Protecting volunteers – what can sports clubs do?
Everyone agrees that volunteers continue to play a vital role in sport clubs and associations. However, the Covid crisis had a negative effect on volunteering and has accentuated the social changes to which sport clubs need to adapt, according to Colin Miège.
In an uncertain, changing context, it is important to look at the current state of affairs without complacency and to find appropriate solutions in an attempt to reinforce voluntary support. This was the aim of Groupama Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne, with the backing of Sport and Citizenship.
A drop in the number of volunteers which is hard to evaluate
The Covid crisis had a negative effect on volunteering. An estimated 4% of volunteers have not returned since normal life resumed, although there are big differences from sport to sport and in different localities. This enforced break magnified trends which were already under the surface: volunteering for shorter spells at certain times, and a gradual lessening of interest from certain age groups (35-64 and after 65), and for certain roles with a lot of expert knowledge and responsibility.
The pandemic also changed our relationships with other people. At the same time, the government increased the number of injunctions addressed to the sport movement. The result was that volunteers were overused and are showing signs of weariness.
What can be done to encourage volunteering in clubs?
First of all, it is easy to see that volunteers must be aware of their club’s objectives and have a clear understanding of the missions assigned to them. Although this seems obvious, it is not always the case, and many clubs still lack a club project which defines their vision and the means in place to achieve it.
It is also important for volunteers to be integrated and supported, for their voice to be heard and for essential management elements to be shared. Managing volunteers requires skills which are not automatic. Special training is needed, which may need to be backed up by tools (role descriptions, training plans, reciprocal engagement charters…). Lastly, volunteers must be made to feel valued, in tangible or intangible ways, to make them want to stay.
“Attract, integrate, retain”
The human management of volunteers requires appropriate methods, which may in part come from the private sector, and which are still hard to find in the sport sector. This question must be taken into account and measures taken to modernise clubs and adapt them to the challenges of today.