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Volunteers in Sport

Volunteer management

Research and evidence indicate that a planned approach to managing sport sector volunteers and their volunteer experience will enhance satisfaction and improve retention.

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 and appropriate training and supervision.

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.
  • Volunteer groups tap into 'elixir of youth' in WA after rebranding on social media, Kate Leaver, ABC Radio Perth, (16 February 2022). Keen to attract people aged in their 20s and better understand their hesitancy, Volunteering WA took the unusual step of employing a marketing agency to kickstart the sector's makeover. To kickstart the campaign, the agency enlisted the support of two Perth-based youth organisations, Oli Clothing and sunrise swimming and mental health group Cold Nips to tap into their networks of thousands on social media.
  • At this Perth soccer club, fees were a barrier to participation — so it waived them in exchange for parents' time, Jessica Warriner, ABC News, (16 May 2021). Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, hundreds of kids descend on a suburban Perth park — but this isn't your average weeknight training session at a local soccer club. Each child can attend for free. The trade-off is parents must volunteer. Some coach, others fry up chips in the canteen, run raffles, and wash kits.
  • 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.
  • Leading and Managing in Tasmania’s Volunteer Sector Volunteer, Dr Toby Newstead, Dr Gemma Lewis, and the Volunteer Leadership Research Group, UTAS in partnership with Volunteering Tasmania, (2021). This report distils the findings of a study that sought to assess the current challenges, strengths, and opportunities to better support volunteer coordinators in their efforts to lead and manage within Tasmania’s Volunteer sector. Almost 300,000 Tasmanians volunteer. Approximately 200,000 of these are termed formal volunteers, in that they volunteer within an organisation. The remainder are informal volunteers who give their time in more self-organised community activities. This report focuses on formal volunteers. The findings of this study, coupled with leadership and management research, point to two key recommendations:
    • Invest in providing and developing good leadership and management in the volunteer sector;
    • Conduct further research to examine the challenges, strengths, and opportunities of volunteer leadership and management from volunteers’ perspectives.
  • Leadership in volunteering survey, State of Victoria, Ministerial Council for Volunteers, (June 2017). The Ministerial Council for Volunteers (the Council) conducted a survey late to seek the views of those who lead or coordinate volunteers. Findings from this survey helped to inform key points on strengthening and supporting volunteer leadership in Victoria. Key points identified by the survey for organisations were: valuing/recognition of volunteers; training/education; and, investing in efficiency and competitiveness.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 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".
  • Multi-dimensional framework as a new way to study the management of Olympic volunteering, Olesya Nedvetskaya, European Sport Management Quarterly, (24 February 2022). The London 2012 Olympic Games volunteer (Games Maker or GM) programme was the primary case for this research. Data was gathered before, during and 14 months after the Games in the UK via a mixed methods approach. Survey data from volunteers was complemented with semi-structured interviews with volunteers and managers, the author’s participant observations and documentary analysis. The proposed framework helped identify and evaluate the systems, mechanisms, and processes of developing and managing the GM programme. It became evident that unless key event stakeholders acknowledge the complex nature of Olympic volunteering and put adequate structures, resources and practices in place, the volunteer programmes are ineffective in managing volunteers and attaining a sustainable volunteering legacy. This paper offers valuable insights into the organisation and management of Olympic volunteering to achieve various programme results. It answers a call for a holistic approach to the phenomenon under study and features new directions for continued academic research in this critical area.
  • Volunteers in Sport Organizations and Events: A Source of Competitive Advantage? Erik Lachance, Milena Parent, International Journal of Sport Management, Volume 22, pp.1-24, (July 2021). Data were gathered from eight semi-structured interviews with four volunteers and four executives (executive director, president) from different sport organizations and events in the same community. Following an inductive and deductive thematic analysis, findings highlight the ability for volunteers to be valuable, rare, and inimitable resources supported by organizational practices, thus representing a source of competitive advantage in sport. These findings indicate how volunteers should be considered when planning and developing the strategic outcomes of sport organizations and events to outperform their competitors (e.g., as brand ambassadors/organizational representatives providing legitimacy to the sport organization or event). To gain a competitive advantage in sport, managers should develop formal human resource management practices and procedures, and incorporate volunteers into their strategic planning.
