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Volunteers in Sport

Volunteer management

Volunteers should be recognised for their contribution to the organisation/s they serve. Developing and implementing a Volunteer Management Plan, or similar, helps ensure volunteers are managed in accordance with best practice principles, including suitable recognition and appreciation. Research and evidence indicates that a planned approach to managing sport sector volunteers and their volunteer experience will enhance satisfaction and improve retention.

National standards for volunteer involvement

Workplace health and safety

Event management

Access to resources
Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Additional resources

  • Apia International Sydney Ball Kid Program (Tennis NSW): case study, Sport NSW, (June 2016). The Apia International Sydney Ball Kid Program (Tennis NSW) was awarded the Minister's Sport Volunteer Management Award for best sporting event. The Program operates under the highest standard of compliance, developing effective strategies to mentor and foster the growth of young volunteers. The Ball Kid Program comprises of 120 volunteer ballkids and has an 80 per cent retention rate. The program provides young people a chance to be involved in a major event and gain numerous life skills. Two coordinators supervise the ballkids providing regular communication, training and moral support. A dedicated website is available for current or aspiring ballkids, outlining trials, training, tournament and general information with resources and best practice guidelines.
  • The changing face of volunteerism, Steggles A, Higher Logic, (2014). This paper details some of the challenges facing volunteerism. Associations are embracing a hybrid approach to incorporate alternative engagement opportunities for their membership, thus allowing a much broader audience and greater level of engagement, satisfaction and ultimately, an improved retention rate.
  • Virtual volunteering in community sport, Haley Baxter, Katie Misener, Pam Kappelides, et.al., SIRCUIT, (13 July 2020). Physical distancing measures and stay-at-home protocols during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic illuminated how technology can keep people connected and involved in their local communities. These new ways of working provide an opportunity for community sport clubs to tap into existing and new volunteers in innovative ways. This article explores the concept of virtual volunteering and its benefits and provides suggestions for incorporating virtual volunteering into community sport now and as an ongoing practice to increase capacity and engagement.
  • Volunteering Australia Response on a National Sports Plan, Volunteering Australia, (July 2017). The National Sports Plan aims to guide future priorities and approaches of the Australian sporting sector for the long-term. Volunteering Australia believes that a National Sport Plan needs to: acknowledge volunteering as a key pillar for sporting activity in Australia; and develop mechanisms to facilitate and enhance its contribution. They have also emphasised the need to consider volunteering in policy development and workforce planning. The response highlights the need for a sustained investment into the volunteering sector by the Australian Government to ensure long-term benefits.
  • Volunteering: Building Stronger Communities, Discussion Paper, Government of Western Australia, Department for Communities, (2010). Volunteers are an invaluable resource to the social, economic, environmental and cultural strength of Western Australia. Active volunteers and well-supported community groups build connected communities by strengthening the ties between people, encouraging participation, and responding to the changing needs of the community.
  • The Advantage Line: identifying better practice for volunteer management in community rugby clubs, Cuskelly G, Taylor T, Hoye R, Darcy S, Australian Research Council and the Australian Rugby Union, (2006). This report provides a descriptive analysis of data collected from Rugby Union clubs and their volunteers. The purpose of this study was to develop a better understanding of how to manage the activities of volunteers.
  • Beyond 2012 – Outcomes, Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, (2012). Chapter 4 of this report covers volunteering. When the discussion moved on to their ambitions for the round table itself, the tone shifted to a more equivocal one: yes London 2012 had made a huge success of volunteering but now we are back in the “real world” of austerity with the Games already fading slowly into history, how do we motivate people to volunteer on a regular basis? The answers to the question “What question would you like to have answered by this group?” revealed this uncertainty quite clearly questioning what such a group could actually achieve, the steps needed to establish the widespread value of volunteering and investigating the reasons why people do or don’t volunteer and how best to engage those volunteers previously involved in London 2012.
  • The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement, Volunteer Canada, (2017). The CCVI aims to improve volunteer involvement across the county. It is designed to be adaptable and can be adopted and implemented by organizations of all sizes. The CCVI clearly states the values and benefits of volunteer involvement. It provides a framework for discussion and decision-making within organizations. It also promotes meaningful volunteer involvement that meets the needs of both the organization and its volunteers.
