If you’ve ever managed a swim team, you know how hard it is to get parents to volunteer. This may be your single biggest challenge as your swim team’s manager. There’s a reason it’s a challenge, and here are the top 3 reasons:
Who wants to “work” after a long day or long week?
Swim meets are either after work hours or on weekends – just the exact same time parents need a little time to unwind and catch a breath. Working the meet does not top the priority list!
Parents are afraid that they will “mess something up.”
It may seem easy to seasoned swim veterans, but many parents are terrified of doing something wrong or looking foolish among the more experienced swim moms and dads.
Parents don’t want to miss something.
Whether it’s missing their child’s swim or missing out on social time and a little relaxation after a day’s work, parents don’t want to miss out on the real reason for being at the meet.
So, how can we solve this and make organizing volunteers a breeze?
Let’s not forget the basic blocking and tackling that lots of teams already use to manage their volunteers:
- Volunteer Coordinator. Your team should definitely have a dedicated volunteer coordinator (or two!) whose only job is to organize the volunteering process from end to end. This is the single biggest job on the entire team and the most likely to cause headaches EVERY WEEK!
- Volunteer Deposits or Opt Out Fee. While I’m not really on the “punishment” bandwagon, this is a fairly consistent requirement that I see from many teams. Parents write a $200 check only to be cashed if the volunteer requirement is not met. I prefer the parent to decide up front that they are not going to volunteer and pay the $200 (if you get too many opt-outs, raise the fee!).
- Volunteer Management Software. Volunteer Management Software, often integrated into your swim team website software, can help by making it easier to request, track and remind volunteers. It makes is easier for organizers and parents to manage their duties.
And here’s some other ideas to overcome some of the barriers we mentioned at the top of this post:
- Mock Meet Volunteer Practice. Mock meets and time trials are as much for the parent volunteers as they are for the swimmers. The team wants to make sure that everyone is ready to perform on meet day so that the kids can get their swims in, the meet is run efficiently and the times are properly recorded. Make as many people as possible practice one or more volunteer activities during this meet.
- Make volunteering rewarding. No trophy necessary. Give parents what they really want!
- Preferred seating for the half they are NOT working.
- Special parking spots.
- Allow parent to pick 1 or more events for their kids.
- Best Seat in the House. Remind parents that volunteering is the best way to get involved in the meet and often the best seat in the house. You will never get closer to the action than being a timer, for instance. And there is no better way to meet new people than timing for a few hours.
- More Volunteer Jobs, Not Less. If you give more people the opportunity to do something to help, then two things happen: parents expect “work” as part of the meet experience and less work\stress for each volunteer.
In the end, it’s all about the kids having fun and parents getting to fully enjoy and participate in the experience. Don’t talk about volunteering as a burden. It’s an OPPORTUNITY to be “in the game” with your swimmer
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