Task-based volunteering

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: 

To encourage volunteering in whatever form, be it large or small, it’s important to have an awareness of the sacrifices volunteers make and the impact of their contribution. Celebrating their contribution is really important. At a time when people are faced with increasing financial and time pressures, volunteering opportunities need to be flexible. Take time to understand your volunteers, listen to how they want to be involved and when, and offer tasks that suit them. Consider using our ‘Undertaking a skills audit’ tool to evaluate the talents your volunteers have to offer and how to maximise them. Be sure to thank your volunteers. Avoid treating them like an unpaid workforce. Showing appreciation is a widely used measure for understanding volunteer motivations and increasing engagement numbers.

Remember to give your volunteers power and position them as leaders. For volunteers to thrive it’s important to ensure they’ve got the ability to affect change. This element requires your decision makers to value first-hand experience, treat volunteers as equals, and recognise who is underserved in volunteer settings with the confidence to redistribute power in this instance.

Volunteering should be accessible and welcoming to everyone. People from lower socio-economic groups, younger individuals, disabled people, and volunteers from ethnically diverse backgrounds are historically less likely to volunteer or have positive experiences if they do. To address this:
  • 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.
Take a look at our case study on ‘How SPICE ice-skating club engages young volunteers’ for some inspiration.

Collaboration is a natural part of volunteering. People’s motivations can be driven by shared ambitions, values, or goals. Champion volunteers to make tasks their own, offer tasks that can be completed with other volunteers with similar skill sets, and encourage communication between any paid staff, committee members and volunteers. Invite current volunteers to suggest ways roles can be broken down into tasks or completed on a rota basis to be shared with others.

Volunteering is changing constantly, never more so than through the pandemic. Experimentation is a natural part of volunteering. Try to remain as dynamic and flexible as possible. Protect people’s safety and wellbeing first, then trial and learn from different ways of completing tasks, embrace a learning culture, and don’t be afraid to learn from things if they don’t go as well as you’d hoped.

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’.

For more information visit our Club Matters pages on ‘breaking roles into tasks’ and ‘volunteer motivations’.

Last modified: Friday, 11 November 2022, 10:43 AM