Recruiting volunteers

While most clubs recruit volunteers from their members, advertising online and in your local community is a great way to attract more volunteers

candid shot of a volunteers helping two sailors in a sailing dinghy

Whitefriars Sailability in the Cotswolds has more than 60 volunteers in total and recruits not only internally but also outside the club.

Around half its volunteers are competent helms but many are non-sailors with the time and skills to support onshore and behind the scenes. These volunteers would have been encouraged to get involved through the club’s successful promotion of volunteering opportunities. 

The group has around 20-30 volunteers for each of its sessions and as Principal David Durston explains: “They come back week after week because they find it rewarding and fun to be part of a club, learn new skills and help people to get on the water.”

Reaching out

Recruitment is an ongoing process as volunteers retire or family/work circumstances change and so the club uses a variety of avenues, including:

  • Adverts on websites dedicated to connecting would-be volunteers with volunteering opportunities 
  • Targeting local village/community newsletters and magazine
  • Using social media to reach out on Facebook to local community and volunteering groups
  • Seeking volunteers from nearby sailing clubs, who may want to support Sailability but not have a dedicated section of their own
  • Ensuring the Whitefriars Sailability website pages are attractive and up to date
  • Promoting Sailability as an opportunity for people to develop their own sailing and skills. For example, encouraging new sailors from training courses within the club at Whitefriars SC to gain more time on the water by volunteering, and supporting those who may want to become powerboat/safety boat drivers.

David says: “There’s an untapped pool of volunteers if you can promise an opportunity to get involved in different activities and be part of a really good community. There are definitely people out there who want to get involved.

“We always say ‘we’re grateful for any time you can give, help us to make someone’s day!’ Our messaging is all about encouraging people to join our fun team of volunteers to make it possible for people with disabilities to go sailing.”

Community spirit

Jean Neale is a trustee and fundraiser for Whitefriars Sailability. Jean was first inspired to get involved after seeing an advert on a volunteer recruitment website.

A retired HR professional and project manager, Jean moved from Somerset to the Cotswolds in 2016 to be closer to family and says: “I thought the best way to make friends and get familiar with a new area and feel part of it would be to see where I could volunteer. I looked on the volunteering websites to see what opportunities there were and spotted an advert about Whitefriars Sailability.

“I’d done some big boat sailing and had experience of volunteering with people with disabilities, so I thought ‘that sounds good for me!’ When I visited the lake it was such a lovely group of people - lively and friendly and welcoming – it was what I was looking for.

“It’s been an amazing experience. My sailing skills in small boats were not that great so I did a powerboat qualification and a lot of shore support – meeting and greeting and reception duties. Then they were looking for someone to help with fundraising and I found a niche. It was a job that needed doing and I am now a trustee, fundraiser and volunteer.”

Fun and friendships

Whitefriars Sailability runs two full days a week during the main season and Jean also does a lot from home behind the scenes. As Jean sums up: “It’s been mutually rewarding. You give so little but get so much back in terms of enjoyment, fun and friendships and learning new skills. For people like myself, who are retired, it’s also a fantastic way of giving structure and purpose to your time, and you’re part of a team and meet lots of people of different ages. You learn so much from young people and hopefully they learn a bit from you.

“You tend to think you will find all your helpers from a direct connection within your club or sailing but there are much wider opportunities to recruit volunteers. I would say keep an open mind and if someone does take the trouble to get in touch, make the most of them!”

Find new volunteers through The Big Help Out this May

Thousands of organisations are getting together to give everybody the chance to try volunteering and make a difference in their community. If you’re looking for volunteers, you can register your events and opportunities on The Big Help Out website

Find out more

For information about the implications of non-member volunteers read our insurance advice for clubs.

Or find out more about volunteering opportunities in boating and how to get involved with your local club.