Time (created, and saved) and People (your existing team, bringing on new people) are, arguably, two of the most important resources to any organisation seeking to serve the children of that organisation's community.
The challenge? How to find that time, and create a culture that attracts people willing to 'step up' and selflessly serve their community - giving children and the community a great experience along the way.
This week I met with the committee of a football club that works in a disadvantaged area of north Dublin. I was privileged to be invited to meet the club committee after their monthly managers’ meeting. It was 9pm in the evening, and yet despite the late hour, the club committee welcomed me warmly, with offers of tea, and a plate of biscuits generously pushed in my direction.
As I looked around the table, I saw people who are the very lynchpin of their community – whether or not their community truly appreciates it. The committee were gracious enough to give over an hour of their time to me, and this after a managers’ meeting of over an hour prior to that.
What I saw was an incredibly dedicated band of individuals united by two shared passions: sport, and community.
I’d met a club who despite all the financial hardships of the recent years, had a welcoming well-light car park, astro-turf facility with players still playing on it at 10pm, and a clubhouse that clearly served many community purposes.
As we chatted about the challenges of running a community-focused voluntary-run sports club, two themes seemed to emerge, which I feel are worth exploring further.
As the club Chairman said to me:
'Anything that can save us time as a committee, is something we're keen to hear about"
Inner city Dublin football club
- "Time marches on"
- "There's never enough time!"
- We simply don't have time to look at that this season".
- "If only we had the time, we could really improve our coaching structures".
- Bullet Point 2
Running a voluntary sports club – or charitable foundation – means a huge number of jobs need doing, with invariably a limited pool of people willing to ‘step up to the plate’ and help out.
And yet – regardless of the number of volunteer – the number of jobs don’t vary.
How do you create an environment in which people are willing to put their hands up to help, to take on a task in which there’s no inherent selfish gain, but, quite the opposite, is selfless to its core in that it purely benefits others?
- Why would someone be willing to organise registration of children playing sport?
- Why would someone be willing to help count cash, cheques and online payments to ensure monies received tally against expected income?
- Why would a person volunteer to chair an organisation, when invariably they receive little thanks, much flak, and are generally fire-fighting issues on a weekly basis?
Well, the reasons are as varied as the cross-section of society that does, in fact, put their hands up.
But what unites most of these people is a desire to see things done properly; a dissatisfaction at seeing a job not executed well; and a willingness to step into the breach and help out.
But do people do this for their own gratification? Unlikely!
In a club especially focused on providing sport to children, that’s what drives volunteers: a desire for the children to have an awesome, fun, enjoyable time playing sport (or other fun activity!).
And, more often than not, it’s not so much a generalized desire to see children ‘in general’ have fun (though it can be!), rather it’s driven – at least in the first instance, in a voluntary context – at one’s own children at having an awesome time.
And that’s important: understanding why it is that people, under the already sometimes crushing responsibilities and demands of paying mortgages with incomes that require two people working, or making daily long commutes, or just simply trying their best to bring up a family in twenty-first century Ireland – why such people would choose, voluntarily, to give more of their own most precious time to a community based organisation?
Because at its core, time is created by people giving generously of their own time, creating and freeing up more time in others, thereby enabling others to better use their time in activities that will benefit the children even more than they’re currently doing.
We’ll return to these two themes again in future essays. But, for the meantime (no pun really intended), ask yourself this: in your own organisation, where could you do with creating more time? And what people do you need to help achieve that end?
This essay is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.
Specific legal advice from a firm of solicitors should always be sought on the application of the law in any particular situation.
Whilst reasonable endeavours have been made to ensure the accuracy of the content, no liability whatsoever is accepted for any omissions or errors or for any action taken in reliance of the information in this essay.