Dons Trust Board member Jane Lonsdale reflects on the importance of letting our volunteers know how much we appreciate the work they put in.
I recently took a phone call from Blackpool Supporters’ Trust seeking our advice. They were putting out a plea for volunteers to help get their club back on its feet as soon as the receiver had officially taken control. They wanted to learn from our experiences of working with and recruiting volunteers.
It was a reminder to me that, whilst we sometimes focus on the challenges, we are seen by others as a good example.
One key thing I suggested to them was about being as inclusive as possible: it doesn’t matter whether you are 8 or 80, there is always something you can do to help. Another was to remember to show your appreciation to the volunteers.
Our club and Trust have many volunteers. A couple of years ago, Erik Samuelson looked into the financial value that our volunteers bring to the club, and calculated that they were saving us £270,000 a year. Obviously, such a saving allows us to spend more to ensure that our club continues to grow and progress.
However, it isn’t just about the financial value. Volunteers are motivated for different reasons. For me personally, when I first volunteered it was about offering some skills that I had to help our younger fans and Trust members have a great experience.
Volunteering is a two-way thing: the club and the Trust need some skills, experience and work done, but they can offer something in return, perhaps by broadening skills and providing training in certain areas. When I was recruiting for the Junior Dons working group, I wanted to be as inclusive as possible and encourage younger volunteers, and I found that, for young people, volunteering could be used to support a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Saying thank you is essential. Whilst being thanked isn’t a motivation for all, it is important that we acknowledge the contribution our volunteers make. We don’t often get the chance to offer something in return, but recently we’ve had a couple of opportunities to.
We ran a draw for two Trust working-group volunteers to represent the club on BBC’s The One Show for the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup, and we held a ballot for up to five Trust working-group volunteers to enjoy matchday hospitality at the Stadium of Light (which included a three-course meal and match tickets) on our recent trip to play Sunderland.
There is also the annual Volunteers’ Away Day, on which all club and Trust volunteers are offered a meal, coach travel and a ticket to an away game. This year, it’s at next week’s fixture against Oxford United. I’ll be going, along with my family (who also volunteer at the Junior Dons Christmas party and on the clean-up weekends).
I’d personally like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the working groups I oversee, who are all doing fantastic work. Most recently, the JD volunteers have sent out newsletters to our 500-plus Junior Dons so they can cast their Player of the Season votes, and the Diversity and Inclusion Group have helped to organise the communications campaign to raise awareness of the club’s updated anti-discrimination and abuse policy.
Thank you to all our volunteers – we simply wouldn’t be who we are without you.
(This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Accrington Stanley, played on April 6, 2019.)