Volunteers, what would we do without them!

I am always amazed at the time and commitment contributed by the average Canadian curling club volunteer. While I am not much of a fan of the statement “we’re different”, I am going to use it here anyway because our curling club volunteers really are different!
Curling Rocks and Rings
Think for a minute about hockey / soccer volunteers. They coach, they train, they organize leagues, they run tournaments, they organize road trips, they collect money, they deal with the parent body; all of the same things Canadians do at the curling club. But do the hockey / soccer volunteers have to scrape the ice or cut the grass? Do they have to put the lines in for soccer, our put up the nets. Do they have to pay for the Zamboni? Do they have to pay utilities or property taxes or insurance or federal/provincial employee contributions?  Probably not and that is the reason why we are different. Our volunteers are volunteer property managers to boot! So our volunteers are busier than most. Time is a valuable commodity. Add those two statements together and you it equals “difficulty in getting and keeping volunteers in the sport of curling”. So, if it is that tough (and I know almost every facility in the country will agree to that), what can we do to improve recruitment and retention? Here are some ideas…….
  1. Take the time to identify what volunteers you need and what will they have to do. This is critical because you do not want your Board members to wear volunteer toolbets while doing everything necessary so that the club survives. Honestly, this is a great way to burn out board members so much so, we’re noticing many don’t even come back to curl after their terms are over! Ouch!
  2. Posting sign-up sheets on the wall is okay if you want a crew to clean up the backyard of the club, however, it’s not a great way to recruit volunteers for important jobs. Often, you get someone you don’t want and how the heck do you tell them you’re not going to use them.My theory here is to work with someone in your club who know most of the membership (i.e. manager, ice tech, secretary). Pretend you are prepping for the NHL summer draft and put together a list of people (top draft picks!) you think would be ideal for specific jobs. Once the list is in place, go and ask them!! I bet 9 times out of 10 they will say yes, especially if you have a good description of the work required, how much time the job might take and what the expected result might be…..and a final tip: don’t lie!!!Often I get asked by bigger clubs how they do this when they have a pile of members and they don’t know everyone. Simple. The very successful larger clubs ask the question on their membership application forms. Who do you work for, what do you do, what are your hobbies and would you volunteer? They ensure the collection of this information is 100% optional and they will not use it for any commercial purpose and it will be protected on a secure server.  Get to know your draft picks!
  3. Finally, you must, you must, you must thank your volunteers. We can’t afford to pay them so our only form of recognition is thanking them and it can be so simple. The one I like the best is to buy small thank you cards (with a curling theme would be nice) and have the President or Manager write a short note by hand: “Hi Jane! We really appreciated all your help organizing the mixed invitational. It was a terrific event for our club and you have our gratitude for a job well done!  Sincerely, Bob the President.”  Powerful stuff.
17 Ways to give Recognition to our Volunteers or how to say thank you!!
Francois Vary, 2003 Volunteer of the year

Francois Vary, 2003 Volunteer of the year

Listed below are 17 possibilities gathered from here and there. The duplication at 1 and 16 is for emphasis. The blank at 17 is for the beginning of your own list. It is important to remember that recognition is not so much something you do as it is something you are as a club.
  1. Smile
  2. Send a card with a personal thank you!
  3. Plan annual volunteer recognition
  4. Invite to board meeting (but don’t scare or bore them!)
  5. Post a Volunteer Honour Roll
  6. Greet by name
  7. Provide good training
  8. Take time to explain fully
  9. Celebrate outstanding contributions
  10. Nominate for volunteer awards in the community etc.
  11. Carefully match volunteer with job
  12. Praise them to their friends
  13. Send impromptu fun cards
  14. Promote a “Volunteer-of-the-Month” program
  15. Plan a “Recognition Edition” of the club’s newsletter
  16. Smile
  17. Start your own list…………………………..