Many riding centres and equestrian groups or clubs rely on dedicated volunteers in order to function. It's hard to know where to start when you're looking for volunteers, but there's lots of information available to support you to get it right. Don’t forget that you'll need to think about how you will recruit volunteers, then what you'll do to retain them.
Here are some FAQs to get you started...
Although there's no legal definition of exactly what a volunteer is, the term 'volunteering' is generally taken to describe where a person freely gives their time to an activity without the expectation of getting paid. Volunteering is a positive activity for both the volunteer and the people or organisation that they help and support. Because there's no contract between the organisation and the volunteer, either party may terminate the arrangement at any time.
Sport England, Sport Scotland and Sport Wales provide lots of advice and resources to help you to recruit and retain volunteers for your centre or club, among other support materials. Do It is an online platform that allows organisations, clubs and groups to promote volunteering opportunities and match with volunteers with similar interests. It also has advice and tips for recruiting and retaining volunteers.
While the government regards volunteering as an inclusive activity that's open to all, it should be acknowledged that there are some legal and safety restrictions that can create barriers to the participation of certain groups. For more information, please visit the National Council for Volunteering Organistions (NCVO) website.
Although voluntary work is, by definition, unpaid, that doesn't mean that volunteers should end up out of pocket for having given their time. The reimbursement of reasonable and genuine expenses accrued by volunteers as part of their voluntary work is, in fact, an equal opportunities issue because the cost of travel or a meal eaten out can be very significant to an individual on a low income or benefits, and could ultimately prevent them from volunteering. Remember, volunteers are making a gift of their time, which can be regarded as having a substantial monetary value – they shouldn't be expected to give up money as well. What constitutes as reasonable expenses should be agreed in advance, however, and paying flat rate expenses should always be avoided.
A volunteer policy is a written document that meets the specific individual needs of each organisation. It demonstrates an organisation's commitment to good practice and ensures consistency in volunteer management. It should be a 'living' document that's...
Although the exact format will differ depending on your centre or club, most policies should include such things as...
Written agreements have many benefits – they clearly state the organisation's commitment to its volunteers, its standards of good practice and what it expects its volunteers to do, for example to agree to follow the rules and procedures of the organisation, meet time commitments and give reasonable notice if this is not possible. They can also act as a point of reference for volunteers. However, in order to avoid any danger of accidentally creating a contract, any form of contractual language or obligation should be avoided.
If you're looking for volunteers between the ages of 13 and 25, the Young Equestrian Leaders Award (YELA) provides tiered awards for young volunteers in equestrian sport.
This award scheme, run by the Pony Club, is designed to support young volunteers in becoming equestrian leaders of the future by recognising the time and effort they give to the sport. We're therefore seeking centres and events to support this by providing volunteering opportunities.
There are three levels to the YELA programme – Bronze, Silver and Gold. Bronze requires 20 hours of volunteering and introduces skills in responsibility, organisation and communication, while Silver develops these further. The Gold Award requires 60 hours of volunteering, encouraging leadership, and the planning and delivery of a specific project.
Volunteers' Week is an annual campaign that celebrates the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the UK. It's a fantastic opportunity to showcase the hard work of the volunteers who contribute to your centre or club, or to recruit new ones.