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Getting started

We've compiled a series of questions and answers below that you may find useful if you're looking to get your volunteering project or organisation started.

If you can't find an answer to your question, you can also get in touch with our volunteering team.

Volunteering football coaching facing camera
  • 1. How can I help someone find a volunteering opportunity?

    "You don't have to be great at sport, or have always played it, to volunteer," says Jennie. "Unless you're doing a really technical role, like refereeing, you won't need any specialist knowledge. If there's an interesting club or event near you, go along and ask if you can help – chances are they will be delighted to see you.”

    If you’re helping someone find different or new volunteering opportunities, there are plenty of ways for you to recommend:

    • If they want to volunteer in a specific sport, the national governing body of the sport might be able to help them find an opportunity. We recommend visiting their website, where there may be information readily available or contact details for someone who’ll be able to help
    • Active Partnerships also do some recruitment of volunteers, so it’s worth them finding their local Active Partnership and getting in touch
    • Whether they want to volunteer at major events or at a local club, Be Inspired can help them get involved with exclusive offers and opportunities
    • Join In provides opportunities to find volunteering openings in local areas with its free Volunteer Opportunity finder
    • Do-it is the UK’s largest marketplace for volunteering opportunities. With over a million opportunities to volunteer in a UK-wide database, Do-it is the easy way to do something good in your community
    • The National Council for Volunteering Organisations boast a network of accredited volunteer centres that span the country. It's a good place to start looking for opportunities in a specific area that matches with their interests
    • vinspired advertise volunteer roles aimed specifically at those aged between 14-25. It's partnered with over 4,400 charities in every corner of the UK.
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  • 2. How can I set up my own sport club or physical activity group?

    Information about setting up a new club can be found on our Buddle website.

    Visit the Buddle site.

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  • 3. I want to recruit new volunteers. How do I go about this?

    The single most effective way to encourage someone to help is by asking them. However, if you’re thinking about doing this, be clear on what the task is, how long it will take and why it’s needed.

    There are lots of resources available to help you attract new volunteers, including websites where you can advertise your opportunities for free, or guidance on the best way to recruit. They include:

    • Our Buddle website has a wide range of information about volunteering on its site. If you register, you can also access a downloadable guide on how to attract new volunteers
    • The National Council for Voluntary Organisations offer some good tips on recruiting volunteers. It also has a network of accredited volunteer centres across the country that will help you advertise opportunities locally
    • By advertising on Do-it, the UK’s national volunteering database, you’ll have the chance to promote your opportunities to the largest audience of volunteers in the UK
    • If your sport has a national governing body (NGB), it’s worth looking at their website as it may well have information. In some cases, NGBs have a dedicated staff member that supports volunteer engagement and a volunteer scheme 
    • It’s worth finding your local Active Partnership as they also do some recruitment of volunteers
    • Join In helps to find volunteers for community sport. If you create a Join In club page, people will be able to search for your vacancy on the site
    • Team London is the mayor’s volunteering programme. It allows you to advertise opportunities for free provided you’re based in London.

    Remember, a good quality experience is key to keeping volunteers and will be influenced by a wide range of factors. Organisations should consider how they can ensure ongoing support, recognise volunteers’ contributions, address positive relationships/conflict within groups and involve volunteers in decision-making.

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  • 4. How can I get more people to volunteer?

    Firstly, you need to identify what type of volunteer is needed. What roles are already covered and what would you like to add to that list? If your club has a volunteer manager, they may already know what types of roles they need filling and how the club is recruiting volunteers, so talk to them first.

    Once you’ve established which roles need to be filled, the next step is finding volunteers. Here are some tips:

    • Raise awareness – talk to friends, colleagues and neighbours about your club and the volunteering opportunities it has
    • Ask members of the club if they'd like to help out – they get a lot out of participating at the club and many will be willing to get involved
    • Advertise roles on local community boards, for example in your local Intersport store
    • Contact your local volunteer centre
    • Create a club page on the Join In website or one of the many websites listed above in 'Question 3 - I want to recruit new volunteers. How do I go about this?’.
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  • 5. Should all new volunteers and coaches be screened before being offered a volunteering opportunity?

