Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers

Let’s face it volunteers are the key to a successful amateur sports club. Most clubs are run by a small pool of volunteers who bring passion, drive and ambition to clubs, to keep them running and improving. Remember volunteers aren’t just coaches or referees, they’re those that hold committee members positions, they are those parents that offer to wash the kit, the wife of the chairman who makes the tea on the Saturday. It could be someone who just helps now and again. Without them clubs are nothing, even big professional sports clubs such as premier league clubs have volunteers, that offer to clear the pitches of snow in bad weather. Sports volunteering is worth millions to British economy and is the most popular sector in which people are likely to volunteer.

Things that you need to consider for volunteers is the four R’s, recruit, retain, recognise and reward, as well as what organisation can support you and what resources are available to ensure all club volunteers has an excellent voluntary experience.  These people that offer their time usually get put upon quite heavily, taking on one role then quickly carrying out three or four different jobs. It is important that we consider the needs of the volunteer at the heart of what they do, what are their motivations for volunteering? Are their needs being met if we can truly understand this then the support we offer to the individuals can be a lot more appropriate and tailored to them individually, which will in turn encourage them to continue giving up their time and making a difference for a longer period of time.


Do volunteers need to be qualified?

Volunteers do not need to be qualified for most positions. Some roles may need to have a Discolsure and Barring Service (DBS) check. there is useful tool on the government website to help you decide who in your club require a DBS check, for more information click here.

It is good practice for volunteesr to do an emergency first aid qualification and Safeguarding workshop. There are also other workshops which can involve your volunteer workforce too. Click here to see the Sport England Club Matters workshops.

For coaches, it is good practice to have a coaching qualification from there National Governing Body at a level 2 if coaching on their own or a level 1 if they are coaching as a part of a team.  

If your volunteer is working with food it is also good practice to get the a hygiene certificate. There is more information about this at NCASS:

How do I recruit volunteers?

Recruiting volunteers can somtime be difficult, often clubs or groups recruit volunteers from within their own club, this could be participants who are willing to volunteer alongside their participation or parents of your junior members. However if you need to recruit volunteers from outside your club, you should see this as a formal process like employing a member of staff. The following steps could help you:

> Look at what skills are missing at your club

> Write a volunteer job description including what skills that person needs in order to fulfil the role requirements. The following website could help you with this.

> Advertise the position, you could use social media to advertise your position or contact local colleges, universities or large local employees

> Process applications and short list

> Interview the person(s)

> Get a reference for the individual, you may also need get them DBS checked depending on the role. Click here to find what roles require a DBS check.

> Offer the right volunteer the role

> Train the person at your sports club to undertake the volunteer role

How do I safely recruit volunteers?

Some individuals may not be suitable to work with children due to gaps in skills or due to previous concerns about conduct. It is therefore essential that you have effective recruitment and selection procedures for both paid staff and volunteers. These will help to screen out and discourage those who are not suitable from joining your club/organisation. Click here for more information on how you can safely recruit volunteers.

How do I recognise, develop and reward my volunteers?

1. Take the time to say thank you! It goes a long way.

2. Make sure volunteers have enough tasks to keep them engaged and motivated

3. Where possible try to ensure volunteers are given roles relevant to their skills, interests and level of experience

4. Include volunteers in social events – going out for lunch etc., so that they can enjoy the social aspect of volunteering

5. Ask volunteers for opinions on informal matters, such as where a new notice board should go etc.

6. Complete a ‘debrief’ at the end of an event or training session so that volunteers feel part of a team

7. Provide each volunteer with a clear role description for the role they will be doing. It needs to cover what is expected, who to go to for help, and any other relevant information. Click here to see volunteer role description templates.

8. Ensure new volunteers have an induction at the club. Learn their expectations and allow for questions to be asked.

9. Assign mentors or ‘buddies’ to new volunteers so they have a designated ‘go-to’ person for help.

10. Make volunteers aware of available training and qualifications which would be suitable for them.

11. Run volunteer events such as a ‘thank you event’. This could be anything from an awards evening, a meal out, or a game of rounders

12. Include volunteers in decisions that affect them at the club. Invite them to meetings or working groups or request feedback on future plans.

Is there a legal age limit to who can volunteer? Can I take on 13/14-year-old volunteers?

The short answer is yes. There is no legal age limit for volunteering, it suits all ages. But there are things that you need to consider if you’re a young volunteer (under 16). these include:

> Child Employment Laws

> Supervision ratios

> Parental permission

> Suitable activities

Click here for more infomation about what you should consider when considering taking on a young volunteer.

