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ICOYC Insights

The Role of Volunteers in Club Development

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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