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Home / News / Emsworth Sailing Club shares its story on how to bring in new volunteers
Home / News / Emsworth Sailing Club shares its story on how to bring in new volunteers

Emsworth Sailing Club shares its story on how to bring in new volunteers

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Published 10:23 on 14 Jul 2021

Emsworth Sailing Club shares its story on how to bring in new volunteers

Like so many sports clubs and groups, Emsworth Sailing Club is dependent on its willing volunteers. However, like many organisations, it noticed that it was often the same people stepping forward for volunteering tasks time after time.

Whilst always grateful for its fantastic team of committed volunteers, Emsworth SC wanted to explore ways to get new members involved, mostly so that it wasn't always reliant on the same team of volunteers, but also to bring new faces, energy and ideas into the Club. It found that, with a few simple changes, it was possible to attract new volunteers from a range of backgrounds and with a diverse set of skills and experiences.

Asking existing members to get involved

Its first step was simple but very effective. The Club simply asked its existing membership whether anyone would be interested in helping out with a range of tasks. It was delighted to see many come forward - from older members who were no longer out on the water but still wanted to be involved onshore, to younger participants and their families, the uptake was excellent and people were delighted to be asked. Emsworth SC now regularly shares volunteering opportunities through its website and weekly newsletter, and these are positively received. As the Club's Commodore, Jane Mellor, says, "It sounds obvious, but actually asking people if they would be willing to lend a hand is surprisingly effective! If people know in advance that their help will be appreciated, and that tasks are clear and time-limited, they're usually happy to say yes".

Something the Club hadn't realised before becoming more proactive about asking members to volunteer, was that some people hadn't realised that it was an option. Some members noted that they had thought the Club was a 'closed shop', with opportunities to help restricted to a core group of people. Although this had never been the case, Emsworth SC recognised this was an important misconception to rectify. The Club now actively promotes opportunities widely, via its weekly newsletter, its website and various social media platforms, thus reaching all age groups of the membership, and this has resulted in a larger and more diverse team of volunteers.

Asking for extra help during the pandemic

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Club realised that it needed to explore new ways of communicating with its members, and that there was a skills gap amongst its existing committees and regular volunteers. It asked its wider membership if anyone would be interested in helping with comms and received 10 offers of support by the end of that same day, including from a member who had previously worked for Google! Since making the request, the comms team has developed a very successful and popular comms rota producing weekly news bulletins, a revamped website and using social media much more proactively.

Using membership application forms to discover hidden talents

Emsworth SC also uses its new member application forms to find hidden talent. The forms ask potential members whether they have any skills or experience that might be useful to the Club, and whether they'd be happy to use these skills to support Emsworth SC if needed. This has resulted in stronger alignment of volunteering opportunities with people's interests and skills, and often a better experience for the volunteer.

Provide bite-sized opportunities

Since reviewing its approach to volunteering, the Club divides tasks more equally amongst members, and supports the increasing popularity of bite-sized volunteering opportunities. This gives its members the chance to support the Club in areas that suit their interests as well as the time that they have available. In addition, offering greater flexibility to when and how roles are fulfilled, in turn helps open up opportunities to a wider range of people.

Make call-outs friendly and positive

The Club works hard to consider the way it asks people to get involved. It tries to make sure the language around its call-outs is friendly and positive, reflecting the enjoyable experience that the Club works to create during all activities. Emsworth SC recognises that how you ask is just as important as making the ask in the first place. If your request reflects a positive environment and culture around your volunteering opportunities, it can make people more likely to commit their time.

A positive volunteering culture can support success

Part of Emsworth SC's success in getting more people involved in volunteering could be linked to the positive volunteering culture it has developed. Keeping the member experience front and centre is really important to the Club - all of its ad-hoc and regular volunteers come from their membership, so the volunteer experience is just as important as the end result.

The Club works to ensure that volunteering activities are fun, fulfilling and sociable. They also try to get people involved from an early age, encouraging its younger members to take part in beach and local litter picks organised by the Club's environmental group.

A key part of this positive culture is recognising people's efforts. Its weekly newsletter is often used to recognise the efforts of volunteers, to make sure they know much they are appreciated and that their contribution is making a difference to the Club and its members.

Try hard and keep going!

It hasn't all been plain sailing, and like many clubs and groups, Emsworth SC volunteers were stretched during the Covid-19 pandemic. It took lots of hard work to keep people engaged and informed, including via virtual events. However, the results of Emsworth SC's efforts to recruit more of its members into volunteering opportunities have been really positive and people are excited to be getting back to the Club and doing what they do!

Top tips
Emsworth SC's top tips for others looking to recruit new volunteers include:

  • Be proactive, never complacent keep considering new ways to engage people in volunteering activities
  • Think about your volunteering request from the perspective of potential helpers: is it clear, open and welcoming?
  • Make volunteering fun for people, so that they want to do it again and will encourage their friends to help out as well.
  • Make sure that people feel valued and know that their contribution is important.

As Jane, Commodore, says;

"Emsworth Sailing Club is all about its members. We fully appreciate that nobody had full use of the Club in 2020, and we want to make sure that as we re-open and members come back in 2021, the Club is the very best that it can be for all 1,700 members. Like so many clubs, though, apart from a small office team we are entirely volunteer-run and so we need to encourage members of all ages to get involved, with whatever skills and time they can give us. Volunteering is fun and sociable and the old saying really is true, you do get out what you put in!"

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