Volunteers' Week 2022

By Sported |  1st June 2022

This week is Volunteers’ Week and we want to take the opportunity to celebrate and thank our volunteers. At Sported, the groups in our network have the wonderful opportunity to benefit from the wisdom and experience of our talented volunteers to help them grow, become sustainable, create a business plan or meet any other need they have as a group, to survive, so that their young participants can thrive.

Thank you! You are wonderful and you make an enormous difference to the clubs that play a transformative role in so many young people’s lives right across the UK.

Here, we hear from just a handful of them:

Steven Gooch

“I was a College Principal before I retired.  We had some sport academies and also worked with Sport England so I am most familiar with policies, funding applications, evaluation and marketing. I prepare for a first contact with a group by finding out as much information as I can.  I look at their social media, website and if possible, have a look at their accounts if they are registered somewhere.  This gives me a lot of background and helps me to know how well organised they are and where their strengths and weaknesses are.  Once we have established contact, I usually schedule a zoom meeting.  My first contact is usually a kick start.  I find the groups are enthusiastic and pleased to talk about the work that they do.  They are always grateful for the support.

One example of a group I have worked with is TK Born and Raised.  We went through the support he needed; I helped out with policies, and we have made some successful bids for funding. We also put him in touch with other volunteers who developed his website and flyers and helped with business planning. 

Mostly groups need help with finding money, policies (like safeguarding), marketing, training participants to become leaders and having someone to talk to and share ideas with.

To take the plan forward, I give them tasks and get them to go away and work on the areas they struggle with. With new technology it’s also easy to work together, for example sharing screens while working on a funding application.

The journey varies considerably from group to group.  In one case, I was just helping to get a safeguarding policy in place.  Once that was done contact ended.  In the case of TKBorn and Raised, Tom and I have kept in touch and I have seen the group develop as it emerged from lockdown and now, he is running a variety of sessions and developing the girls football project too.”

“Since retiring from work, volunteering gives me a personal sense of purpose and I like being able to use the skills and experience I have developed to help.”

Graham French

“I have volunteered at Sported for what must be about 3 years now. I enjoy sports, particularly cycling and wanted to do something in my retirement time to keep the grey cells working and I also get something back.

My focus is the business planning /strategy planning area as that is my background. Often when I meet groups, they are frightened by the idea of putting a business plan together. I put them at ease and explain that it is just about saying what you want to do and how you can get there. They go from being really scared to saying we can now probably see what the next 3 years will look like and what we dream the following 2 might be! In some cases, we go right back to basics – I put a long sheet of brown paper on the wall, and we cover it with post-it notes. I try and work with people at their level – for some people it’s very new and for others they are quite used to it.

At the end of a placement, there is a lot of personal satisfaction – we sign off their plan, wish them well and often some things are already coming to fruition at that point.”

“I like being able to give some of my experience, to help people, to hear about different clubs from many different sports and to keep in touch with people – why should you be insular when you retire?!”

Oliver Wells

“I am retired now but used to work with the oil industry. I’ve had a number of volunteering roles both as a trustee and also as a volunteer with the Citizens Advice, Relate and Victims Support. I’m not a specialist; I’m a generalist. I understand how processes work and I’ve got a good understanding of what a strategy and business plan should look like and how to put them together.

When I start off with a group, I explore what they think they need and then between us we work through it together and identify actually what help would most benefit them.

The clubs I’ve been involved with have varied from being embryonic to having hundreds of participants, from being run by one person to having tens of people running them. And the range of what they do is enormous – anything from groups who just want to be motivational to individual people to clubs with specific activities. They address a whole range of issues from mobility issues, getting out of crime, helping to build confidence, overcoming barriers to increasing wellbeing. They really address a whole gamut of stuff.

The needs I guess fall into 3 broad buckets. One is groups that have one passionate enthusiast who spends all waking hours trying to make things work but worries about sustainability and has no spare time to put into planning for that.

The second bucket comprises groups that are very successful but that are growing so fast that the group leaders don’t know how to manage that growth and the third bucket is of groups with a specific issue. And some of those don’t have a clue what they need, though they know they need help.

The overwhelming majority of groups need a simple strategy document and a simple business plan to make them sustainable and allow a platform for growth.

The issues they face is that change takes time and effort and these people running the groups tend to already spend all their time making what they do work. So, they need to prioritise things and make time for this planning stage. It’s vital.

In terms of what I get out of it, it’s of course nice to help people but the biggest thing for me is meeting them – the group leaders are so passionate, and their determination is jaw dropping. It’s quite inspirational. There are lots of good people out there – people are good.

Sported is one of the best charities I’ve come across – very good.”

Ravinder Vedi

“During the first session with a group, I like to find out more about the individual, their organisation, any deadlines and work together to develop the funding application based on their needs – this may comprise commenting on a draft or working on an initial draft. My area of expertise is grant applications – I’m always learning though so never quite feel like an expert! I am also interested in governance eg trustee roles and responsibilities and business planning. 

One group leader I worked with runs a project for young people – and we’ve worked together over a number of months with bid drafts. We’ve developed her bid writing skills from developing an initial draft to commenting on bids she is developing. 

The needs of the groups vary but often the area they most need support with is confidence in bid writing, which can feel like a lonely process. Developing a first draft of a bid on a “you talk, I’ll write basis” – always works in developing bid writing confidence and skills. Other times I will comment on bids and advise them to address issues such as developing local evidence of need, or forward planning. 

I have received feedback that indicates some groups have found assistance helpful – the most recent being a Martial Arts Group in the Midlands – they feel more confident about forward planning skills and ensuring that their budgeting reflects the actual cost of running their organisation.

I like volunteering because It’s my way of contributing to community development. Sported makes it very easy for me to connect with incredibly interesting and hugely committed individuals who work above and beyond to make a difference in their community – wow!”

Find out more about volunteering at Sported