What is the difference between employment and volunteering?

1. A volunteer doesn’t get paid for their work. As a volunteer you’re not allowed to receive any payment, benefit in kind or other reward for your work. If you’re getting this, you might be legally classed as an employee. This also counts for training that is not related to your volunteering role at your club. As a volunteer you may get expenses reimbursed but these should only be out-of-pocket expenses and not a pre-estimate of expenses.

2. A volunteer doesn’t have any obligations to the club – the voluntary work they do is of their own free will.

3. A volunteer agreement shouldn’t have any language that suggests employment. It should therefore not be called a contract but an agreement, and it should use words like ‘role’ rather than ‘job description’ and list ‘expectations’ rather than ‘duties’ or ‘obligations’.

A volunteer is getting paid honoraria is this subject to tax?

Yes. While a volunteer’s out of pocket expenses aren’t subject to tax, honoraria are taxable. Though the amounts may be very small, honoraria are subject to the same PAYE rules as a salary and therefore you should pay income tax and national insurance contributions on them. Click here for more information.

Do all volunteers need a DBS?

 No, volunteers are only eligible for a DBS Check if their role:

> is listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (this entitles the position to a Standard DBS check)

> is specified in The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations (this entitles the position to an Enhanced DBS check)

> involves working in ‘regulated activity’ with children and/or vulnerable adults 

To find out more information, click here.

I have a potential sports volunteer with a criminal record, can they still volunteer?

This will depend on the nature of the crime committed and what the DBS check reveals and the role that the volunteer would be performing. A spent criminal conviction shouldn’t necessarily prevent someone volunteering. However, if someone is applying to volunteer with children or vulnerable adults and a DBS check reveals they have been convicted or suspected of offences against them, then this will rule them out of the position.

If in doubt, contact your safeguarding and welfare officer at your NGB who will have some definitive guidelines and help you make this decision.

For more information about DBS please see our safeguarding section

What are the benefits of volunteering for potential volunteers?

There are loads of benefits for people to volunteer for your club or group. A few include:

> opportunity to socialise

> learning new skills

> giving something back to the community

Unemployed volunteers or those that have been out of the workplace for some time, can easily lose confidence in their own abilities. They may find it difficult to stay positive and it can feel as though they lack a purpose in life. Volunteering gives people the opportunity to enter a work environment on a less formal basis, in a role where they will be fully supported, and with more flexibility.

For more details about the advantages of volunteering, see the Motivations of Sport Volunteers in England by Sport England

Will volunteering at our club help our volunteers get a job?

Volunteering can help by giving volunteers:

> New skills and work experiences

> A way into an organisation – thus giving them the potential to be considered for arising vacancies

> Referees for job applications

> A chance to show prospective employers that they are willing to work

> Potential access to training and qualifications, your club can send them on workshops such as Club Matters workshops – for more information click here

Can somebody volunteer for our club if they claim benefits?

In most cases, yes anybody can volunteer, as long as:

> The only money they get from volunteering is to cover expenses, such as travel costs.

> They continue to meet the conditions of the benefit they get.

For more information see:

Should we pay volunteers for their work?

The whole ethos behind volunteering is that it is done on a voluntary basis, however, many organisations do pay expenses e.g. for travel costs, meals whilst volunteering.

Do volunteers need any special skills or qualifications to volunteer?

Some very skilled roles may require qualifications, including coaching roles, other roles may require a backgroud knowledge of certain professions such as financial knowledge for a club treasurer role or experience of leadership and management for a club cairman role, but there is a wide range of workshops to help your volunteers gain these skills, for example Sport England Club Matters workshops.

There are also lots of roles or tasks that volunteers can do within your club or group without the need of any training. For example these could include:

> taking session registers

> running a tuck shop

> cleaning 

> maintenance

How many hours per week should we expect volunteers to commit?

This varies depending on the type of roles the volunteer wishes to do, but generally you can expect a volunteer to commit to giving at least a few hours per week. However, make sure that you do not expect to much from your volunteers, people have limited time and their time is valuable, they are most likely to be put of if they feel that too much is expected of them.  

What if our volunteers can not commit to something on a regular basis?

Give your volunteers the opportunity to do one-off volunteering as events, for example you could put on a club tidying day when people can commit to volunteering just for one day. Make sure you advertise these events well so that all potential volunteers are arware they are happening. 

Another way to engage people that cannot commit to volunteering on a regular basis is by putting up a list of tasks in your club house or club website, this will allow people to just do a one-off task without the need to commit to a specific role. 

If you haven’t found the answer to your question above, please complete the below form and we will get back to you shortly.