Spotlight on Volunteering – Getting It Right

Anna RobertsonAuckland-Northland, Central-Wellington, e-News, Midlands, Regional, South Island

We have just come to the end of Volunteering New Zealand’s National Volunteer Week. The theme this year was “Live, laugh, share – Volunteer” or “Kia ringa hora: Me mahi tūao.” Whether you celebrated your volunteers over this week or not, volunteering goes on day in and day out throughout the year and therefore deserves attention, planning, and recognition throughout the whole year.

Volunteers are the lifeline for most New Zealand Clubs and improving the recruitment, retention and recognition volunteers appears as a priority in almost all of the Regional Action Plans across the country. Throughout the year we will be looking at different initiatives to support volunteer development.  Here we start with an overview of the key elements involved in the recruitment, retention, and recognition of volunteers.

Volunteer Recruitment

The Sport NZ / Gemba Volunteering Insights Report (Nov 2016) highlights some key differences among various groups of people and the implications for volunteer recruitment:

• Younger volunteers are often looking for work experience or skill development through their volunteering. Approach – highlight the personal and professional development opportunities that could be gained through volunteering in your Club.

• Maori, Pacific and Indian populations have higher volunteering rates than NZ Europeans. The strong sense of community found in those ethnic groups could explain this difference. Approach – Demonstrate the benefits you provide to the community (eg. developing confident, active young people, young leaders etc) and show how they could play a part in that.

• On average, 54% of sports volunteers have participated in the sport they volunteered in over the last 12 months. Approach – looking to your membership base is the first port of call when looking for volunteers but widen the net beyond those currently involved. How do you keep in contact with ex-members? Keep ex-members on newsletter distribution lists and don’t forget to include this group when you are asking for help.

• The other 46% of sports volunteers, who have not participated in the sport they support, are likely to have very different motivations for volunteering and they also often have a higher turnover than those who volunteer in a sport the participate in. 35% cite their children being involved as a motivation and we know that many leave when their children stop participating. Approach – Consider the different motivations of your volunteers – are you able to cater to their different needs to reduce turnover? Consider what you could do to retain volunteer parents when their children leave? Alternatively, can strategies be put in place for continuous recruiting to ensure those volunteers who leave are replaced?


On average, 14% of the population have volunteered for a one-off event in the last year. However, people of Indian and Asian ethnicity are above this average at 26% and 19% respectively. The report also indicates that these ethnicities are more motivated by social rewards (e.g. meeting new people) than other ethnicities. Since large sports events offer opportunities for social connections, could you benefit from targeting these ethnicities with specific recruitment messaging? Additionally, could more volunteer social events help retain these volunteers and attract them to other, non-event based roles?


Lack of time and other commitments are two main reasons for people to stop volunteering. Can you think about options to reduce the time that volunteers are asked to give in order to increase retention? Many volunteers also prefer to do one role only and have certainty around the hours they work. Micro-volunteering could mean reducing and splitting roles into chunks that volunteers do have time to do.

Read more in the Insights report summary provided by Sport Wellington.

Volunteer Retention

It’s hard work attracting volunteers to fill roles within the Club, what happens next is what will determine whether you retain those volunteers or whether you are back to recruiting again.

1. Induction – Providing a good induction for all volunteers not only ensures that they have all the information they need to carry out their role safely and effectively, it also helps make them feel a part of the Club and to understand how their role contributes to the overall success of the Club.
If you don’t have an induction process members can access the Gymnastics NZ Staff/Volunteer Induction Handbook template.

2. Get to know your volunteers – understand what motivated them to volunteer in the first place and get to know what is likely to keep them engaged. This will also help to ensure you get your recognition right (see recognition below).

3. Training and Development – The Gemba Volunteering Insights Report found that training and development is the top incentive to help retain existing volunteers. This is particularly seen in the 16 to 44 age group. Training and development can be provide in a range of different ways.

The Gymnastics New Zealand education pathway provides opportunities to develop as a coach or judge – read more about coaching and judging (please note that the majority of education courses run between February and June each year). GNZ also offers a range of workshops on a wide range of topics – keep an eye on e-news for opportunities as they arise.

There are many other avenues for training and development of volunteers. These include in-house training, mentoring, peer support, engagement with other Clubs, training by other local providers including Regional Sports Trusts, volunteer organisations etc. If you have identified a training need for a volunteer or group of volunteers and want ideas on how to fill that need, please contact your Regional Relationship Manager for support.

Volunteer Recognition

There are many ways you can recognize your volunteers. While it is essential to ensure that you recognize ALL your volunteers, it is also really important to acknowledge that different people prefer to be recognized in different ways. Some people like public acknowledgment while others want to run and hide at the thought of it. Knowing your volunteers and what motivates them to volunteer will help you to get your recognition right.

Make sure that volunteer recognition is something that is thought about and carried out throughout the year. Don’t leave it to prize giving at the end of the year.

Some ways that volunteer organisations may give recognition to their volunteers are:

– Encourage volunteer participation in team planning.
– Encourage volunteer participation in planning that effects their work.
– Provide training.
– Give additional responsibility.
– Enable volunteers to ‘grow’ on the job.
– Include volunteers in special events.
– Include volunteers in coffee breaks.
– Recommend volunteers to prospective employers.
– Maintain Occupational Health and Safety standards.
– Take the time to explain and listen to volunteer’s ideas and concerns.
– Recognise and accommodate personal needs and problems.
– Celebrate achievements and efforts.
– Keep volunteers informed via newsletter.
– Provide letters of reference.
– Send birthday and Christmas cards.
– Allocate notice board space to applaud volunteer achievement.
– Organise awards with certificates or plaques or medals.
– Honour volunteers on International Volunteers Day, December 5th, with a planned activity such as afternoon tea or lunch.
– Celebrate National Volunteer Week