How to recruit volunteers to grassroots football clubs

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Too many football clubs are relying on the same people to do too much and are therefore putting too much pressure on too few people. At the same time, very few clubs make any concerted efforts to assess what skills they require and how to make themselves attractive to skilled and dedicated volunteers who can make a real difference. Hence, why the myth 'you can't get volunteers these days' becomes the accepted truism.

But the good news is that we also experience many well-run clubs with a good structure, innovation, communication and motivation in place successfully recruiting and retaining skilled and passionate volunteers.

Hopefully, this guide can help you to improve the way recruit, lead and manage people at your club. This is not an exact science and each club and environment is different, so you will have to adapt the advice given here to your specific situation. This is work in progress, so please do let us know how you are getting on.

It's all about people and culture

One of the concerns we hear most frequently from club chairs and others is the lack of volunteers. ‘People haven’t got time any more’, ‘it is always the same few people’ and ‘there is so much bureaucracy now that it scares people off’ are just some of the comments we hear from seriously worried club leaders.

Basically, the demands on each committee members need to be defined and if you then become more effective and efficient the tasks won’t take as long. That is a good way of overcoming the lack of time and resources. The basic premise is that our clubs must focus on leadership and management, not just on day-to-day operations.

So, for starters, here are some of my thoughts and recommendations on leadership at your club:

How volunteer friendly is your club?

I have noticed that the clubs are more volunteer-friendly are, surprise, surprise, more likely to have loads of skilled and passionate volunteers. So, again it is all about culture and people.

Can I ask you, and your fellow club colleagues, to consider the slide below and discuss how volunteer-friendly your club is. Do you welcome new people, encourage bite-sized volunteering and avoid lengthy meetings and are you having fun? Or????

Create a great culture for volunteers and volunteering:

From committee to team - change your structure and culture:

A committee decides, is boring, exists to set policy, will drain the life out of you and is for those who desire status.

Whereas a team does, is exciting, exists to win, will add to your life and is for those who want to make a difference. The word team connotes vision, goals, purpose, unity and accomplishment. On the other hand, the word committee just sucks the life right out of you!

Fuel the pioneering spirit

Keep the momentum going by building regular events and WOW moments into the life of your club. Many times a club loses that pioneering spirit as it ages, becomes complacent and gets stuck in the rut that deters new ideas and pushes away new people. Build momentum, involve more people, dare to think new and see your club grow.

Good leaders let people go

If you want to drive your club forward, on and off the pitch, you will no doubt experience people who simply cannot see any reason for any changes. They have been here for 29 years, so they know best. Those people can present serious barriers to your club's health and that must come first. It seems harsh to suggest to ask a long-standing member to leave, but if they are holding your club back and deterring good, new people from getting involved...what are your options?

Visit other clubs and steal their stuff

Don’t worry about being original - learn all you can about the principles from others, but then apply them in the context of your own setting and club

Be careful who you listen to

When you start making changes and showing leadership, you will be met with criticism from the stalwarts and 'the way we do things around here' brigade. Answering every criticism and explaining every questioned action will wear you out. Ask the people who want to drive the club forward, listen to them and act. Don't waste time trying to placate the Victor Meldrews!

Get geeked about gadgets

Yes, I appreciate that technology is developing at an amazing rate but that should not stop you from benefiting from using it. You simply ignore this at your peril. If you want to engage with people in a timely, inexpensive and relevant way embrace these tools, saving you hours stuffing envelopes. If you feel that all this is not for you, then ask and involve other people, perhaps younger members.

Innovate or die

Yes, I know trying new things is messy and requires dare - but without it your future is going to be bleak. So try walking football for 60 year olds, doggie swimming in the lake, football golf, float-athons in the pool to generate income or crolf (a combination of golf and croquet).

By the way, all these activities already exist!

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