Volunteers are the driving force of community sport and physical activity. There’s lots of ways for people to get involved in volunteering. However, the role of a volunteer has traditionally been seen as long-term, time-consuming commitment. Organisations have historically relied on a few core individuals to fulfil a number of set roles such as secretary, chairperson, treasurer, fixtures secretary, and captain. This not only commands a big time commitment from the volunteer but also means that organisations often struggle when these people move on.
With competing priorities and increasing financial and time pressures, the way volunteering opportunities are viewed and delivered needs to change and quickly!
Volunteer numbers have been on a decline since the pandemic. If organisations don’t rethink and act now, they run the risk of not being sustainable.
Figure 1 – Volunteering figures in the last 12 months. Sport England, Actives Lives Survey November 2021-2022.
Why focus on task-based volunteering?
Breaking traditional roles into tasks and giving volunteers bite-sized opportunities to engage can:
- Strengthen and increase volunteer involvement at your organisation: People with less time, or specific skills to offer, may feel more inclined to get involved if it can be solely for key tasks.
- Improve the volunteer experience for new and existing volunteers: Existing volunteers may feel more valued if their tasks relate to their skills and require less time or commitment from them.
- Create a wider, more diverse pool of volunteers: Traditional volunteering roles do not appeal to everyone. By recruiting volunteers for specific tasks, you may find people with a greater range of ages, backgrounds and skills are keener to get involved.
- Support succession planning: It’s likely to be easier to find and train new volunteers to assume clearly defined tasks, than larger roles, when people want to move on.
- Enhance your organisation’s reputation, income streams, and popularity: A larger, more diverse, and efficient volunteer workforce can help your operations run more smoothly. It may also help you increase your participant base and secure new income opportunities.
Things to consider
The Vision for Volunteering suggests a number of ways that will help you to move to more task-based volunteering. These include:
- Create an inclusive culture that welcomes and values people for who they are and what they have to offer.
- Take time to find out about people’s life experiences to see how you can learn and benefit from these.
- Ask about people’s barriers to volunteering and work to overcome these.
- Be proactive in raising concerns about discrimination or inequity.
- Be aware of your local community and build trust within it.
- Capture data on your volunteers and actively share and drive change where there are gaps.
- Share good practice to learn and adapt towards inclusive practices.
How to promote task-based volunteering?
Breaking roles into tasks might seem difficult at first, but consider small steps and skills is a productive way to consider new opportunities for ‘bite-size volunteering’.