Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
There’s been a downward trend in volunteerism the past decade. Each year we have fewer and fewer parents stepping up to help youth sports, schools or other community programs.
According to Todd Conrad, Mission Viejo Nadadores General Manager, “I serve on a board of our community’s youth sports teams and they are concerned about the lack of volunteers. The same number of parents are in the stands watching soccer, tennis, etc. but they aren’t volunteering.”
He said Little League doesn’t have enough parent volunteers to host a snack bar. Like many other swim clubs, the Nadadores have a mandatory service policy, and Conrad said they have no shortage of parent volunteers on their team.
In a 2015 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics about volunteer rates in the United States, 24.9% of the U.S. population over the age of 16 volunteered at least once in the past year. In 2011, this percentage was 26.8%, and in 2005 it was 28.8%.
Without the help of all parents, teams couldn’t pull off a successful meet—which is how many teams stay afloat financially. In some areas of the country, officials are paid, while others rely on parent volunteers. Without officials, there can’t be a meet, either. Many teams require volunteers to put in a certain number of hours at each meet or face fines. It’s not to make money, but more of a plea to get all hands on deck.
Here are a few ideas to recruit and retain volunteers on your team:
Personally reach out to individuals to ask them to volunteer. If everything is done online or through a flyer—the number of volunteers will be less. It’s easy to ignore emails and people may believe that someone else will step up and they don’t have to. It’s harder to ignore a one-on-one request.
One of the reasons why people don’t volunteer is that they’re unsure of what’s required of them. And sometimes it takes too much effort on their part to get information. By spelling out exactly the job and amount of time, it will make it clearer for potential volunteers.
Recognize and appreciate.
Having a coach or parent board recognize the many parent volunteers for their hard work will go a long way in retaining volunteers. In addition to a personal word of gratitude, a thank you on FaceBook, a team’s newsletter or annual awards for volunteers are a few ideas to show the team’s appreciation.
Newer parents may be intimidated because they’re unfamiliar with swim meets in general. Also, many parents who have been on deck for years don’t mean to be cliquey, but they enjoy their long-standing friendships. They may not realize that new parents may feel like they’re on the outside looking in. Have longtime parents who are amazing at welcoming newer parents reach out and help them become part of the team.
Do you think teams should have mandatory volunteer hours and why do you believe fewer parents are volunteering today?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.