  • Evaluating the volunteering infrastructure legacy of the Olympic Games: Sydney 2000 and London 2012, Leonie Lockstone-Binney, Kirsten Holmes, Richard Shipway, et.al., International Olympic Committee Olympic Studies Centre Advanced Olympic Research Grant Programme 2015/16, Final Report, (June 2016). The study sought to explore how Olympic volunteer programmes can lead to post- Games volunteer legacies for host cities through engagement with the established volunteer infrastructure in host cities, based on the experiences from Sydney 2000 and London 2012. The authors provide recommendations relating to the required resources, structures, delivery mechanisms, strategy, and knowledge transfer that could facilitate better volunteer outcomes/engagement for future projects.
  • The Future of Sport in Australia, Crawford M, Australian Government, Independent Sport Panel (2009). The report of the Independent Sport Panel, commonly known as the ‘Crawford Report’, noted the critical importance of volunteers to Australian sport. The report noted that "The Australian Government should develop and fund a national volunteer program for sporting and physical activity organisations that aims to attract and retain volunteers to sport through education, accreditation and recognition, and in particular takes account of the potential offered by the growing number of older Australians to become volunteers".
  • Givers: Recruit, manage and retain your volunteers more effectively, Join in, Sport + Recreation Alliance, Simetrica, (April 2017). For the first time, groundbreaking behavioural science research, has given us new evidence and insight into what drives people to volunteer, and what keeps them from doing so. We’ve distilled these insights into a simple framework to help grassroots clubs and organisations recruit, retain and realise the potential of volunteers. We call this GIVERS. It stands for: Growth; Impact: Voice: Ease and Experience; Recognition; Social.
  • London 2012 Games markers: Towards redefining legacy, Dickson T and Banson A, Government of the United Kingdom, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, (2013). Volunteering is an essential aspect of many mega-sporting events with stakeholder rhetoric suggesting that it is desirable and that these events will leave a ‘volunteering legacy’ beyond the Games. For London, work among a wide range of stakeholders has created a new volunteering spirit and an improved volunteer network with more opportunities and better training for those who want to give their most important commodity – time.
  • London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games: post-Games review, National Audit Office, (2012). This report focuses on the cost of the Games and contains a section on the impact of volunteers (p. 12).
  • Red Card to Red Tape. how sport and recreation clubs want to break free from bureaucracy, Sport and Recreation Alliance UK, (2011). Sport clubs are run by volunteers who give up their time because they love their particular sport and want to pass on the same opportunities they had, to give something back to their community or to feel part of something bigger. Yet many volunteers feel that their efforts are being wasted by the burden of official red tape and bureaucracy. They are spending club time and club money on things which mean little to the club. This report offers a number of recommendations that governments may consider as a means of streamlining the oversight of sports organisations.
  • State of Volunteering in Australia report, Volunteering Australia/PWC, (April 2016). Details the trends, demographics, challenges and successes in the volunteering sector in Australia. The report investigated the following questions: Are the current volunteer engagement and management practices appropriate for the future? Is there alignment between the types of roles volunteers want to undertake, the sectors they are interested in volunteering in, and the needs of volunteer involving organisations? What is the appropriate framework to support informal volunteering? What are the necessary steps that need to be taken to future proof volunteering? Sport is included as one of the industries/areas of volunteer participation investigated. Results from the survey identified areas for improvement similar to concerns raised in previous reports, such as the inflexibility of some volunteer roles and the burden of out of pocket expenses. Onerous administrative requirements were also identified as a key issue. Volunteers also envisaged a benefit in more training and professional development opportunities as well as feedback on performance. A number of volunteers feel undervalued by the organisations they volunteer for and have called for recognition and increased involvement in decision-making. It was suggested that some volunteers feel burdened by their responsibilities, with close to 25 per cent of respondents calling for increased recruitment of volunteers. The most common ‘other’ ways in which volunteers suggested an organisation could improve their volunteering experience included: improved social interaction between volunteers; implementation of measures to allow for claiming back on tax for out of pocket expenses or provision of car parking or fuel cards; faster responses to expressions of interest for volunteering opportunities; and, improved day-to-day organisation of volunteers.
  • Volunteers in Sport: Issues and Innovations, Riot, Caroline, Cuskelly, Graham, Zakus, Dwight, et.al., Griffith Business School for the NSW Office of Sport, (2008). This study documents innovative practices used by NSW sports clubs to address the challenges of attracting and retaining volunteers.
