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Clubs - Advice for working with volunteers

Plan aheadVolunteer recruitmentVolunteer retentionSupport / resources

Step 1

  • Analyse your club's needs and determine if hosting volunteers is suitable.
  • Check that your club is properly organised and able to manage new volunteers appropriately.
  • Ensure that adequate provision has been made to pay any agreed expenses to the volunteer whilst commencing club duties.

Step 2

  • Devise a Role Description and person specification for that role that you would like your volunteers to undertake. The Role Description should detail exactly what tasks that your club is expecting the volunteer to complete

Step 3

  • Once you have identified your volunteers ask them to complete a registration form and meet with them to discuss both the clubs needs and any individual needs or concerns that they might have.
  • Ensure that all volunteers are Criminal Records Bureau checked and all relevant references have been undertaken.

Step 4

  • Ensure that all volunteers are properly inducted and know who to see if any problems or issues arise

Step 5

  • Make sure that your club's volunteers have the adequate support and training necessary to go about their tasks and duties. Arrange regular update meetings to discuss and evaluate their role as well identifying any training or additional assistance that might be needed.

Volunteer Centres are local agencies that provide a free brokerage service to match individuals seeking volunteer work with clubs seeking assistance. Contact your local centre with details of the roles you are seeking to fill - they may be able to provide you with details of interested local volunteers. In addition, volunteer centres provide support and advice to both clubs and individuals. Contact details for your local centre are on the right of this page.

Volunteer recruitment tips

Ask - Most volunteers say they were recruited because somebody asked them if they were interested in helping. This doesn’t mean just putting up a notice, people like to be asked personally, they feel more valued.

Ask members to complete a volunteering profile form, to help you to gather information about the time that they might be able to give and any particular skill that they can offer the club. Adapt your membership form to gather this information as people join. The fact that you are asking for this information might just prompt somebody to offer their help.

Hold an annual recruitment meeting linked to a social event and make sure people know who to contact to:

  • Follow up their initial interest
  • Find out more about the job
  • Know what steps to take next

Make volunteering a condition of playing, even if people can only give one hour a month or help out once a year.

Encourage current post holder to identify people who may be interested in taking over from them, and encourage them to involve others throughout they year to ease the transition if they move on.

Produce a club information leaflet that explains how the club operates and the range of jobs that need to be done and the possible time commitment involved in the various tasks.

Use notice boards, newsletters and word of mouth to publicise the need for more volunteers and don’t just assume that everybody knows what is going on. People won’t always know unless you make a point of telling them.

Allow people the time to think about what they are getting involved in and what they are committing themselves too. Allow people the time to do some job sharing or shadowing to see what a job entails.

Think about the reasons why people volunteer their time – it’s a two way process that benefits the volunteer as well as the club. People volunteer to meet new people and make friends, to learn new skills or maybe influence the way that a club is run. Try to match people to roles that satisfy their needs as well as yours. Sell the benefits!

Have an open recruitment policy. Many potential volunteers feel that they don’t fit the profile of a club volunteer and so don’t offer to help.

The following kinds of things can be off putting

  • Need to have been a member for a long time
  • Expectation that they should be good at/knowledgeable about the sport.
  • Expectation that they should be a certain age. Young people have a great deal to offer as volunteers – many have qualified as sports leaders and administrators through programmes at school, and have been involved in volunteering in the community. However they are often overlooked as potential volunteers because of misconceptions about their interest, skills, maturity or commitment.
  • Tendency for club management to be dominated by a specific gender. Volunteers should reflect the membership of the club in terms of age, race, gender and disability.
  • Rocking the boat by pushing a long-serving volunteer out of a job that they maybe should have handed over a long time ago!

Keeping your volunteers keen, interested, motivated and enthusiastic is essential. These tips provide a general guide as to how to help support, develop and retain your volunteer workforce.

