This new data gives us insight into the volunteer experience that can help us start to answer these questions.
Half of current volunteers surveyed could be classified as ‘at risk’ of dropping out or burnout owing to a combination of factors including:
- increased demands of time and responsibility
- pressure in the role
- lack of enjoyment and motivation.
Many volunteers said they intended to continue to meet increased demands placed on them, but we’d be doing volunteers a disservice if we’re complacent in the light of these warning signals.
If ignored, the risk is that numbers continue to decline and, even worse, the positive volunteering culture in the sector is eroded.
A positive culture of volunteering, where volunteers are valued and listened to, is essential to maintaining their support.
Together, we need to act on this insight, and we need to put the volunteer and their experience at the heart of these actions.
What needs to change?
Both current volunteers and lapsed volunteers had similar views on what would improve their volunteering experience. They highlighted four key things:
- Ensuring demands on their time are reasonable and flexible
- Reducing the level of responsibility
- Providing additional support when needed
- Making sure they felt their efforts were appreciated
The desire for more flexibility is important to highlight.
Our Volunteering Fund evaluation showed flexible opportunities that fit in with people’s lives can help to make volunteering more accessible to those not currently taking part.
This is an important way volunteering in sport and physical activity needs to change if we want to engage a more diverse range of people as volunteers.
The resources from the Volunteering Fund in our report library provide examples of what this looks like in practice.
Fit for the future
Keeping volunteers engaged and ensuring volunteering feels like an attractive proposition in the future is not a challenge unique to sport and physical activity.
Vision for Volunteering identifies a need for change across sectors to make volunteering fit for the future, by 2023.
How people want to give their time is changing and the pandemic may have accelerated these changes.
People are re-prioritising where volunteering fits in their lives and, for some, this means volunteering is no longer a priority and they’re stepping back
Volunteering doesn’t happen in a bubble and so considering how volunteering opportunities in sport and physical activity can be adapted to fit into people’s lives will be essential to continue to ensure it feels relevant and is resilient to wider changes in society.
Meeting changing demands from volunteers and stemming declining numbers is a big challenge but is not insurmountable with further attention placed on the volunteer experience and volunteer management.
The report also gives some ideas on how clubs, groups and organisations working with volunteers can act on this insight, but we’d also love to hear from you on how you’re approaching this challenge.