ICOYC Insights

The Role of Volunteers in Club Development

Download the PDF presentation with embedded audio.



In discussing the process of club development and the role of volunteers, defining yacht club characteristics is important:

  • Voluntary individual membership.
  • Orientation towards the interests of members.
  • Democratic decision-making structure.
  • Volunteer work is the most important resource.
  • Independent of public authorities.
  • Non-profit orientation.

How and Why Clubs Develop

The need for development is driven by societal factors:

  • A “proactive” attitude toward development among organizations, states and municipalities.
  • Increased expectations from the public sector:
    • “Co-production”: Community organizations’ desire to collaborate with clubs.
    • Sports clubs are subsidized in Denmark.
  • Increased competition from commercial sports.

Development occurs through qualification or through changes in the framework and context of society:

  • Qualification
    • Information
    • Courses and education
    • Guidance and process support
  • Framework and context
    • Targeted support for specific activities
    • Economic incentives
    • Partnership/co-production
    • Competition
    • Legislations/regulations

Development Through Volunteers

Sport clubs rely heavily on volunteer labor in their operations. The level of volunteering is largely determined by the following:

  • The tradition and culture of volunteering
    • Ideals in certain countries and cultures.
    • Ideals in certain sports.
  • Characteristics of the specific sport or sports club
    • Degree of “collectivity” in the sport
    • Degree of “belonging” to the club
    • Dependence on volunteer labor
    • How “open” or “closed” the activity is defined (level of member inclusion)
  • The management of the club and recruitment policy
  • Club size
    • “Free rider” principle: In small clubs, it is harder to go unnoticed and avoid volunteering.

Key Takeaways

  • Sailing clubs use few volunteers and the number of volunteers is stable.
  • The nature of volunteering depends on the culture of volunteering and the way the club is organized.
  • Few volunteers in sport participate in courses and educational programs.
  • Only one in five volunteers think that courses and educational programs are important for volunteering.
  • Courses or education programs have little impact on the volunteers’ desire to continue. Non-intentional learning leads to greater retention.
  • The recruitment of persons with relevant backgrounds (job experience, education, etc.) is more important than courses.

What is Conducive to Growing a Volunteer Base?

  • People are asked and encouraged to volunteer
  • Natural inflow of young members who “are socialized to volunteerism”
  • Demands are made for members and parents to assist
  • Volunteer work is considered meaningful
  • Individuals have freedom in how they volunteer
  • Being open to new ideas and initiatives
  • Experience of success and “being in a great association”
  • Praise and recognition
  • Good fellowship among volunteers
  • Passionate and visionary leader
  • The club is small or divided into small, autonomous units
  • The club strives for a common good
  • Volunteer management

Barriers to Volunteering

  • The bad excuses
    • “Not like the old days!”
    • “Modern people are self-centered”
  • Formal, bureaucratic rules and obstacles
  • Bad facilities for activities
  • Conflicts in the club
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of trust that “new” volunteers can do it as well as “old” volunteers
  • Volunteering steals time from other areas of the club
  • Members from cultures without the same tradition of volunteering