In days long past, businesses needed many more people than they currently do for menial, un-skilled tasks such as typing, filing, dropping newsletters and other advertising material etc. Volunteer organisations were the same, if one were to add in baking for the annual fundraising event, door-knocking for donations, running the canteen at local events and so on.

One influence that technology has had on business is that it allows the same number of people to do more work more efficiently. More often, however, it has lead to a smaller number of people still doing more work and the now-redundant people's being made, well, redundant.

For volunteer-run organisations, however, the effect has been slightly different. These organisations tend to run at close to failure the entire time. Remove two or three key people (or in some cases just one person) from the organisation and it collapses.

Technological improvements that have allowed businesses to reduce staffing costs have done the same for the members of volunteer-run organisations, in that the organisation can run the same as it always has, but with fewer people doing the work.

In my humble opinion, this is a Bad Thing. People already have enough of a "me first" complex. In the past, this was balanced by those same people's being required to assist by volunteering their time if they wanted their organisation to succeed and prosper or, in some cases, merely survive. Now, however, people can afford to sit back and demand results whilst simultaneously contributing nothing to the organisation that supports them.

I'm not writing this from a position of ignorance. I've been involved in many volunteer organisations (Interact, Rotaract, various sporting organisations etc.) for a long time, now. My first stint as a member of a volunteer-run organisation's executive committee was at 19 years old, and I've been teaching, coaching, tutoring and/or administering since I was 14 or so. That's getting to be a frighteningly long time, now.

My observation of the trends over this time is that people will take, occasionally thank, and then take some more. Almost never will people offer that which is most valuable: their time. When they do, they do it when they can see that an existing volunteer is busy, harassed and at the end of their tether. Believe me, that is not a good time to be pestering someone and asking if you can help. The best way you can help is get out of the road and then come and offer help at a later stage. Don't be looking to help when people are around to see it; offer help when nobody is around to see it. Perhaps then people will take you seriously. Remember, it takes time to train volunteers and, as we've already established, that's a scarce commodity.

Let me articulate the problem very clearly:

There are insufficient volunteers with the time, willingness and aptitude to run our volunteer organisations.

I'm talking about volunteer-run organisations in general at the moment, but I propose a solution that's specific to sporting organisations. It's not the only solution, and for as long as there are suckers people willing to contribute their time it probably won't be necessary, but here it is:


If people want a service, let them pay for it. If people actually value a service that a volunteer-run organisation provides, then let them sodding well value it at what it's worth - i.e. whatever it costs to provide.

This won't work for charities or organisations that provide essential support to those who can't afford it, but it *will *work for sporting organisations.

Your organisation might fold. Ask yourself, then, if it was really worth running if people weren't prepared to pay for it. Sure, free ice-cream is nice, too, but are you willing to purchase ice-cream out of your own pocket and give it away to people? People will be more than happy to accept your goodwill (and your ice-cream) but they don't need it. I'm sure they'll even smile at you and say thank-you. So what? That'd just be dumb, right?

A sporting organisation is the same. Sure, people will be happy to accept your gift of time and expertise (and, in many cases, your personal expenditure on their behalf for which you just never bother to get reimbursed), but they don't need it. If they want it enough, let them pay for it. Let them pay membership fees enough to pay an administrator. Let them have a user-pays approach to any events the organisation runs. Outsource professional tasks (finance, information systems, advertising etc.) to professional third-parties and pay them what it costs. If it costs more than you have then charge the users of your service for it.

This is just my $0.02, so round down if you want. Bear in mind, though, that your demanding members still want a dollar for nothing, so if you round it down then the entire amount needs to come out of your own pocket.