In the past, volunteering in sport has been seen as something people do for the benefit of others. Whether it's marshalling a fun run, managing money, driving people from A to B (and back) or even washing the muddy kit on a Sunday afternoon, it’s always been the participants that everyone is focused on. That’s about to change.
Our new volunteering strategy, Volunteering in an Active Nation, accompanied by a number of new funding opportunities, puts the experience of the volunteer and a drive to increase diversity at the heart of efforts to support volunteers. After all, without them most community sport simply wouldn’t happen.
The double benefit of volunteering
When we set out to develop our first ever volunteering strategy, our research uncovered a truth about volunteering. It’s the double benefit of giving your time.
Working with a range of expert partners including academics, the NCVO Institute for Volunteering Research and the National Citizen Service, we’ve discovered powerful evidence that shows that giving your time can improve your health, reduce stress, build confidence and improve your skills. That means volunteers who give their time to make sport happen in their community enjoy many of the benefits associated with actually taking part in sport.
Take Rebecca who volunteers with Goodgym. She runs three miles to see Joan, an isolated elderly woman, every Monday night, then stays and chats before running home. Rebecca feels fitter and healthier, and she says she’s pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to motivate herself to run during the winter if it wasn’t for Joan.
Changing perceptions of volunteering
While there are 5.6 million volunteers in sport who do a great job, some people are put off because they think you have to be fit, sporty or know all the rules. You don’t.
£3m fund for people facing disadvantage
Volunteering in sport doesn’t have to take place in traditional sports club environments and people give their time for a really broad range of reasons, and in a variety of roles. We want to support more of that.
We also want to make sports volunteering more diverse.
A typical sports volunteer is white, male, and relatively comfortable financially. Their contributions are absolutely vital, but proportionally fewer disabled people, women and black, Asian and minority ethnic people volunteer in sport.
That’s something that we want to change and are launching new funding to support.
New funding opportunities
In January 2017, we’re launching two new funds to support projects for groups where we’ve identified significant untapped potential. We’ll publish full details of how to apply in January, and the funds will open for applications in February.
We’ll invest £3 million in projects that create volunteering opportunities for people facing disadvantage, in communities where there is higher unemployment and crime, lower education and poorer health. People living in these communities are among the most under-represented groups in volunteering, but potentially have the most to gain.
We’re looking for partners that are trusted by their communities and know the various issues and motivations of those who live there.
Our priority is to get more people from these communities excited about and engaged in volunteering, so we’re happy to look at ideas which aren’t just about sport and physical activity.
We’re impressed by the Get Active For Good Cashpoint project from vInspired which offers funding to help people create sports-related projects locally.
Our commitment to reaching these non-traditional groups is demonstrated by our goal to award at least 50 per cent of the fund to projects run by partners that are new to us or even new to sport and physical activity.
We’ll also research and test digital technology to open up volunteering opportunities to anyone who wants information on opportunities.
Getting involved in mentoring, supporting people and improving your local area – a form of youth social action – is already popular with young people.
But social action organisation Step Up To Serve has identified a large group they call ‘Potentials’ – young people who are interested in doing something for their community, but haven’t yet made a commitment. In fact 70% of 10- to 20-year-olds say they want to do more social action in the next 12 months.
£3m fund for 10-20-year-olds
This group is a particularly interesting audience for us because many of them love sport and physical activity: half of 16- to 24-year-olds would prefer to give their time in something sport-based.
We want to unleash this potential by funding projects which target young people who haven’t regularly volunteered in the past.
We’re working with the #iwill campaign and will be investing up to £3 million in projects which will benefit 10- to 20-year-olds and their communities now. It’s also a long-term investment in those communities – according to the Youth Social Action Survey 2015, people who start volunteering when they’re young are more likely to continue in later life.
We’ll be looking for projects which connect with the lives and aspirations of 10- to 20-year-olds.
Sport and physical activity should be involved but it doesn’t have to be the sole focus. We’re simply looking for brilliant ideas.
Supporting people who already volunteer
Millions of people already provide time, effort and skills to help other enjoy sport and physical activity. They deserve to feel encouraged and valued.
By far, the highest concentration of volunteers is in sport clubs – 75 per cent.
Our tailored programme of training, information and support, Club Matters, has established itself as a useful, trustworthy and reliable resource. So in 2016/17, we’ve set aside £3 million to continue Club Matters to make sure that club administrators get the help they need. We’re also looking to make further improvements to it.
Need to know facts
- Name of funds: Opportunity Fund and Potentials Fund
- Investment guides: January 2017
- Opening: February 2017
- Awards: June 2017