Supporting your volunteers

Many sports and social clubs rely on volunteers to help keep their clubs running smoothly. Volunteers receive a number of benefits in return: the opportunity to be part of a community, meet new people and enjoy a range of social activities. It’s a great way to combat loneliness, provide focus and improve skills and expertise.

Club owners or managers may not realise this, but you do have responsibility to look after volunteers as you would an employee.

The difference between volunteers and employees

Of course, the main difference is employees are recompensated for providing a service. Time is, quite literally, money. Whereas a volunteer offers up their time and expertise for free, in return for giving back to their community and meeting new people.

You are able to reimburse genuine out of pocket expenses, but don’t fall into the habit of giving your employees regular financial perks such as money, free meals or free tickets to events. If they’re ‘on duty’, it’s perfectly reasonable to offer free refreshments and access to a show or event. Just be careful volunteers don’t view your club as a one stop shop for freebies when they’re not helping. 

Appealing to your local community

Here’s something interesting to note: some volunteers don’t like to consider themselves a volunteer. The terms ‘helping out’ or ‘mucking in’ is much more likely to appeal.

Think about your club and its relationship with your volunteers. Is there a ridged voluntary structure in place, or do you have a team of people who help out on an ad hoc basis? Decide how you’d like to manage your volunteers going forward as this will have an impact on the way you recruit and train your team.

Volunteer responsibilities

Whilst you can provide guidance and offer simple instructions to volunteers, you don’t have managerial control over them – there can be no ‘consequences’ or disciplinary procedure in place if a volunteer doesn’t complete their tasks efficiently.

Don’t make your volunteers commit to specific amounts of time each month – instead, plan a shift rota and ask people to let you know what time works for them and how long they’re able to help for. This will give you the best opportunity to plan your club’s activities around the number of helping hands available.

Plan your rota effectively, noting which volunteer will be completing which task. You should also note who volunteers turn to for help. For example, if someone’s helping behind the bar and there’s a problem or question, who should they approach for guidance? Make sure paid employees are available to offer assistance if needed.

Rules and regulations for volunteers

It’s perfectly reasonable for you to provide rules, regulations and guidance. It’s just similarly reasonable for a volunteer to cease working with you if they don’t wish to obey.

Think about the way your volunteers like to communicate. Most club volunteers will prefer to learn on the job. Arrange face to face training and give volunteers all the information they need to complete their role. This doesn’t just include the basics such as how to work the till, it should detail safe working requirements too.

Consider creating a volunteer handbook that details your volunteer expectations, policies and procedures. That way, if a volunteer every needs a refresher, they’ve got one to hand. Don’t make volunteers sign the handbook or any other type of contract, however. It’s important agreements don’t become legally binding, to prevent issues such as a volunteers trying to establish employee status to resolve complaints or receive financial reimbursement for their services.

Supporting your volunteers

Finding and recruiting a great team of volunteers can be a tricky task. You’ll want reliable, dedicated people who’ll turn up on time and do their job well. Individuals who’ll listen to instructions but take on tasks independently are a dream to work with. But they won’t stick around forever if you don’t treat them well.

Though you don’t pay volunteers, their experience and suggestions are equally as valid and important. Be grateful for their input and implement their suggestions when appropriate to do so.

You won’t need goals and development plans in place as you would an employee. But you should try to help volunteers grow and improve their skills if they ask for it.

Ensuring equal opportunities for each volunteer

You’ll need to ensure you offer equal opportunities for volunteers as well as employees. Your club should represent the diversity of your local community by appointing a wide range of volunteers to support your club.

As a starting point, let’s recap on the terms equality, diversity and inclusion…

  • Equality ensures people are treated fairly, regardless of their differences. All volunteers should be given the same access to opportunities
  • Diversity means recognising people’s different backgrounds and experiences. You should reflect the diversity of your community and encourage a wide range of people to get involved
  • Inclusion is all about putting the above into practice. Your club should respect the needs of different people and give individuals the opportunities they need to succeed

All clubs should have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination, harassment or bullying to. Though the Equality Act doesn’t apply to volunteers in the same way as it does employees, you should still make sure your club is free from discrimination or victimisation.

Insurance requirements for volunteers

Any club who hires more than one employee will know they need Employers’ Liability Insurance in place. You should also consider protecting volunteers through this policy, too. Your Employers’ Liability Insurance policy may specifically mention protection for your volunteers, but you should check this via your broker to make sure.

Employers’ Liability Insurance will cover the costs of legal fees or compensation settlements should a volunteer make a claim against you. You should already have strong risk management structures in place to minimise the chance of an accident or incident happening. But you simply can’t predict what’s around the corner. That’s why it’s important to protect your club and its people.

Make sure you have a Health and Safety policy, Safeguarding policy, Privacy policy, Equality and Diversity policy and relevant risk assessments in place. Should someone make a claim against you, you’ll be in the best position to prove you have done your due diligence. Putting policies and procedures in place demonstrates you’ve done all that’s reasonably practicable to keep employees and volunteers safe.

Most importantly… look after your team

Clubs are well known for looking after their members and visitors. It’s important you also look after your volunteers and make sure they feel valued. You have a reputation to protect, and a club to grow. As a community hub, it’s important your club is well regarded by visitors and volunteers alike.

Club Insure is all about wellbeing. We work with corporate wellbeing provider We Are Wellbeing to offer a range of services designed to boost employee engagement both within our own team and for our clients.

If you’re looking to engage your volunteers further, then prioritise their wellbeing. They’ll certainly thank you for it.

How can we help?

Whether you’re looking for a top notch insurance policy or want to give your volunteers’ wellbeing a boost, we’re in the best possible position to help you. Get in touch with the Club Insure team.

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Sophie Joelle

Sophie Joelle