WE often hear from clubs about how to attract and retain volunteers and one of the key ways to do both is to make your club a hub that celebrates and values all volunteers.
There is a vast range of volunteering opportunities within the GAA club, and people give differently of their time and skills. We should not create a hierarchy of volunteers but instead create a club that values everyone and everyone’s contribution.
When we talk about valuing volunteers, we are talking about much more than just saying thank you. Here are some ideas that you can show that you value volunteers within your club community.
Volunteer Policy: All GAA clubs should have a volunteer policy adopted that puts volunteering and volunteers at the centre of everything we do. The GAA would simply not exist if we did not have volunteers, so this is our greatest asset, and we need to start treating it as such.
A Club Volunteer policy should highlight the value the club places on volunteering and highlight that there are policies and procedures in place to protect, develop and support volunteers in their various roles.
Clubs can access templates of Volunteer Policies from the Club Maith website www.ulster.gaa.ie/club-maith which can then be amended to suit your own clubs.
Volunteer Charter: Ulster GAA in association with Irish FA and Ulster Rugby have developed a sports volunteer charter and it is a good idea for your club to sign up to and promote this charter.
The Charter is a brief statement that shows the club is committed to: Promoting opportunities and welcoming to all; Developing volunteers through support and training; Safeguarding volunteers with strong policies and procedures; and Recognising the importance of our volunteers in sport. You can access the Volunteer Charter using the hashtag #SportsVolunteerCharter.
Training and Support: One of the key things to enable volunteers to do their roles to the highest standards is to provide them with the necessary training and support.
Training should not be viewed as another burden on volunteers, instead it should be promoted as an essential tool to develop capacity of our volunteers and also helps protect volunteers in their roles providing them with necessary knowledge and support in dealing with difficult situations. Ulster GAA runs Club Officer Training every January for the main club officer roles, we also run a number of workshops throughout the year on specific issues or topics. The club should promote these training opportunities and encourage volunteers to attend.
Many are now held online to reduce the burden of time for volunteers. You can keep up-to-date on all training courses provided by Ulster GAA and your county board by following their social media channels.
Assistant roles: Volunteering can sometimes be a lonely role when the volunteer feels they do not have the adequate support or help around them.
That is why appointing assistants for most roles is a good idea as it builds a team to carry out tasks and means nobody is left feeling isolated and on their own.
Appointing assistants is also great for succession planning as it helps develop the assistant to later take up the official volunteer role, eg an assistant treasurer can learn from the club treasure through practically working with them and this will prepare them for taking up the role in three or five years’ time.
Official Recognition: Ulster GAA delivers the hugely popular Sports Inspire Awards Programme for young GAA volunteers aged 14-24 years old. This is a great opportunity for your club to officially recognise the efforts of young volunteers and also to attract new young volunteers to help out in your club.
The young volunteers receive awards for 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering and can use this for their UCAS/University applications and also for job interviews. By being involved in this programme your club can show a commitment to involving young people in sports volunteering. For more information please contact Sharon.email@example.com.
Some clubs arrange visits to Croke Park for their older volunteers bringing them together for a day away to celebrate their contribution. This is a great initiative to focus on your volunteers for a day.
Other clubs have held big breakfasts but have asked their teams to volunteer at it so that club volunteers can just come along and enjoy the experience.
Small gestures and initiatives like this can do a lot to make volunteers feel valued.
Volunteer Showcases: It is always good to recognise and thank your volunteer team at appropriate times. You can do this through club speeches, online platforms, in match programmes, at annual club dinners etc.
Many clubs now award Volunteer of the Year or Club Person of the Year to emphasise the important role volunteers play to the overall success of the club. It is also nice for your senior teams to recognise volunteers, perhaps by joining volunteers in their roles some times, eg litter pick or helping with catering or stewarding at events.
Consultation: Make sure you make your volunteers feel they are an important part in your GAA club by giving them a voice in consultation and club planning. Their views and ideas should be respected.
The more everyone buys into a vision the better chance that vision has of becoming a reality. An annual volunteer survey can be an invaluable way for clubs to hear from volunteers and plan ahead accordingly.
Volunteering is at the heart of the GAA and it is so important our clubs continue to value all volunteers so that we can continue to attract and maintain volunteers for generations to come. If you would like to explore some of the ideas in this piece more please contact firstname.lastname@example.org