  • A multi-level framework for investigating the engagement of sport volunteers, Wicker P and Hallmann K, European Sports Management Quarterly, Volume 13(1), pp.110-139, (2013). Previous research has extensively investigated the drivers of the decision to volunteer on an individual level. As volunteering usually occurs within an institutional context (e.g., sport club and sport event), the characteristics of the institution must also be considered; however, they have been largely neglected in previous research. A review of the literature on both levels reveals both theoretical and methodological shortcomings which this paper attempts to address.
  • Determinants and Outcomes of Volunteer Satisfaction in Mega Sports Events, Daehwan Kim, Chanmin Park, Hany Kim, et.al., Sustainability, Volume 11(7), (2019). The role of volunteers is an important factor for the sustainability of mega sports events. Key issues in the literature on sports event volunteers are volunteer satisfaction and its determinants and outcomes. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of the fulfillment of volunteers’ psychological needs and Volunteer Management Practices (VMP) on overall volunteer satisfaction, and to test their conditional effects depending on volunteer involvement. Overall volunteer satisfaction was found to positively affect future volunteering intention, spreading positive words regarding sports event volunteering, and intention to visit the host city as tourists. In conclusion, sports event managers need to design an optimal work environment that can fulfill volunteers’ psychological needs and improve VMP to enhance the sustainability of mega sports events.
  • The determinants of the intention to continue voluntary football refereeing, Thomas Giel, Christoph Breuer, Sport Management Review, Volume 23(2), pp.242-255, (2020). The purpose of this research is to identify the factors that determine the intention to continue voluntary refereeing in the context of football in Germany. Analysis reveals the motive of self-orientation, respect shown by athletes, coaches, and spectators towards referees, compatibility of refereeing with one’s occupational and private life, perceived organisational support, and referees’ satisfaction to predict referees’ positive intention to continue with their activity. Simultaneously, experiences of offences during refereeing negatively influence this intention, and younger referees show higher intentions to continue their activity than do older referees. Because volunteer recruitment and retention are expensive, the findings of this study facilitate the improvement of effective retention strategies for the federations responsible for referees.
  • How do sports clubs recruit volunteers? Analyzing and developing a typology of decision-making processes on recruiting volunteers in sport clubs, Schlesinger T, Klenk C and Nagel S, Sport Management Review , Volume 18(2), pp.193-206, (2015). This article examines the decision-making processes in the recruitment of volunteers. Data was collected from nine case studies of selected sport clubs. Results showed that the decision-making processes are generally characterised by a reactive approach, rather than a strategic one. Decision-making seems to be shaped frequently by inconsistency, unexpected outcomes, and randomness. This leads to the question how can decision-making processes in sport clubs be examined adequately? It was possible to develop a typology that gives an overview of how different decision-making practices interact; situational versus systematic decisions, and top-down versus bottom-up driven decisions. The most effective practices were the result of top-down and systematic decision-making. The least effective practices were driven by situational decision-making, regardless of whether the decision was made using a top-down or bottom-up approach. The researchers concluded that recruitment practices in sports clubs cannot be modelled on comparable practices in the corporate sector. The key to successful recruitment practices lies in the commitment and competence of the central decision-makers within the club who are responsible for club policy.
  • The impact of organizational capacity on voluntary engagement in sports clubs: A multi-level analysis, Philipp Swierzy, Pamela Wicker, Christoph Breuer, Sport Management Review, Volume 21(3), pp.307-320, (2018). Based on the concept of organizational capacity, in the present study, the authors investigate whether and how human resources, financial, and structural capacities of sports clubs influence individual voluntary engagement. The results of multi-level mixed effects regression analyses show that all capacity dimensions are significantly associated with voluntary engagement of both adult members and parents of underage members. A larger number of members and a greater share of volunteers reduce the amount of time a volunteer devotes to voluntary work; adult members are less likely to volunteer when their club has a balanced budget; and strategic planning increases the likelihood of individuals to volunteer informally.
  • The impact of volunteer experience at sport mega‐events on intention to continue volunteering: Multigroup path analysis, Hyejin Bang, Gonzalo A. Bravo, Katiuscia Mello Figuerôa, et al., Journal of Community Psychology, Volume 27(4), pp.727-742, (2019). This study examined the impacts of volunteers’ motivation and satisfaction through Olympic/Paralympic volunteering experiences on their intention to volunteer for future community events and the moderating role of previous volunteering experience in the relationships among motivations, satisfaction, and intention to continue volunteering. Path analysis revealed that among the total sample, motivations had direct and indirect (through satisfaction) effects on intention to volunteer. Results of multigroup path analysis showed that the relationships among motivations, satisfaction, and intention vary by returning and first‐time volunteers, supporting the moderating role of prior volunteering experience in the path model.
