We've compiled a series of questions and answers to help you on the topic of diversity and volunteering.
If you can't find an answer to your question, you can also get in touch with our volunteering team.
1. How can we attract volunteers from more diverse backgrounds?Diversity is about difference. We’re all different and diversity relates to each and every one of us. Read more
There are different strands of diversity including:
- Gender (including gender identity)
It might be that certain strands are more represented than others at your club. Encouraging volunteers from diverse backgrounds can help you bring your club closer to the wider community.
For instance, these volunteers could help you attract participants from parts of the community that are currently under-represented. This may include groups that are less likely to be physically active, who have the most to gain from getting involved.
Attracting volunteers from more diverse backgrounds can be challenging as it can involve changing the culture of your club or group. It can also involve changing other people’s perceptions about what ‘sort’ of person the group is for. But it’s possible.
In an example from outside sport, the Children’s Society has a case study on how it increased diversity amongst its volunteer team – click here to read more.
It’s a good idea to develop an equality policy at your club or group if you don’t already have one. This is a document that sets out your club’s stance on equality, which volunteers and participants can refer to.
If your sport is led by a national governing body, it’s also worth checking their site to see if they have a recommended equity policy.
The sites below offer more information and resources on how to involve women; ethnic minorities; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; older people and disabled people.
- Lawn Tennis Association - Boosting diversity in volunteering
- Club Matters - Equity policy and equity policy template
- Volunteer Scotland - Equality and diversity
- Volunteer Scotland - Creating an inclusive volunteering environment
- Women in Sport - Involve women
- Sporting Equals - Involve ethnic minorities
- Pride Sports - Involve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people
- Age UK - Involve older people
- Activity Alliance - Involve disabled people
2. How can I attract more young volunteers?Getting more young people to volunteer can be very beneficial to your club or group. Young people can bring a different perspective, new ideas and lots of energy and enthusiasm. They often bring specific skills that older volunteers may lack, such as social media expertise. They can also be great role models and mentors for younger people who take part in your sport or activity. Read more
If you’re keen to reach out to young people and encourage them to get involved, there are four things to think about:
- Why young people want to volunteer
- What you can offer
- How you describe your volunteering opportunities
- Where you advertise roles.
Why young people want to volunteer
What motivates a young person to volunteer may be similar to what motivates an older person. They may see it as a chance to meet new people, help others, develop new skills or use ones they already have.
What you can offer
Young people aged 16 and over often see volunteering as a chance to gain skills and experience, build their CV, make career decisions and meet people who may be able to help them into their future careers. It’s worth considering what opportunities for development and recognition you can offer 16-25 year olds who volunteer with you.
- What sorts of skills will they learn?
- Could you offer them a training qualification alongside their volunteering, for example through Sports Leaders UK?
- Could your club get involved in a scheme like vInspired, which gives awards after completion of a certain number of volunteer hours?
Under-16s are also often motivated by the chance to do something fun and different, so keep this in mind if you’re looking to attract school-age volunteers.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that young people’s availability to volunteer may vary a lot throughout the year. During term time they will have less free time, and they may have no time during busy periods such as in the lead-up to exams.
In contrast, they may have lots of time on their hands over the summer holidays. Consider how you can structure your volunteering opportunities around these times or make roles as flexible as possible so they’re accessible to young people.
You may already have young people involved at your club who haven’t even thought about volunteering – perhaps they think it’s something only open to adults. Chat to them to gauge their interest and tell them what the club can offer.
How to describe your volunteering opportunities
When you advertise for volunteer roles for young people, be sure to promote the fact that they'll learn transferrable skills that will benefit them in the world outside your sports club.
Use straightforward, friendly language to describe your volunteering opportunities to young people – avoid jargon. Make it very clear what age range the volunteering opportunity is open to.
Where you advertise roles
Before advertising your role, it’s important to think about young people’s availability: they can’t volunteer during school hours if they’re still in education. And although volunteering is not the same as employment in law, it’s considered best practice to use employment laws and restrictions as a guide for the maximum numbers of hours that young people can volunteer. See the gov.uk website for more information.
To reach young people outside your club, our guidance page on advertising volunteer vacancies provides a list of suggested places you can advertise your available roles. It’s particularly worth getting in touch with schools, colleges, universities and youth organisations in your area.