  • 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, (December 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.
  • The determinants of the intention to continue voluntary football refereeing, Thomas Giel, Christoph Breuer, Sport Management Review, Volume 23(2), pp.242-255, (April 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.
  • Managing sport volunteers with a disability: Human resource management implications, Pam Kappelides, Jennifer Spoor, Sport Management Review, Volume 22(5), pp.694-707, (November 2019). 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 authors draw on interviews with sport volunteers with disability, staff from sport organisations, and recipients of services from volunteers with disability conducted in 2016–2017. Researchers have not previously examined these diverse perspectives, but they are important for understanding how to include and support sport volunteers with disability. Analysis of the interviews revealed a wide range of benefits of including volunteers with disability including social acceptance, social inclusion and personal development; but both volunteers and organisations identified numerous barriers to volunteering, including negative attitudes, personal factors, organisational factors and lack of social inclusion. Based on the results of this study, the authors develop recommendations for human resource management practices and policies to support volunteers with a disability in sport and recreation organisations, which are organised around an ability-motivation-opportunity framework. The results suggest that organisations need to create an environment that facilitates open, two-way communication with volunteers with a disability about their needs and wants. There also should be training and education to all volunteers and staff around an inclusive workplace culture.
  • 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, (May 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.
  • Determinants and Outcomes of Volunteer Satisfaction in Mega Sports Events, Daehwan Kim, Chanmin Park, Hany Kim, et.al., Sustainability, Volume 11(7), (March 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, (June 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.
  • Volunteering legacy of the London 2012 Olympics, Olesya Nedvetskaya, Vassil Girginov, Chapter 4 in Legacies and Mega Events, Routledge, (2017). London 2012 Volunteering Strategy was premised on the commitment to use the Games as a way of inspiring a new generation of volunteers and contributing to a lasting volunteering legacy for the UK. Using a critical realist evaluation approach, this chapter examines the processes through which the volunteering legacy can be achieved, for whom, under what circumstances, and over which duration. It concludes that the momentum to build on the enthusiasm of 70,000 volunteers was lost, and the volunteering legacy became declared rather than delivered. This inevitably poses questions about the effectiveness of legacy planning and delivery. The chapter extends the body of knowledge about social legacies of mega sport events and their governance and can be highly beneficial for future bids and host cities.
  • 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, (April 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.
  • 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, (May 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Disability Resource, La Trobe University, (accessed 10 May 2022). 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.
  • Volunteer.vic, Department of Health and Human Services, (accessed 10 May 2022). The Department provides a number of resources for organisations that use, support, or manages volunteers.
  • Recruiting and managing volunteers, Sport New Zealand, (accessed 10 May 2022). Advice and tools to attract good volunteers and keep them
  • Building an inclusive volunteer program, Volunteering Victoria, (accessed 10 May 2022). Volunteering Victoria encourages you to think about how you can build an inclusive volunteer program and involve volunteers from diverse backgrounds including people with a disability, from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, people who identify as LGBTQI+ and many more. Website also provides a wide variety of additional guides that are not sport specific but cover good and promising practice for volunteer organisations.
  • 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.
  • Volunteers – what you need to know, Good Sports, (January 2021). This practical how-to guide will talk you through the challenges and opportunities when engaging new volunteers. It will equip you with some handy resources to make the recruitment process easier and help to spread the load. The toolkit also shows how celebrating the achievements and dedication of volunteers is a great way to build team morale and keep volunteers coming back. It can also help to bring on board new people for your club.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rugby World Cup 2011 volunteering resources. Sport NZ, (2011). 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.

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