Produce a basic information pack for new volunteers containing

  • A copy of their role description and immediate points of contact (e.g. predecessor, people with whom they are most likely to work)
  • Telephone numbers, email addresses, postal addresses
  • Details of expenses that can be claimed back and how to claim them
  • An overview of the organisation (e.g. management structure, summary of development plan) so they can see where they fit and the contribution they are making.

Don’t assume that just because people have been involved in the organisation for some time, they know how everything works! It is safer to provide information that people don’t need than to make assumptions about their level of knowledge.

Set Standards

Most volunteers want to do a good job and will appreciate knowing what standards the organisation expects early on, rather than being told they are doing something wrong after the event. Standards may include:

  • Commitment (and to say if they can’t meet then, even in the short term)
  • Extent and limits of their responsibility (especially in relation to financial matters, representing the organisation externally, or entering into agreements on behalf of the organisation)
  • Child Protection policies and the organisations good practice guidelines for working with children
  • Working relationships with others – respect other volunteers.

Practical Support

The ideal way to introduce a volunteer to a new job is to encourage them to shadow their predecessor for a few months, with a gradual handover of responsibility. If this isn’t possible, consider using:

  • Somebody who has done the job before or who knows enough about the organisation to be able to offer some guidance and be at the other end of the phone.
  • A mentor – somebody who can provide feedback as a new volunteer gets to grips with a job.
  • A Volunteer Coordinator – make sure that they spend time with the new volunteer early on to check that everything is going according to plan.

Avoid duplication and gaps

Make sure that role descriptions are clearly defined to avoid two people working on the same task, leaving other aspects of their role unattended.

It might be necessary to reinforce role descriptions to make sure that people aren’t extending the job into what they would like it to be, rather than the job that really needs to be done!


Volunteers are an important part of your organisation. Try to ensure that you aren’t only a top down organisation by encouraging volunteers to contribute to decision-making. They will be more comfortable about implementing policies or ideas that they have contributed to or been consulted about.


Help people to develop the skills and knowledge they need to do their job. Remember, training isn’t just about formal courses. Volunteers can sometimes find the word ‘training’ off putting.

Team Meetings

Holding regular team meetings is a good way to show that you are listening or regular one-ones with your volunteers are good to keep each other in touch with progress.


Volunteer coordinators/team leaders should make time to listen to volunteers. It is important to

  • Provide honest and constructive feedback
  • Find out what aspects of the job they enjoy the most/the least
  • Remember what got them involved in volunteering in the first place – are they getting what they wanted out of it?
  • Assess whether they are managing to do the job in the time available or whether they need some help
  • Decide whether the role description needs changing
  • Discuss ideas for working smarter not harder
  • Discuss other roles that they might like to take on in the future

Say Thank You

  • Make a personal telephone call
  • Send a thank you card
  • Present a certificate of recognition
  • Buy the occasional small gift
  • Provide goodies (e.g. Kit bags, t-shirts, sweatshirts)
  • Hold a social evening just for volunteers
  • Give volunteers priority tickets for major events
  • Take an interest and keep in touch

Communicate the value of volunteers throughout the organisation

  • Include regular features about people behind the scenes and the impact of their work on your organisation in your newsletter/magazine/website.
  • Submit articles on the work of volunteers to your local newspapers

Support and guidance on volunteer support is available through Volunteering England, which is an independent agency working to support an increase in the quality, quantity, impact and accessibility of volunteering throughout England. Its work links research, policy innovation, good practice and grant making in the involvement of volunteers and offers an array of services designed to help and support everyone who works with volunteers.

Additionally, support and guidance is available on the running sports website. Support documents available include volunteer role descriptions to be useed as a guide when considering the structure of the club and personnel. Selected volunteer role descriptions include Head coach, Volunteer coordinator, Child protection/welfare officer and Junior coordinator. Other featured role profiles include Assistant Coach, Chairperson, Development Officer, Disability Co-ordinator, Fixtures Secretary, Membership Secretary, Treasurer and Press / Publicity Officer.


El Taylor-Jenks
Assistant Project Officer
01962 676380

Volunteer Centres