Lots of young people also use social media. It’s an excellent way for you to spread the word beyond existing networks as people can like, share and retweet your posts. If you have any young volunteers on board already, you could ask them to share volunteer opportunities through their networks and offer suggestions of where you could advertise in the community – they’ll often know best.
There are also specialist youth volunteering organisations such as vInspired that can advertise a youth volunteering opportunity online for you.
#iwill is a campaign to make social action part of life for as many 10-20-year olds as possible. The resources section of the website has lots of useful research and guidance, including a quick reference guide to involving young people in social action.
3. I want to offer volunteering opportunities to disabled people and others who have additional support needs. How do I go about this?Research shows that disabled people are less likely to volunteer than non-disabled people. According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, 35% of people with a disability or long-term limiting illness take part in formal volunteering, compared to 42% with no disability. Disabled people are also less likely to play sport or get physically active. Read more
Under the Equality Act 2010, you’re disabled ‘if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’ The term disabled covers a range of impairments, not all of which are physical and many of which are invisible to others.
Alongside those who qualify as disabled, there are also people who have long-term health conditions. They may not be considered disabled if the management of their condition enables them to do daily activities normally, although they may have important health considerations to make before they do certain activities.
Barriers to participation
Disabled people face barriers to participation in all aspects of life and sports volunteering is no exception.
Barriers start with people’s attitudes: non-disabled people may believe that a volunteering opportunity could not be filled by a disabled person or that accommodating a disabled volunteer would be too difficult. In many cases this isn’t actually true, this is merely an assumption and likely to exist because of a lack of awareness and training.
Disabled people may also be less likely to put themselves forward to volunteer because they’re used to encountering resistance from others. They may also be unable to find out about volunteering opportunities because of a communication barrier. If someone is blind or needs extra help and support with reading for instance, they may be unaware of the volunteering opportunities you’ve posted online.
The many benefits
Encouraging disabled people to volunteer at your club or group is really worthwhile, and not just for the volunteers. It sends a strong message out to your members that your club is an inclusive place where everyone is welcome. This is particularly important if children and young people are members at your club, as it’ll give them a positive attitude towards disability.
If you have disabled people taking part in your sport, disabled volunteers and coaches will be powerful role models for them too. Disabled people can also make excellent coaches for others with disabilities. This is because they have a personal understanding of the impact of an impairment and how to deal with it as a sports participant.
Resources to help you
The good news is there are lots of resources out there which can help you find and include disabled people as volunteers at your club:
- The Activity Alliance’s Inclusion Club Hub will help you to include more disabled people in all of your club’s activities, including volunteering
- The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has some useful information on developing an inclusive volunteering scheme
- The NCVO site also features a case study of how one organisation supported volunteering opportunities for disabled adults.
4. How can I get more women volunteering at my club?You might be aware that more men than women take part in sport and physical activity. But did you know that sports volunteering is male dominated, too? Read more
Volunteers have a big part to play as role models in sport and in creating the kinds of environments where others like them want to take part. If a club is run by largely by men, even if it has a women’s team or sessions for women, then some women might be put off.
Attracting female volunteers to your club or group is about reaching out to them in the right ways and through the right routes, making your environment welcoming for them and making sure they feel supported.
You could ask the female participants and volunteers you do have to act as advocates – they may be able to spark interest in other women. Communicate that you don’t necessarily need to be sporty to volunteer, as this is often a misperception that people have.
Resources to help you
Sport England guidance
Our guide to helping women and girls get active is equally relevant for volunteering. It contains information about recommended communication channels and materials, working with partners, and welcoming women as participants. Click here to read more.
Women in Sport
Women in Sport was founded with the goal of giving every woman and girl in the UK the opportunity to experience the transformational rewards of sport. Visit its website to learn out more about its work, read its extensive research and access its practical toolkits.
Reach is Sports Coach UK’s campaign to get more women into coaching. We recommend directing any women who are interested in becoming a coach to the Reach site for more information.
5. Do we need extra safeguards if we have volunteers who are under 18?If you have volunteers aged under 18 this may affect the screening, training and support you need to provide the other volunteers who work with them. Read more
For example, if another volunteer is likely to have close and unsupervised contact with someone under 18, they should go through a Disclosure and Barring Service check and your club should have a safeguarding policy.
Make it clear to volunteers over 18 that these safeguarding procedures apply to some of the volunteers they’re working alongside, as well as the participants at your club.
For more information on safeguarding and to access useful resources, visit the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ website.