Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

What to do about lack of Volunteers at Grassroots Recreation Organizations?

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By: A. Ries

Erin Sharpe’s article, Resources at the Grassroots of Recreation (2006), explains that grassroots organizations have an enormous issue with getting the resources needed to provide recreation to the community. This is especially true when it comes to “manpower”. She explains that over 95% of work done at a grassroots organization is completed by volunteers and that over 75% of organizations don’t even have any paid staff. It is also mentioned that low funding can be a good thing for some organizations as it lets them operate how they want instead of how the funder wants (e.g. funder may want money to go towards a baseball league, but a basketball league is what the community wants). Furthermore, volunteer run organizations usually must rely on individuals with little or no managerial experience, unlike paid not-for-profit organizations.

From my personal experience in recreation, I can say that volunteers are a huge benefit to organizations, in particular to grassroots organizations since they are almost fully dependent on volunteers. Sharpe’s case study on the Appleton Minor Softball League saw that although the league was small and personable, with some players coming from out of town, the lack of funding, in turn because the league didn’t want to make money and only wanted to offer baseball for the players, had issues finding “secondary volunteers”, volunteers to fill extra roles. (snack standing, secondary coaching, site convener, newspaper, etc). Although not necessary to run the league, it would have helped the league run more effectively.

From this article I ask the question: “How can we entice parents, or others, to volunteer?”

What was surprising to me was that the class explained that some parents tend to be at every game, yet they do not volunteer to help out the league that their child, or children, participate in. When I was younger I competed in many competitions as a swimmer. Since my dad went to every meet with me, he decided to become an official as he would rather help run the competitions instead of sitting around for almost the entire competition waiting for my five to ten minutes of competing in an entire weekend.

Other articles, referenced below, have also raised the same issue. There are simply not enough individuals are volunteering to help run grassroots organizations. I believe that the recreation field needs to look more into how to convince citizens to volunteer more, or even to start volunteering.

References:

Sharpe, E. K. (2006). Resources at the Grassroots of Recreation: Organizational Capacity and Quality of Experience in a Community Sport Organization. Leisure Sciences, 28(4), 385-401. doi:10.1080/01490400600745894

Martha L., B., & Erin K., S. (2009). Looking Beyond Traditional Volunteer Management: A Case Study of an Alternative Approach to Volunteer Engagement in Parks and Recreation. Voluntas: International Journal Of Voluntary And Nonprofit Organizations, (2), 169.

Sharpe, E. (2003). “It’s not fun any more:” a case study of organizing a contemporary grassroots recreation association. Society & Leisure, 26(2), 431-452.

Author: UNB_KINRSS

UNB Faculty of Kinesiology: Bachelor of Recreation & Sports Studies, MBA in Sport & Recreation Management, and Master of Arts in Sport & Recreation Studies

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