Community sports clubs around Australia are struggling. A lack of volunteers is the number one issue facing grassroots sport across the country. However, this often stems from a range of other compounding pressures.
At the core, most clubs are still doing things the way they were in the 90s. Minimal planning, traditional fundraisers, outdated operational committee structure, all contributing to too much done by too few. With a few changes, your club can get back on track.
Here are CLUBMAP’s five ways to instantly improve your community sports club:
1. Have a strategic plan in place, your roadmap for the future
Every community sports club needs to have an eye to the future. Due to the typical nature of community sport, most volunteers get so caught up in the week-to-week that they rarely get the opportunity to look forward.
A strategic plan is essential for all community sporting organisations. It should outline any long-term goals and focus areas. Your plan should also be aligned with a clear purpose or mission, a concise vision for the future and core values which guide the behaviours.
The next step is to get your community on board with your roadmap, make it visible and refer back to it, there’s no use in a plan that gets ignored. Think big. New facilities? Upgraded playing surfaces? These game-changing improvements to your club take years of planning and coordination, so often they get ignored and forgotten. Imagine where you want your club to be in 5-10 years, then take the time to plan how to get there.
2. Start sharing the workload
We all know it takes a lot to run a successful community sports club – we also know that the majority of the work is often done by 2-3 people. Volunteers are facing burnout like never before. Great people putting up their hand to help out, but due to the weight of all the issues they face day-to-day, they struggle to see a bright future. This can be due to not knowing where to recruit volunteers, or an unwillingness to ask for help. Too few doing too much inevitably leads to burnout, committee turnover; and a vicious cycle begins.
From our experience engaging with with over 12,000 volunteer community administrators over the last 3 years, volunteer numbers continue to be the largest issue holding clubs back. The Australian Sports Commission recently released their Sport Volunteer Coalition Action Plan, sighting that “In 2021 there were an estimated 75,000 fewer Australians 15+ putting their hand up to be officials and 73,000 fewer offering to do ad hoc tasks”.
To tackle this, we always start with the right committee structure for your community sports club. Often clubs just aren’t set up to encourage more help and struggle to make the most of the resources you have by assigning roles and delegating responsibilities. Introduce a committee structure that encourages volunteers to help out with a supportive, collaborative environment where chipping-in is encouraged and rewarded.
3. Fundraise by working smarter, not harder
Fundraising is a fundamental aspect of any community organisation, but clubs are too often spending hundreds of hours to raise a thousand dollars. Ineffective and inefficient fundraising leads to community clubs giving up, and just putting the increased operating costs onto the members via registration fees. We call this reginitis. Moving your fundraising online is a great way to save time and effort while increasing revenue. Tools like the Australian Sports Foundation’s online fundraising platform allow you to collect donations to raise funds for specific projects online, while providing a tax deduction to donors.
Many clubs still aren’t aware of the Australian Sports Foundation, or the significant opportunity that donations have in the sporting sector. There was more than $78m in donations made to sport in the 21/22 financial year and every club has the opportunity to secure their piece of the philanthropic pie.
Raising funds for the entire club cannot be left to one person, however. Often the president or treasurer gets stuck managing five or more income streams for the club, all while tackling their own demanding roles – which results in none of them being fully realised. Allocate different people to different fundraisers or revenue streams, that way the work load becomes manageable, and each form of revenue gets the attention it needs. It all starts with structure.
4. Create a professional online presence
Your website and social media platforms are the likely first place any potential member, participant, volunteer or sponsor will see your club – so you should be making the best first impression you can.
Your club’s website should look great, while highlighting your club’s history and achievements, and providing essential information such as contact information, fixtures, and announcements. You could also steer traffic through your website with regular news articles and generate some revenue by selling memberships and apparel.
Your social media platforms should be used to regularly share content and connect with your members, as well as promotion of club sponsors, programs, events and offerings. The communication should be consistent, engaging and encourage growth in your following with high quality photos and video highlights.
Remember that you only get one opportunity to leave a great first impression, and rightly or wrongly your online presence will be perceived to be a reflection of the organisation as a whole.
5. Have a budget in place
From webinar polls and club health check results since 2020, 65% of clubs indicated that they don’t have a budget in place. The budget is generally in the President or Treasurer’s head, which can be problematic if things start to go south or when succession and handover is in train. The full extent of the financial problems often isn’t realised until the AGM when the financials are released.
Setting realistic financial goals while tracking expenses and revenue streams simply isn’t done by the majority of community sporting organisations. This is largely due to the lack of education at a club level and can lead to well-intentioned volunteers finding themselves with mounting debt. It doesn’t matter if you’re turning over $20,000 or $250,000, every club should have a budget. Take the time to go over the last years finances and plan your upcoming year accordingly.