you’re gonna end up having the result a result different than what you desire to have, okay. And it is unreasonable to ask for things at the last minute.
So how you keep and empower your volunteers is by defining the role or the work by documenting it, communicating often, reinforcing and celebrating. Now again, I’m going to go over each of these briefly
So, in defining you set the tone or the expectations and be honest. State exactly what you need, what skill set you need, and how long you’re expecting the person to work on this, right?
Do not, please do not act out of fear and say all this work is only going to take 4 hours a week for fear of scaring them off, trust me, if it’s not real, you will come across as disingenuous and then you set the volunteer up for failure because they thought they were signing up for four hours. It ends up being 20. Well, they don’t have 20 hours to give, okay.
So, when defining that role, state your true expectations to the best of your ability. Your desired outcomes and behaviors. If you don’t know what you need, then you say, we need someone to help us plan this activity. So, start first with the plan and then once that’s documented, then that person can roll over into the work or you start your recruitment process over again to find someone to actually work on the implementation of the project.
Next you need to document that request, right? So, you’ve created, you know what you think you need. You’ve set your expectations. You need to document it all down, so basically that’s just taking what you’ve defined and putting it on the document.
In addition to that, certain items might already need access to your processes and procedures or checklists that you may already have. Don’t make that person have to go find this information when they come on board. Pull it all together. You want people to volunteer, so you need to make it so they can hit the ground running when they come on board.
If you don’t have that information, tell them you will be planning. And that and then give them access to the people who do have the information or the experience or the knowledge. So, these processes and procedures can be written.
Now we’ve already discussed communication. That’s the third area. But once you’ve defined what you need and you’ve documented it, that’s when you communicate it, right. So, it must be clear and consistent until you find exactly what you need.
So, we need someone to help us develop and plan our sponsorship program. We’re looking for someone with great planning and researching skills and we estimate this work to be approximately 8 hours a week for four weeks now.
Once you have them on board and they have the direction and know their expectations. Then you must move into reinforcing through supporting them, right? Clearing those roadblocks, addressing any needs they have in order to be successful, and the other side of that is to hold them accountable.
There should be no excuses up to this point if you’ve actually done your due diligence and you’ve done your planning and you’ve documented and you’re clearing roadblocks, right? So, you’ve done your part, it’s time for them to do theirs.
And the last key area to empower and keep your volunteers is to celebrate them, not just once a year, and it doesn’t have to be in a grandiose way, right? It should be done often, say thank you every chance you get.
So, if you have a board, make sure the board says thank you to your volunteers. If you don’t have a board and it’s a coach-run team or in a different type of structure, it doesn’t matter. Make sure you thank your volunteers often, right.
And say thank you publicly every chance you get. So, whether you are at a competition, your team dinners or events, even in articles and social media, make sure you say that this event couldn’t happen without our volunteers. We wouldn’t be as successful today as we are without our volunteers. If I’m on the sidelines and I’m constantly hearing about how much my child Club appreciates their volunteers, well then, I’m looking around trying to figure out okay, how can I squeeze out another hour or two a week to help my child’s club?
Okay, I like in this approach to a wheel of sorts, right. You provide knowledge. The volunteer is successful, they know their value and feel valued. So, they give more. They talk more to others about volunteering and then your recruiting becomes easier and then the process starts all over again. Knowledge. Success. Value. Give More. Recruit.
So here is my challenge to you. If you’re in the midst of kicking off a piece of work or you have a piece of work that isn’t going well, I’d like for you to step back and ask yourself some questions.
Are there clear objectives? And by clear objectives you can’t say just from your point of view. Are there clear objectives from the volunteer’s point of view who may not have the institutional knowledge that you have, right?
Do they have all the information they need? Is there any supporting documentation they need processes, procedures, checklists? Do I look for the right skillset? Am I asking the right people? Am I asking my membership only, or am I looking wider? Am I curating a list of past members and am I nurturing it? Do I support my volunteers? If not me, is there someone else who can? Do we do our part to set our volunteers up for success?
Are we building a culture of volunteering or are we just winging it. If you feel like you’re just winging it and you don’t have everything in order, try not to attack it all at once. Just go one thing at a time. Prioritize the list, focus on one particular project. Make sure those people have what they need, then move on to the next, right.
Where all just volunteers or you may have one or two operational administrative staff. Everybody can’t take everything on, so just attack it in a methodical way and do the right things, and then when you kick off the next project, you’re in a better position to start it off correctly from the beginning.
All right, that’s all for this week’s episode. Write me if you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, review this podcast so more can hear about how they can improve the leadership of their Sports Club
In upcoming episodes, I’ll talk with my first guest who will explain the five levels of listening. This information is applicable to not just a work-life but also your home one too. So, be sure to tune in.
Thanks for spending time with me.