  • Lean thinking in leisure: continuously improving event volunteering and management, Clayton J. Hawkins and Michael S. Bonney, Annals of Leisure Research, Volume 22(3), pp.362-372, (2019). The events industry is facing rapid societal change. Issues such as professionalization of the industry, competing funding streams, a crowded market, and decreasing access to volunteer labour are creating an environment of need for solutions. This paper proposes the application of lean thinking as a platform for simplification and continuous improvement in the event industry as a case example of potential broader relevance to the leisure industry. It scopes the event industry context, discusses the concept of lean, and proposes the testing of lean as a philosophy and methodology to assist event organizers and their volunteers navigate the changing event industry context. This paper also examines the potential benefits of lean to time poor volunteers to maximize the value of their participation.
  • Managing sport volunteers with a disability: Human resource management implications, Pam Kappelides, Jennifer Spoor, Sport Management Review, Volume 22(5), pp.694-707, (2019). Despite the known benefits of volunteering–such as helping others, contributing to community and the development of skills–individuals with a disability are underrepresented in volunteering roles. In this research, the authors examine the benefits and barriers to including volunteers with a disability in three Australian sport and recreation organisations, as well as the potential human resource management implications.
  • The Organisational Commitment of Volunteer Administrators in Sport, Cuskelly G, National Sport Research Council, Australian Sports Commission, (1996). The purpose of this study was to investigate the development of organisational commitment amongst volunteer administrators in sport. A number of variables were found to be significantly predictive of organisational commitment. These included age, occupational prestige, number of years as an organisational member, house per week put into administration, rate of meeting attendance, altruism, and perceived committee functioning. It was concluded that volunteer administrators were positively committed to their sporting clubs and associations, but their level of commitment was contingent upon how they perceived the functioning of their committee. Further, volunteering as an administrator was not perceived as a leisure experience by those who engaged in this activity.
  • Pioneer volunteers: the role identity of continuous volunteers at sport events, Fairley S, Green B, O’Brian D, et.al., Journal of Sport and Tourism, Volume 19(3-4), pp.233-255, (2015). This study looks at the role identity of 125 volunteers during lead-up events as well as their participation in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. In addition, a small sample were interviewed 12 years after the Olympics. Six themes described the experience of ‘pioneer volunteers’ (i.e. continuous volunteer participation): (1) friendship and teamwork; (2) prestige; (3) behind the scenes access and knowledge of the event; (4) learning enabled by their experience; (5) a sense of connection with and ownership of the event, and; (6) transition to Games time roles. Pioneer volunteers experienced a strong and sustained identification with their role and sought out continued opportunities to volunteer in future events.
  • Reconsidering the role of training in event volunteers’ satisfaction, Costa C, Chalip L, Green C, et.al., Sport Management Review, Volume 9(2), pp.165-182, (2006). In order to effectively recruit and train volunteers, there is a need to identify ways of enhancing their overall satisfaction with the volunteer experience. This study surveyed non-specialist volunteers (N=147) participating in the Sunbelt IndyCarnival. The survey looked at measuring their job satisfaction, evaluation of their training, organisational commitment, sense of community at the event, and satisfaction with their opportunities to share opinions and experiences during training. The survey found their sense of community had a positive effect on their commitment to the event organisation and their commitment to the organisation had a direct effect on their job satisfaction. It is argued that the training of event volunteers should be conceived and designed as an opportunity to build a sense of community among volunteers and staff, so as to enhance volunteer commitment and satisfaction.
  • Recruitment and Retention of Referees in Nonprofit Sport Organizations: The Trickle-Down Effect of Role Models, Pamela Wicker and Bernd Frick, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, Volume 27, pp.1304–1322, (2016). This study examines the trickle-down effect of role models on the retention of already active referees and the recruitment of new referees in German football (soccer). Secondary panel data on the number of referees and role models (i.e., referees promoted to the status of a Bundesliga or FIFA referee) were collected for the 21 regional football associations. The regression results show that the presence of role models has a statistically significant and positive effect on the number of existing referees. The number of new referees is positively affected by referees who were promoted to the status of a first Bundesliga referee, but not by those promoted to the status of a FIFA referee. The findings suggest that nonprofit sport organizations should capitalize on the effect of role models to a greater extent.
