"The Sport Management resource for volunteers in sports"

Motivate volunteers in sports

Many people do not realize the impact volunteers in sports have on other people every year. Many life lessons can be taught in a sports setting.

Some people volunteer because their own children are involved with sports and the parents want to be good role models. Others volunteer to be role models for other children in the community. Still others may volunteer because they are big fans of the sports organization, so they want to play a small role in the positive impact the organization has on the community. No matter why people volunteer the volunteers in sports play a huge role in the communities experience when they attend the games.

Your aim should be to have enough volunteers on an annual basis, and to keep them. This will not happen automatically, and there are times, that volunteers just stop with their work, as they feel under appreciated or they just don’t agree with the policy of your sports organization.

How to motivate them?

Knowing why people volunteer in your sports organization will help you know how to motivate them. But even when you do not know why they help you can still motivate them through showing respect for their time, appreciation by saying THANK YOU, and not underestimating the role they play in your organization. Often volunteers have skills that are not tapped by organizations due to the responsibility normally being on the shoulders of a paid staff member or a board member. But letting a volunteer use their skills in these types of tasks with or without the supervision of staff will motivate the volunteer and make him or her feel valued in a unique way.

Having a training each year for volunteers in sports will let them know they are valued as much as paid staff. This will also help the volunteer feel informed and knowledgeable about the organization which empowers them. There is nothing more motivating than feeling like you are empowered and you can make a difference just by being involved.

Another way of giving your volunteers special attention is to have your sport stars/athletes come to a volunteer only event. This can be a night at the cinemas, a barbeque or a special meeting prior to a large sport event. Again this will motivate the volunteers as they will get recognition from the most valuable persons within your organization, your athletes.

If you go to a fast-food restaurant, there is often a sign nearby the cashier, with a picture of the employee of the month. You could integrate this in your sport organization. When you have volunteer who are doing an outstanding job, or even have a long time working in your sports, you can mention them (of course with a nice picture) in your newsletter, the website or even in a press release.

Whatever you do, it is recommendable to organize a special volunteer event at least once a year. The work of your volunteers is the basis of your sports organization, and should be recognized as such.

Do you have any other ways how to motivate volunteers? Please leave them in the comments.

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  1. Thanks Remco for such a great article!

    We must always appreciate the volunteers and thank them!

  2. Other ways of motivating volunteers include ensuring that wherever possible they are not out of pocket by providing basics such as transport and food or refreshments or reimbursement of expenses, providing resouces needed to get the job done and not overworking the volunteers. Volunteers also value challenging as opposed to menial tasks. There is need to take the suggestions and recommendations made by volunteers seriously. It boils down to good human resources management.

    • Robert, Indeed, you need to have your volunteers in a good HR policy. We tend to forget that even as we have volunteers, we still need to budget some of their costs, like you point out.
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thank you Remco you hit many points that we have had to learn the hard way. Our organization has existed for 8 years and we have seen many volunteers come and go. For the past 3 years we have seen more consistency with our volunteers due to the organization acknowleging their contributions.

  4. Hi Remco,

    How to motivate volunteer in sports - Firstly, i believe that volunteers who put up their hands to volunteer in sports should be forever commended and continue to encourage them that they are doing a great job and if there are training, workshops opportunities or anything to do with sport empowerment to include them for capacity building etc.

    The reason I say this is because volunteers at home were being hit in the face (not physically but verbally by a particular NF and the district community committee.

    I was told by my sister that her daughter and her friend who have put up their hands voluntarily to coordinate sports in particuarly volleyball in their district through a recognized government organizaton targetting the grass root in particular have been told off that they should not be coordinating volleyball competitions and go through the Volleybal National Federation who has been inactive.

    To be brief, the Public Health department is one organization that extend its support with regards to physical activity by sponsoring small monetary prizes for district competitions but apparently the Public Health coordinator told them that they have to go through their district community committee.

    When they approached the community committee they were told off that they are not recognized because it is the responsibility of the VNF which they should go through for assistance etc. Furthermore were told that if they wish to be given small monetary prizes, they should do some cleaning up in the football oval situated in their district and will be given small monetary prizes…of course they refused.

    Despite the conflict the two girls continue to coordinate with or without the VNF and seeking other sponsorships through other private organizations.

    So I thought I will share this experience with everyone and give some hints on other strategies to empower volunteers.

    Kindest regards,

    • Marissa,

      Thank you very much for your valuable comment. This is a real example of bureaucrat, where people in sports hide behind structures, to keep new (enthusiastic) people outside. The sad part is, that as I read your information are not doing so much to develop volleyball.

      It is very nice to read that the two girls didn’t give up…..that is the real spirit !


  5. Hi Brother Remco,

    I have been in the sport industry for33 yrs as Athlete, Official & Administrator - the first 15yrs was as a “volunteer”…and it was during these yrs that a passion that has been the real fuel for my continued involvement in sports…

    • That are a lot of years…..so much experience to share!

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