Recognise. Reconnect. Reimagine.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week from 17th – 23rd May, it’s time to think about how your sporting club might look at your volunteering roles differently and reimagine a new way of doing things. We know that clubs are generally struggling to re-engage many of their volunteers and we need to try and understand who and why they aren’t returning and what will support them to come back.

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers. From Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd May 2021, NVW will celebrate the significant contribution of Australia’s almost six million volunteers. Each year these volunteers dedicate over 600 million hours to help others.

The theme for NVW 2021 is Recognise. Reconnect. Reimagine. 

An estimated 3.1 million Australians volunteer in the sport and active recreation sector each year, but recent Sport Australia data shows that up until August 2020, over two million volunteers in sport had not resumed to their usual volunteering levels. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted sport in Australia and volunteering is now more important than ever.

There has been a significant focus on encouraging participants back to sport; but what about the volunteers? Without volunteers sport will not survive so we need to find ways of supporting our essential volunteers to return in ways that work better for them.

What can your club do Recognise, Reconnect & Reimagine volunteering?

Recognise, Reconnect, Reimagine

During COVID-19, two-thirds of volunteers stopped working and as community sport has returned not all of our volunteers have done the same. In the current changing environment, where people are time-poor and experiencing higher degrees of uncertainty and stress, we need to reimagine how we do things. We need to adapt the way in which we expect our volunteers to be involved and try new things. Clubs need to recognise and acknowledge the efforts of those volunteers that are keeping sport running. 

We need to understand the barriers for our volunteers and what is preventing their involvement to the same levels as before. Importantly, we also need to acknowledge their motivators. What are they looking for from their volunteering experience now and therefore how can we offer opportunities to match that?


  • Time – people don’t necessarily have the same amount of time available as they did pre-COVID or are not prepared to commit as much time to a volunteering role, or have other competing priorities
  • Communication – poor communication or guidance, understanding what roles involve or feeling a lack of required skills
  • Increased expectation of people to contribute – feeling overloaded
  • Feeling worried or anxious – the impact of COVID-19 has varied for everyone and the feeling of being safe and having proper COVID practices in place are


  • Flexible opportunities and short-term or one-off tasks
  • Social Connection – the opportunity to strengthen relationships, be a part of and contribute to community
  • Communication – clear communication of role and expectations and promotion of the volunteering opportunities that are available
  • Good/positive club culture
  • Opportunity for skill development and training


  • Emphasize the enjoyment and help people to ease back in gradually
  • Mental and physical health matters – show the benefits and social connection gained from volunteering, celebrate and acknowledge the small contributions
  • Provide flexible volunteering opportunities
  • Make volunteering as easy as possible
  • Highlighting your COVID-19 practices and procedures to reassure safety


Supporting & bringing back volunteers

What have we learned over the last 12 months? What can we do differently to bring volunteers back in meaningful ways? If we understand people’s motivators and barriers to volunteering in the first instance, then we can begin to structure our opportunities to meet or overcome these.