The crucial link between volunteering and education in sport

September 23, 2021

Players may score the goals and hit the runs, but volunteers are the oxygen of community sport.

The Clearinghouse for Sport recently did a market segmentation study on volunteering. The study found that:

  • 92% of volunteers said they’d help out at their organisation over the next 12 months, and
  • Approximately 2.8 million people said they would be interested in volunteering in the next year for the first time.

These results suggest that volunteering is on the rise and people are keen as ever to get involved, even though COVID-19 has prevented some sports from taking the field or stepping onto the court.

Despite this interest, the data doesn’t necessarily speak to what is actually happening on the ground. According to Isaak Dury, CEO and Founder of TidyHQ, volunteers spend, on average, 11 hours per week on club/committee administration and the average tenures are below 2 years.*

So what are the challenges volunteers face?

While platforms like TidyHQ—and those of our partners, GameDay and revolutioniseSPORT—are designed to reduce the heavy manual workload of volunteers, they still face multiple challenges. 

Some of these challenges include:

  1. High admin load, particularly manual work
  2. Role confusion
  3. Lack of consistent, up-to-date, and verified data
  4. Risk/Compliance and Integrity
  5. Funding and growth of funding

Ultimately, volunteers quickly realise that their roles are not what they signed up for—which extinguishes that initial spark of enthusiasm.

Let’s look at each challenge in more detail and offer up some solutions through education.

High manual workload and Role confusion

This often leads to administrative messes being left behind, which creates a vicious cycle of low tenure and high volunteer turnover.

By creating engaging digital learning resources, such as courses and accreditations, volunteers will actually enjoy upskilling. They can also do most of the learning anywhere they’d like (e.g at home, on public transport, etc.) and in their own time.

This learning experience can not only enhance their roles but even their lives, as there are a plethora of resources available to volunteers on mental health, safeguarding children, and first aid.

Some membership platforms go beyond knowledge bases, in-person training, and Help Desks by creating administrator How To courses. These courses show volunteers how best to use their platforms, which reduces manual workloads.

Once attained, this achievement can then be used to justify a volunteer’s appointment to a committee, while simultaneously helping the organisation identify skills gaps.

Inaccurate data

Data holds immense power in decision-making. However, it is not uncommon in community sport to see fragmented data, missing fields, inconsistent data collection, and duplicates.

Ultimately, a membership/registration platform is the source of truth for most membership data (eg. name, email, address etc.) However, in the learning business, a Learning Management System (LMS) is the source of truth for learner data, such as course status and completion records.

By integrating with upstream membership platforms, the sporting organisation can enhance their single customer view of their members with learner data in real-time, while simultaneously removing manual processes (even paper). This means that assessors and coaches can do what they do best and not get caught up doing admin, or worse, data management.

Risk/Compliance and Integrity

Having a source of learner data truth that rolls into a membership platform enables peak bodies to ensure that coaches, officials, team staff, and other administrators have the appropriate qualifications and certificates. This includes Working With Children Checks, coaching or official accreditations.

The LMS also helps these organisations report information ‘hand-on-heart’ to regulators and Sport Australia, should they be queried.

What’s more, it also helps to confirm that assessors can operate and train others at their allowed accreditation levels, enhancing the integrity of the sport’s National Accreditation framework.

Funding

Once an LMS ecosystem has been established and the content is built into courses and other learning materials, it can spark a meaningful conversation with sporting organisations around their marketable assets: IP and learner data.

Through education and learning, sports organisations will, therefore, be able to become self-funding in this space and, ultimately, drive a departmental profit. This, in turn, will provide decision-makers with the ability to reinvest those funds across the business, where needed—while also continuing to build more content to drive more volunteer engagement.

Improving participation growth through education

It stands to reason that participation growth—which is one of the key end goals of most sporting organisations—can be best achieved through the following:

  1. Access to quality administration/events platforms such as GameDay, revolutioniseSPORT, Rosterfy and TidyHQ
  2. Access to quality coaching.

The challenges that volunteers face (identified above) are all linked to these 2 key outcomes.

But so are the solutions.

As described previously, access to the above platforms is a significant contributor to reducing the friction volunteers have with their sport. Not only that, but they also help improve tenures, enhance information flow within the sport, enable participants to have fun, feel included, and are made to feel safe—the very bedrock to sustained participation.

This is why keeping volunteers engaged and involved —particularly through education and learning—is vital to keeping the population active and healthy.

* For those interested in reading further about Sport Australia’s plan to revolutionise volunteering in sport, you can read their recent publication, ‘The future of sport volunteering’ Insights Report and National Sport Volunteering Plan

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