Communication with your volunteers

V - inspiring A Million

It is vital to communicate with the volunteers within your club. Informal chats with small groups of volunteers or individuals can also be an effective way of finding out how people are getting on, providing some feedback and demonstrating an interest in their role.

Who?

Everybody who is involved as a volunteer or helper, even if they only help out occasionally

When?

Maybe after a training session, a match or at a social evening organised as a mid-season thank-you for all of your volunteers.

What?

Remember that a team talk is a two-way process. The purpose of a team talk is to:

  • Motivate
  • Listen
  • Review performance
  • Recognise achievement (and possibly make some changes)
  • Renew the team focus
  • Identify any skills gaps and need for support
  • Build the team spirit

Ask questions

Ask questions similar to those you have already asked yourself. Be prepared to listen, people may have different views about how things are going. Encourage people to put forward their ideas - maybe an 'ideas box' would enable people to contribute their constructive ideas over two or three weeks before the meeting.

Why not set up three 'get involved' meetings each year - one pre-season to set the team going, one mid-season to review progress and one at the end of the season to review the year?

When things aren't going to plan

We all know that many volunteers and helpers give up because they are:

  • Overloaded and 'put upon'
  • Not confident about the task they have been asked to do
  • Fed up with doing the same thing
  • Afraid that they will be committed for life!

If a job is too onerous for one person, why not split it into two or three smaller parts. This is not as difficult as it may appear. Use the roles and responsibilities form to identify the tasks that make up the job.

You should find that you can group these into tasks that need to be done at the club, away from the club, daily, weekly, monthly, or tasks that require specific skills. This will help to break the job down into smaller, more manageable parts.

Support systems

  • Help people to develop confidence in their current role or to prepare for a new role by providing a 'buddy' - somebody who has done the job before, who can help them settle in to the job without feeling out of their depth. A smooth handover from the person who did the job last year always helps people to get through the first weeks with more confidence.
  • Some 'on the job' coaching
  • Training opportunities which can include Running Sport workshops led by Sport England, booklets, job shadowing, talking to other people to see how they do the job in their club or league.
  • Magazine articles
  • E-learning and websites

Planning for succession

Try to find the balance between a high turnover of volunteers and stagnation. Skill and experience are invaluable qualities, but 'waiting for dead men's shoes' can be off-putting for potential volunteers.

Volunteers will be motivated by new challenges and like to be reassured that they are not taking on a lifetime commitment by volunteering their help.

Volunteers are more likely to feel comfortable about moving onto a new challenge if they know that they are handing over their role to somebody who will do a good job.

Plan ahead: encourage volunteers to look out for somebody who could take over from them. Offer them the chance to shadow the job for a while, to find out what's involved and to see if it's the right role for them.

If the new volunteer is to be a member of the Board, make sure that he/she is aware of the duration of their responsibility. It is always a good idea for the Board constitution to dictate a length of time - say two years with the possibility of re-election.

Good succession planning helps to ensure that the right people are doing the right roles at the right time!