  • Volunteer satisfaction in sports clubs: A multilevel analysis in 10 European countries, Siegfried Nagel, Ørnulf Seippel, Christoph Breuer, et.al., International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Volume 55(8), pp.1074-1093, (2020). Regular voluntary engagement is a basic resource for sports clubs that may also promote social cohesion and active citizenship. The satisfaction of volunteers is an imperative factor in this engagement, and the purpose of this article is to explore individual and organizational determinants of volunteer satisfaction in sports clubs. Results show that the most important determinants of satisfaction are the conditions of volunteering (recognition, support, leadership and material incentives) and the workload of volunteers. Surprisingly, club characteristics, size or having paid staff are not significant determinants of volunteer satisfaction. The results of this analysis can assist more effective volunteer management in sports clubs that are facing challenges of individualization and professionalization.
  • Aktive Volunteer Management Toolkit, Sport NZ, (September 2019). The purpose of the Toolkit is to provide information, insights and ideas that will assist organisations to find and look after volunteers who can help to deliver their sport or activity.
  • The Disability Resource, La Trobe University, (accessed 6 April 2021). This website is designed to help volunteers and staff who facilitate sport and active recreation experiences understand how best to work with people with disabilities. The website includes online courses and resources that can be used as a reference guide for volunteers and staff.
  • Handbook on volunteering of migrants in sports clubs and organisations, European Sport Inclusion Network and Football Association of Ireland, (2016). Volunteering plays an important role in bringing people together to achieve common community or societal goals. Sports clubs can provide a focal point for a community, offering common ground where people from diverse backgrounds can collectively work together. This Handbook has been developed as a guide and support for potential volunteers with a migrant background who have an interest in volunteering their time in sport. It has also been developed for local clubs and sports organisations interested in encouraging and involving more people from diverse backgrounds to volunteer within sport.
  • Inclusive Futures: youth leadership and volunteering, Youth Sport Trust UK, (2016). Provides access to resources including good practice guidelines and toolkits to help guide sports clubs and event organisers to support inclusive volunteering opportunities.
  • Inspiring volunteers: a guide to recruitment and communication, MediaTrust, (2017). Inspiring Volunteers draws on the best practice and learning developed through Volunteering for All, and the work of the Volunteering for All Opportunity Partners. The guide aims to inspire small to medium sized charities and community organisations who may struggle to effectively market volunteering to a wider, more diverse audience and is full of ideas on recruiting, communicating with and retaining volunteers.
  • The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement, Volunteering Australia, (2015). The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement (the National Standards) replace the National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Not-for-Profit Organisations. The National Standards have been developed in consultation with the volunteering sector to support the involvement of volunteers and act as a resource for organisations in which volunteers are involved. They provide a framework for organisations to consider the role of volunteers within the organisation and the impact effective volunteer involvement can have on achieving the strategic goals and aims of the organisation.
  • Recruiting and managing volunteers, Sport New Zealand, (accessed 7 April 2021). Advice and tools to attract good volunteers and keep them
  • Rugby World Cup 2011 volunteering resources. Sport NZ, (accessed 7 April 2021). The 2011 Rugby World Cup was supported by New Zealand's biggest ever volunteer effort. Officially called the Rugby World Cup 2011 Volunteer Programme, it saw an unpaid workforce of more than 5000 play a crucial role in the delivery of a great sporting event. This resource covers planning, recruitment, training, volunteer compliance, uniform distribution, scheduling, reward and recognition, research and reporting.
  • Volunteer.vic, Department of Health and Human Services, (accessed 7 April 2021). The Department provides a number of resources for organisations that use, support, or manages volunteers.
  • Volunteer Management: The Case of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Heeyle Park, Eric Olson, Iowa State University, (2020). Volunteer management is an integral part of any event that relies on volunteer contributions. Managing volunteers for events is related to three related domains: events, human resources, and volunteering. Each of the domains is discussed for its relation to volunteer management in the context of a sport event. The practice of managing volunteers is considered in terms of its phases. A real–life case is provided so that students can apply their understandings of volunteer management in resolving the case problems.
  • Volunteer Management Toolkit, Volunteering Victoria, (2020). The toolkit is simple, easy to use and provides guidance for volunteer managers at each stage of the volunteering life cycle. It also includes: Hints and tips for best practice; Useful links; and, Downloadable templates.

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