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Guide to managing volunteers

Succession Planning


Do you ever wonder why it is always the same people who offer to help out around the club? Why is it always the same faces at meetings? What would happen if these people left your club tomorrow?

Succession planning can help your club to continue to thrive by preparing a smooth transition from one volunteer to the next in all key roles.

Benefits

Potential benefits of succession planning are that it:

  • Prepares the club for future volunteer needs
  • Preserves the knowledge that exists within the club
  • Encourages the club to identify potential leaders and future volunteers
  • Allows time to provide formal or informal training to potential volunteers
  • Allows for a smooth handover from one volunteer to the next
  • Increases the availability of experienced volunteers who can fill in or take on roles if a position becomes vacant
  • Allows planning for future training needs of all volunteers
  • Enables your club to share the load among volunteers and avoid volunteer burnout
  • Creates a more appealing environment for volunteers

Barriers

Your club may face some barriers, so it is important to identify them and work out a way of removing them.

Here’s a few examples of common barriers:

  • The club succession plan involves too much administration and creates too much work for volunteers.
  • Club managers get stuck on traditional views about who can hold key leadership positions in the club and don’t consider alternatives (for example, young people or retired/older people or people from outside the club).
  • Not all committee members are committed to the idea of succession planning and don’t understand the benefits, which leads to a meaningless approach.
  • Recruitment and appointment of volunteers to key positions is not transparent (i.e. clearly outlined/documented and communicated to club members) and can become political.
  • Personalities, egos or individual needs get in the way of decision making.
  • The club has poor record keeping, resulting in a succession plan that is not clear or well documented and that volunteers aren’t aware of.
  • Volunteer promotions are based on longevity instead of competency, skill or talent. Often volunteers who have been in the club a long time take on key positions without having the skills or knowledge to carry out the role successfully because other committee members feel they ‘have earned it’.
  • Club members and/or the committee are fearful of change.
  • People are underestimated or left out because they do not ‘fit’ the club culture.
  • The club fails to provide adequate training and development for volunteers.
  • The club has a limited volunteer base.
  • The club has limited access to resources to invest in the succession planning process.
  • The committee or board feel the need to succession plan is not immediate, leading to lots of talk and little action.
  • The club fails to continually review and improve the succession plan.
  • The club adopts a rigid and inflexible approach that is not tailored to specific needs of the club and individuals within it.

Tips for succession planning

  • Embrace a positive approach to change, consider using change management techniques - see Attracting volunteers – Building a positive club culture
  • Club culture – ensure your club has the right culture that makes people want to be a part of it – see Attracting volunteers – Building a positive club culture
  • Develop a succession plan and discuss during at least 2 executive committee meetings per year.
  • Create Role Descriptions – these make it easier to recruit new people and ensures that you know what tasks the departing volunteers were responsible for. Click here to see our Role Description templates.Look widely for potential volunteers, consider a range of people - see Attracting Volunteers – Diversity of volunteers.
  • Create positions for young people on the club committee, or establish a separate committee of youth only, who feed ideas to the main committee through a representative. Eg. Player Leadership Group. This also helps young people to gain committee experience – see our section on Recruiting volunteers.
  • Determine who the key volunteers in the club currently are, the key positions and when the positions will / may become vacant.
  • Create ‘shadowing’ roles – build up your pool of skilled people by recruiting people into assistant, apprentice or show roles.
  • Ensure at least one other person in the club has a good working knowledge of each role in case they need to step in.
  • Provide training for volunteers where appropriate.
  • Commit to good record keeping (position folders, policies, procedures, database of volunteers, etc).
  • Enlist the help of people to identify and suggest potential successors.

Handover

Have a transparent, brief and consistent procedure for when a volunteer departs their role. This will assist the club enormously with forward planning, ensure a smooth transition from one volunteer to the next and ensure the volunteer does not just disappear and take all their valuable knowledge with them.

This could involve using a Volunteer Exit Checklist and/or a Volunteer Handover Report to help ensure you cover everything. Also see our section on Replacing volunteers.