Fundraising is the most common volunteer activity

Volunteers: The Backbone of Australian Football

Volunteers are the backbone of every Australian Football club: no club could manage without them, including those in the premier league.

From coaches at Auskick to the helpers in the canteen to the scorers diligently collecting stats to the administrators organising matches and managing the website, volunteers are what make Australian Football tick.

However longer working hours, less volunteers and more to do mean that volunteers are often stretched to their limits. And clubs suffer as a result.

With over 450,000 participants in Australian Community Football, at least 120,000 work as volunteer coaches, administrators and umpires. Last year those volunteers contributed 8.78 million working hours to their clubs.

In addition, the Volunteering Australia website reports that according to a 2006 survey:

  • Thirty-four percent or 5.4 million people in Australia volunteer each year
  • Sport and physical recreation is the most common type of organisation where volunteers work
  • The four most common volunteering activities are
    • Fundraising
    • Preparing and serving food
    • Teaching/providing information
    • Administration
Respect your volunteers

With clubs relying heavily on volunteers, it’s vitally important to respect volunteers’ time, efforts and other commitments.

  • Ensure volunteers don’t burn out by constantly asking the same people to do everything. If people power is short, prioritise your efforts and discard what can’t be done
  • Listen to a volunteer’s concerns, particularly if they are having problems, running out of time or feeling stressed. Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all they need
  • Don’t humiliate or laugh at volunteers if they make a mistake or don’t know your club’s particular procedures. You should NEVER make them feel stupid, especially in front of other people
  • Say thanks – and often!
  • You’re probably a volunteer yourself, so treat your volunteer coworkers how you’d like to be treated by them
What clubs can do to retain and reward volunteers

Recognising and rewarding the valuable efforts of volunteers is critical to making them feel valued, motivated and part of your club community.

Recognise volunteers by:

  • Offering and paying for appropriate training (see the AFL Learning Centre)
  • Providing new volunteers with a welcoming induction session
  • Giving special awards such as volunteer of the month and of the year – present these awards at monthly meetings and the AGM or presentation nights
  • Publishing articles on individual volunteers  in the club newsletter, local newspaper and club website
  • Providing volunteers with identification badges, pins, caps and T-shirts
  • Getting volunteers to train other volunteers
  • Getting teams to write thank-you notes to every volunteer
  • Nominating your volunteers for local, state and national awards
  • Holding social events at the beginning and end of each season for all volunteers
  • Naming an event or a new facility/building/part of the ground after a volunteer
  • Reimbursing volunteers for all 'out of pocket' expenses
  • Providing recognition certificates to every volunteer
  • Acknowledging volunteers at all club meetings
  • Providing letters of reference to volunteers
  • Sending birthday cards to volunteers or get-well cards when they are sick
  • Holding an end-of-season lunch or breakfast to formally thank the volunteers
  • Participating in the AFL Volunteer Recognition Program and any state/territory football recognition programs
  • Nominating exceptional volunteers as a potential AFL State Volunteer of the Year or an AFL Merit Award
  • Reducing club membership fees for volunteers, depending on their level of involvement
  • Recognising long service to the club by awarding exceptional volunteers with life membership
  • Providing thank-you letters from the executive committee

Get more information about effective volunteer management

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