It’s National Volunteers’ Week in the UK and our countries, regions, towns and villages run on volunteering. I am always amazed at the numbers involved. 20 million of us did some sort of volunteering last month. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations says of the 164,000 registered charities in the UK, 90% have no paid staff. And then there are another 150,000 non-registered organisations also run entirely by volunteers. Most of the campaigns I have worked with in education, sport and membership organisations have relied heavily on volunteer involvement. But I’ve seen first hand that not all organisations are equipped to work alongside volunteers in the most strategic and effective ways.
I saw remarkable best-practice work at Badminton England – a medium sized national governing body of sport – with a first class approach to volunteer involvement. The All England Open Badminton Champs is huge – think the Wimbledon of badminton – with large international crowds and gigantic worldwide TV viewing. Badminton England puts on this event at the NIA Birmingham with the support of hundreds of volunteers. Without them – no event. The volunteers are trained and looked after properly; they have access to a dedicated online portal full of information and support; they’re provided with meals, uniforms and real responsibilities from marshaling athletes to membership activities, and references for work or portfolios. The small in-house events team has overtime integrated the volunteers into the event strategy and delivery. It is not a cheap or easy option, but one that respects the unique commitment a volunteer is making to the organisation, the event and the sport they love.