Reasons Why Volunteering is Important in Australian Sport

One of the last persuasive speeches on volunteering which I have heard was about the urgent importance of voluntary work these years as it has an important input in society, letting many organizations, to meet the demand for their services. Volunteers are the backbone of sport Australia wide. Some reports are accusing fewer volunteers throughout the corporate sport, with administrators and boards transitioning to be paid professionals, but currently, there is an increasing influence and power held by paid staff. Although, this will not change the fact the volunteers will still be of vital importance in the sport in this country. As it is noted that sport in Australia will continue to depend on volunteers, due to the sheer amount of grassroots sports countrywide and its popularity, whether or not the influence of paid professional administrators becomes greater.

Analysis of the Role of Volunteering in Australia

The term volunteer originated in the mid-1700s and is derived from the Hebrew word meaning 'to willingly give'. Volunteers ‘willingly give’ in a range of different roles within a variety of sectors in their communities. As a society, we do not refer to all paid workers as one group. However, in the case of Normally, volunteers have frequently been grouped together regardless of the type of role they volunteer. Sports volunteers are unique compared to other volunteers’ sectors. Volunteering in sport is mostly seen as leisure choice, because of their passion for the clubs and sports they volunteer but it can be done for other reasons, such as personal rewards, satisfaction or recognition. Reimbursement for their labors in volunteering, comprises a fair amount of Australians sport volunteers, as in 2012 18% of all sporting volunteers received a form of reimbursement for their efforts. Defining volunteers in sport can be debatable, but it is undeniable how vital and important are to the sports and communities in general, with clear positives statistics in the history of the Australian sport, for example, the Olympics in Sydney 2000.

Volunteers in Australian Sport

Volunteers are part of many roles of sport clubs or organizations. The variety of these roles relate to the administration department, board and corporate members, coaches, officials, players and many other roles. This makes volunteers an essential part of most sports in Australia. 'Volunteers contribute to the social and economic value of sport in Australia, particularly at the community grassroots level. They also support sport at its highest levels including the staging of domestic major events such as the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games'.

'Non-profit organizations are in general governed by volunteers, run on the time and money contributed by volunteers, and enable volunteers to contribute to enhancing their local, regional, national and global communities'. As per cited study, looking at the numbers of volunteers, approximately 1.8 million Australians, giving their time and services to the sport sector, demonstrates how big is the space volunteers occuppy in comparison to the total Australian population. And not less important is to mention the positive the socio-economic impact that volunteer have in sport. Been the sport community the main beneficiary of this impact, mostly non-profit organizations, with volunteers for no remuneration, and by choice in a specific or not position within the organization. It cannot be underestimated the magnitude of the power voluntters have in Australian society. Shilbury cited Chalip, 'suggests that Sydney 2000 would not have been possible if it weren’t for the contribution of over 40 thousands accredited volunteers to support the staging of the Olympics and Paralympic Games'. 

In 2014, a study of 2.3 million sporting volunteers was released by the Australian Sports Commission. In the search of finding an answer to why Australian’s volunteers are so important for the resources of all profit or non-profit sport organizations, volunteers study indicate that they sustain and nurture club’s appealing’s to increase members numbers. The study also shows another crucial involvement of the volunteers influencing the progress of the development of sport club/organization. This development identifies 10 categories of volunteers and non-volunteers; indicative of a comprehension of the procedure that involves retaining and attracting volunteers. 'Each segment has its own set of challenges and opportunities that sports organisations must recognise and address if they are to recruit and then retain volunteers with a particular mindset'.

The report of the Independent Sport Panel, noticed the seriousness of volunteers role to Australian sport. ‘The Australian Government should develop and fund a national volunteer program for sporting and physical activity organisations that aims to attract and retain volunteers to sport through education, accreditation and recognition, and in particular takes account of the potential offered by the growing number of older Australians to become volunteers. 

Frontier Economics report to the Australian Sports Commission describes the volunteers as one of the three main ways in which sport delivers economic benefits to society, estimating that the labour input of volunteers is valued at approximately to be $3.9 billion per year.

In Australia, the sport (in general) had progress into a more ‘’professional era’’, and volunteer roles has expanded to new areas, where the difficulty of finding and keeping the ‘right people for the right task’. These progresses provoked tension mainly at the governance level, as the sport eco-system managed by the volunteers, transition to paid staff supported by volunteers. As per to understand why organizations have moved into this system, this report, agrees with Shilbury explanation, by comprehending the evolution of sport in Australian eco-system, pushing organizations to assign the correct person to the right department, and trying to secure a long lasting ‘’quality’’ position in the role. This report does not underestimate the ‘motivators’ of a ‘volunteer’, but it does support the idea that the modern-day business practices requires to sometimes inevitably avoid the clear ‘barriers’ that influence the volunteer’s participation as per next figure.

How Volunteers Can be best managed by the Sport Organization?

To consolidate the position of this report towards the topic and provide a useful critical analysis, the proposal of this report, is for Australia requiring a new system/program which supports the labours volunteer much better than the ones in place by the governance. Community sports facility funding is obviously not corelated across Australian governments as per different laws applying to different states. Sporting organisations have not incorporated the recreational side of their sports, missing opportunities within the sport community for volunteers and consequently profit from revenue. There is a solid conection between international sporting success and public funding for sport as per many studies, indicating the key issue regarding volunteerism is the difficulty of skilling, attracting and keeping quality volunteers without more funds. This report considers that the numbers of volunteers are high in comparison to total population, but not properly managed by sporting organizations, even could increase with the right incentives. This report may recommend to asses some specific sports pathways in Australia that are effectively ensuing the attraction of high numbers of volunteers and replicate the same strategies and pathway. A more organized administration will lead to a higher participation of volunteers. At the moment, many sports organizations might be affected by volunteers’ roles in decline because of the lack of training which will provide suitable skills to work administering sporting organizations. Logically, if this issue it is not attended, the consistent fast pace modernisation of business practices will be an obstacle, and consequently unsupported volunteers will quit sporting organisations. This report would recommend organizations working collaboratively to create a program to share administrative support and information, which may help to educate/train in faster timeframes.

Aside of the time-consuming role of many volunteers, they also incur in out of pocket expenses. The introduction of tax incentives for volunteers should be in the Government agenda, with the intention of increase the number of volunteers in sport. Understanding that the success of the sport organisations in Australia also depends on the volunteers, should allocate more attention from the governance. Quoting Shlibury 2017, ‘’… many sports in Australia and other countries reliant on a community club-based system are evolving throught former volunteer-only-delivery models in which both volunteers and professionals must work with each other to develop a sport to its full potential’’

03 July 2023
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