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The role of volunteers in sport and development

Copyrights: Geir owe Fredheim

The role of volunteers in sport and development

How to ensure a win-win situation in a host/volunteer relationship.

Sport in Norway receives a yearly voluntary effort equivalent to 30,000 fulltime employees.  Research shows that leadership skills and motivation increases within an individual through volunteering. The organisation delivers more programmes, and the volunteer develops personal skills. This data paints a picture of the win-win situation that is often portrayed in sport for development projects.

But people who are involved with SDP know that it is not that easy. The concept of “do no harm” applies for both parties and is sometimes hard to obey. What if the quality of the programme isn’t good enough? What if the volunteer does not get follow-up? Do organisations only bring in volunteers to please the donors, or are the volunteers only there to build their own resume?

Working with sport volunteers, I have seen scenarios where the volunteer programme itself seems to be the objective. If you are just volunteering or hosting because it looks good, you are at risk of doing harm. I think you manage to reduce that risk if you have good objectives for the exchange.  

If the mandate of the volunteer is set through few and specific objectives, it can be crosschecked and followed up throughout the volunteer period. The organisation should also have objectives on what they give to the volunteer, so the volunteer can assure the quality of the programme. I think volunteerism can strengthen organisational development and personal development if the volunteer wants to learn and if the benefits to the organisation are defined in advance. The clearer these objectives are, the easier it is to recruit the right person for the right job.

The impact, when the objectives are fulfilled, is a reciprocal exchange where the win-win situation is real, and the principle of do no harm is implemented. As long as the objectives are in place, it is not that important if the volunteer is actually on a self-realising ego trip or the organisation has a private agenda to keep pleasing the donors. The objective caters to the accountability needed to deliver good programmes, both for the volunteer and the organisation.

Now, I just need a course on how to write good objectives, because that is really hard.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]


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Lind Gustafsdottir


Monday, December 5, 2016 - 15:06