How it Works / Manchester Sports Development

Manchester Sports Development is a department within the Manchester Council who aim to promote and grow the number of Manchester residents who take part in sport whether its events or in the community.

The following interview was taken with Craig Abel who is the sports Development officer and describes the origin and implementation of VolunteerKinetic.

How did you manage volunteers before you used TeamKinetic?

There was no structure in place for dealing with volunteers, for this reason there was few requests from either volunteers or people who needed volunteers.

If a volunteer phoned up we would put them in touch with the relevant sports specific officer who tried to find them a volunteer opportunity.

There was a lot of phone calls and scraps of paper being passed around to try and find volunteers a suitable opportunity, if someone phoned asking for 10 volunteers we basically wouldn't be able to do it.

On top of this the department was running a number of courses where coaches were getting qualified but had no way to gain experience.

What was your solution?

We were aware that something had to change and we needed help but were not sure how to approach the issues we had.

We were in talks with TeamKinetic about a separate project, and asked them if they would be interested in developing a volunteer management system. This was the birth of VolunteerKinetic which grew over the next 6 years into the cutting edge system we use today.

As volunteers have been an integral part of the development process, it has evolved reflecting the volunteer experience and needs. This has made it different to other volunteer systems on the market and has certainly been an important part of its huge success across Greater Manchester.

When we first rolled it out all the opportunities were created by internal staff, but as the system developed we encouraged external organisations to register and offer their own opportunities, this had the advantage of increasing our opportunity numbers whilst reducing our workload, leaving us more time to spend on promoting the service.

I remember our first external provider was Manchester City FC who needed volunteers to help with match day preparations and welcoming fans, in exchange volunteers could get a free ticket to the match. This was a massive success, so we thought who else can we go to? And it evolved from there.

I realise that we are lucky in Manchester to have lots of high profile events to drive the volunteer numbers, but I know that volunteer kinetic has been rolled out in other types and sizes of organisations with similar success so its obviously not just down the capture area.

How has using TeamKinetic benefited you and volunteers in the Manchester area?

We were originally scrapping together handfuls of volunteers compared with over 5000 that we have today, so the difference is massive. If you average out the hours logged by volunteers then it works out over 9 hours per volunteer which has a huge impact on the ground.

We are now dealing with large organisations like Manchester FC and British Cycling with complicated requirements but the system is still performing excellently and we have been able to provide well motivated volunteers for some huge events in Manchester whilst still pushing and supporting community volunteering.

The other big difference is communication which we originally only did by phone. We can now send an email or SMS text message to thousands at the touch of a button, we never thought we would be able to do something like that. This combined with the automatic communications that the system sends out and the links to volunteers social media sites means we often get volunteers joining the system after they have seen their friends Facebook or Twitter posts, this all helps drive up volunteer numbers.

What advice do you have for similar organisations who need to manage their volunteers more effectively?

I would just tell them what I have done, it was very successful for us. I honestly would not do anything differently, it has evolved at the right speed with the right people, and we have got some great volunteers.

In terms of where to start I always say start with the easy wins like university fresher fairs or large events, then take it from there.

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