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Volunteering in Bedfordshire

The aim of the research project was to gain a better understanding of how clubs and associations in Bedfordshire use volunteers, how they reward and motivate them and the positive impact this can have on the club, individual and community as a whole.

Volunteering in Bedfordshire 2019 Report

The latest Active Lives Adult report by Sport England has revealed that volunteering in Bedfordshire and Luton has increased by 5.9%. An amazing result for the area particularly as the rest of the country has seen a flat or decline in numbers over the same period. This equates to 19.8% of the population in our county now volunteer in sport and physical activity.

The aim of the research project was to gain a better understanding of how clubs and associations in Bedfordshire use volunteers, how they reward and motivate them and the positive impact this can have on the club, individual and community as a whole.

The Active Lives Adult report, which with a third full year of data, provides an updated comprehensive overview of adult (age 16+) sport and physical activity in England in the 12 months from November 2017 to November 2018. You can access the report here: http://www.sportengland.org/activelivesapr19/

Research

We asked five clubs a number of questions to better understand the role volunteers have at their club. A summary of their responses are below.

Findings

Photo credit: parkrun Bedford

For most clubs and organisations volunteers are essential for the running of the event/ club each week and are used to help manage the sport in roles such as umpires, coaches and leaders. They enable others to play sport and do physical activity. As a result, the community benefits.

Beverley Gous (Event Director Millennium County, parkrun) said:

"parkrun is run entirely by volunteers. If people don't volunteer, we cannot put on a free safe timed weekly 5k event. Millennium Country Park needs about 17 and Bedford about 22 volunteers every week."

Other clubs utilise volunteers for a particular area of expertise for example for governance, fundraising support or administration.

Asked whether it was hard to motivate volunteers to keep coming back each week to a club. Participants asked, gave a number of responses, from the love of the sport being a strong motivator to wanting to help the community, wanting to be part of something, and helping their children be part of something.

A representative from Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club said:

"Another strong factor tends to be that their children play the sport so they are keen to help improve the 'club' for the benefit of their own children. Also the experience they had as a young person themselves so past coaches or individuals have inspired them and they want to give back themselves."

Another interesting finding came from Liam Mannion,who organises running club in Marston Mortaine each week, said "some people volunteer to see what it's like to run it before they start their own fitness campaign"

All participants agreed that volunteers are extremely important for the running of their club and therefore wanted to reward their volunteers where they could or offer training/support in other ways for example Jade at Spectrum Arts said "Our volunteers are part of a team. I encourage development of my volunteers so I offer bite size training evenings in things like Autism awareness, " Jades's volunteers are aged between 16-34 and by highlighting these addition training sessions on a CV or in a job application, help show their dedication, talent and community spirit to potential employers. A win win for everyone involved.

Free or reduced memberships, kit and equipment were also a great way to reward volunteers. Awards and recognition were all mentioned as a positive way to recognise the hard work of their volunteers.

Sajid Sharif of Lutonian Cricket Club said:

"We appreciate our volunteers on social media and award them with trophies at the end of each season"

In addition, The Central Bedfordshire Volunteers Award was mentioned as a very good way of profiling and thanking volunteers.

The easiest way to recruit new volunteers was via social media and directly asking individuals, such as parents. All clubs agreed it was a challenge to recruit new members so the best way to maintain existing levels was to keep their existing volunteers motivated and well recognised for their efforts. The individual also gains a great feeling for being there/the love of the sport and for others it's a great first introduction into the activity and go on to become more active as a result.

Help & Support

team BEDS&LUTON

The staff at team BEDS&LUTON are fully committed to supporting the volunteer network that supports our community clubs and groups. We fully appreciate that they are the lifeblood of these operations. Time for many of them is very short and it is important that we do what we can to make their lives easier. We facilitate this through providing support with the following areas of work:-

1. Fund raising.

2. Identification of suitable funding opportunities and the submission of grant applications

3. Club governance and structures.

4. Professional development Opportunities for club officials, coaches and support workers.

5. Participation initiatives.

6. Marketing and wider social media support.

7. How to improve and enhance your facilities or access them locally.

Please do get in touch if you would like to explore one or more of these topics with us.

The National Governing Bodies of Sport are also excellent sources of information, knowledge and resources. Their websites are a good place for information but please do get in touch with us if you would like details of who to get in contact with.

Bedfordshire is also fortunate enough to have a Community Volunteering Service that provides a range of services for community organisations. These are wide ranging but significantly include help with sourcing locally based volunteers and facilitating the use of best practice and sharing knowledge. Further details of the services they provide can be found via their website http://cvsbeds.org.uk/

Conclusions

  • Rewards and recognition of service are strong ways to maintain and increase levels of volunteers within Bedfordshire.
  • For the individual volunteering will build confidence, improve wellbeing and help them feel part of a team, with the added benefit for some of adding extra skills to their CV or by learning about a new sport such as running.
  • The community in Bedfordshire benefits hugely as without the volunteers some events such as parkrun's in Millennium Country Park, Bedford, Luton and Dunstable could not take place without them.
  • Ourselves and other locally based organisations such as the National Governing Bodies of Sport and the Community Volunteering service recognise the importance of volunteers to the sport and physical activity sector and provide a range of services to help our clubs and groups support volunteers. These services remain key to a successful sector, well supported by these talented, committed and selfless individuals.