    You may want to screen all new volunteers at your club to help you assess whether they’re the right person for the role. If it’s a formal position, perhaps interview them and ask for references.

    Whether volunteers need Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks depends on their role in the club and who they’ll be working with. It’s not a requirement for all positions, but you should consider carefully what the remit of each volunteer role is before deciding on the level of screening required. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ guidance on safeguarding will help you further understand the necessary considerations.

    The Sport and Recreation Alliance has a useful flowchart that takes you through the decision making process around whether someone is undertaking ‘regulated activity’ and therefore requires a DBS check.

    One important point of note is that DBS checks only cover the UK. If you have a potential volunteer who needs a check before they start their role, you should ask if they’ve spent any time living abroad.

    If the answer is ‘yes’ you’ll need to obtain, if possible, the equivalent of a DBS check for the time they have spent abroad. The procedure differs for each country – you can find more information on criminal record checks here.

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  • 6. How can I recruit volunteers with specific skills?

    Many roles at a sports club can be done without specialist skills. A simple induction and a small amount of training can be all that’s required to help volunteers on their way.

    However, some roles require specific skills. Think about what sorts of tasks you need volunteers for and which skills you’re missing. The Buddle website has some useful information about how to approach this, including a template skills matrix. If your club is facing a specific challenge and you’d like a business professional to help, the Buddle mentoring scheme could be for you.

    Filling the skills gap

    Once you know where you have skills gaps, the next challenge is filling them. Consider whether any of your existing volunteers could be trained to do the role, as this will be of mutual benefit to them and the club.

    There are also some agencies that specialise in skilled volunteer recruitment, such as Reach. Some voluntary sector recruitment sites such as Charity Job have a section on volunteer roles.

    Training your existing volunteers is not always a possibility, especially if you need someone who is professionally qualified, such as an accountant or a lawyer. Our guidance around recruitment provides lots of suggestions about how and where you can advertise. For more information on this please read 'Question 3 - I want to recruit new volunteers. How do I go about this?’.

    If you’re looking for people with specific professional skills, you could also approach a local business that employs these people. A good starting point is to work out if you have any existing links to useful businesses amongst the volunteers and participants in your club and approach them through this route.

    Some businesses have volunteering schemes that their employees are encouraged to get involved with. Even if they don’t have a scheme, they may be able to put the word out among their staff and encourage someone to come forward to help.

    If you’re looking for short-term help, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has a page on how to attract skilled professionals to micro-volunteering opportunities.

    If you’re searching for coaches, your national governing body or Active Partnership will be able to help. There’s some information on how to approach recruitment on Sports Coach UK’s website.

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  • 7. How can I develop new volunteering roles?

    New volunteer roles should be something that your club or organisation’s management are involved in identifying and shaping. Setting them up should be part of your wider volunteering strategy.

    It’s a good idea to make a list of tasks that you’d like volunteer support with and to identify the skills that someone will need to perform these tasks. From here you can write role descriptions.

    It’s also important to think about how much time you think these tasks will take and how frequently they need performing. It might be that you find volunteers who are suitable but who can’t commit the full amount of time you need.

    In these circumstances you should think about whether the role can be split – is it something that one person needs to have oversight of, or could the role be divided? The more flexible you can be the easier it’s likely to be to find the help you need.

    Finally, you should think about where it’s best to advertise a new volunteer role. This may differ depending on the role. For example, in advertising for a new coach, you might target different audiences than if you were advertising for a new social media manager. Our answer on where to advertise volunteer vacancies for 'Question 3 - I want to recruit new volunteers. How do I go about this?’ may be of help.

    For more information, see Volunteer Scotland’s good practice guide on matching the right volunteers to the right roles.

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