Definition of a Golf Volunteer

A volunteer is defined as anyone who helps others in the sport without remuneration (Other than expenses).

This could be anybody from an EGU/EWGA Board member, club president, ball spotter in the Open Championship, Junior Organizer, Artisans, County Union officials, marshals The list is Endless

Back to Questions
Should we pay our volunteers expenses?

Volunteers are already donating time to their organisations. It would be wrong to expect them to end up out of pocket - effectively donating money - as well.

Payment of expenses is important from an equal opportunities point of view. People on benefits or low incomes should not be excluded because they cannot afford the cost of travel or meals out.

Not paying expenses will make it harder to recruit, as the more barriers you place in the way of volunteers the less likely they are to want to volunteer for you.

Back to Questions
Who volunteers more, older people or younger people?

The 1997 National Survey of Volunteering showed that the peak age for volunteering is 45-54, with 57% of respondents in that age group involved. The lowest levels of involvement were found amongst the 75+ age group (35%), the 18-24 age group (43%) and those aged 55-64 (40%).

In the 2001 Home Office Citizenship Survey the age categories are different, but formal volunteering activity peaks between the ages of 35–49.

Back to Questions
We seem to be losing volunteers faster than we recruit them. Where are we going wrong?

One obvious way to find out why volunteers are leaving is to ask them - exit interviews or questionnaires might reveal issues that need addressing.

Do people know what they’re letting themselves in for when they volunteer for you? Does the information enquirers receive give them a clear picture of what will be expected of them when they volunteer? Do they receive task descriptions? It may be worth having trial periods for new volunteers, to give them a taste of their roles.

Another area that might be lacking could be the level of supervision volunteers receive. It’s very important that they have adequate feedback and support. On top of this, if they do have concerns it's better if they have a chance to express them, rather than having to bottle them up until it’s too late and they've decided to leave.

When people decide to volunteer they will have certain motivations to do so. They want to feel useful, learn new skills, get out of the house and meet people - the list is endless. If these needs are not met by volunteering with you they'll move on to another organisation or into a different activity altogether. Therefore it makes sense to find out what these motivations are, and how well they are being fulfilled. Remember too that motivations change. You might start to volunteer to improve your CV, but stay because you enjoy the company of the people you work alongside.

Most of us like to feel that we're part of something. If volunteers feel marginalised they are less likely to want to stay with you. Make sure that volunteers are involved in the internal life of the organisation - consulted on decisions that affect them, invited to participate in relevant meetings, and included in any social plans.

Lastly there are specific measures to reward or recognise volunteers - certificates, parties, volunteer events. More important than the big gestures though are the everyday things you do to let volunteers know they are valued. A simple thank you goes a long way.

Back to Questions
We’re using the same grievance and disciplinary policy for both paid staff and volunteers. Should we be doing this?

It is generally better to have separate procedures for volunteers. Working with volunteers is different from working with paid staff, and some policies and procedures should recognise this. The management structures for paid staff may be different, for example. You may wish to make the procedures for volunteers simpler and clearer. Procedures written for paid staff tend to be written in language better suited for complex legal documents. Volunteers should be aware at all times exactly where they stand; the grievance or disciplinary procedure they are referring to should not be unnecessarily complicated or difficult to understand.

Another reason for having separate procedures is the issue of the legal status of volunteers. While employment tribunals will be looking mainly for evidence of payments and obligation on the part of the volunteer, one part of lessening risk is to create a clear distinction within the organisation between paid staff and volunteers. Having different procedures does not mean giving volunteers a lesser status, it simply recognises that they have different needs to those of paid staff.

Back to Questions
How do I interview a potential volunteer?

Any interview with a volunteer is a two way process, an opportunity for both parties to find out more. In most instances it will differ from interviews for paid posts in that you will not be selecting from a number of people to fill one vacancy. This needs to be clear to potential volunteers. If it is clearly a selection process and not all volunteers will be taken on by the organisation, people should be made aware of this at the outset.

The interview can be structured and organised without being unnecessarily formal. The beginning of the interview can be used to remind people of the purpose of the meeting, check that you have people’s personal details correctly recorded. The interview will then be dual purpose you will need to tell the potential volunteer about your organisation and answer any of their questions so that they can decide if they are interested in you. You will also need to ask the volunteer about themselves and what they have to offer so you can decide if you are interested in taking them on.

You may want to tell them about:

  • The organisation and the role of volunteers 
  • The user group
  • Training and support offered
  • Your expectations of volunteers (including a brief outline of policies that impact on volunteers)
  • Time commitment (frequency and duration)
  • Resources available to volunteers

You may want them to tell you:

  • What they like about the idea of volunteering with this particular agency or doing this type of work
  • What they hope to gain from volunteering
  • Relevant skills, interests and experience
  • Understanding of relevant issues or user groups
  • Time availability
  • Resources they will need
  • Names of potential referees

If recording information from the interview it is important that you record only factual information and not opinion and that you assure the interviewee that what they say will remain confidential.

At the end of the discussion both you and the volunteer together should be in a position to agree whether you want to proceed further. If you are not certain that the volunteer has the skills or experience to carry out the role you will need to explain this, making it clear that your assessment is based on the requirements of the role description and person specification (do think carefully about whether the roledescription can be adapted if the volunteer has some of the necessary attributes). Occasionally you may feel that you want to talk to a colleague or trustee, or feel that it may be useful for the volunteer to meet an established volunteer before proceeding. A 'trial period' may also be useful for both parties. This is perfectly reasonable but it is important to be open with potential volunteers about what you are suggesting and why.At the end of the interview you should be in a position to:

  • Check whether the volunteer has any further questions or information to give you
  • Check that they have the necessary information to take away
  • Agree what will happen next and when you expect to be in touch again
Back to Questions
Which types of insurance policy cover volunteers?

All volunteer-involving organisations should have an insurance policy that covers volunteers. There are several different types of policy so it is often confusing to work out which is the most appropriate. Basically volunteers should be covered either under employer’s liability insurance or public liability insurance and depending on the type of work involved the organisation may need professional indemnity insurance as well. Polices should explicitly mention volunteers because they may not automatically be covered. Insurance companies should also be aware of the types of work that volunteers are doing because if the tasks are high risk then the insurance policies may have to be changed to accommodate these risks. As well as liability cover organisations may also wish to take out personal accident insurance for their volunteers. This would cover volunteers harmed whilst volunteering, even if there is no negligence on the part of the organisation.

  • Employer's Liability Insurance

Covers paid employees in the event of accident, disease or injury caused or made worse as a result of work or of employer's negligence. This insurance does not automatically cover volunteers. There is no obligation to extend the policy to cover volunteers but it is good practice. The policy must explicitly mention volunteers if they are to be covered by it.

  • Public Liability Insurance

Should always explicitly mention volunteers. Also known as third party insurance it protects the organisation for claims by members of the public for death, illness, loss, injury, or accident caused by the negligence of the organisation. Public liability insurance generally covers anybody other than employees who come into contact with the organisation. This should include volunteers covering them against loss or injury caused by negligence of the organisation if they are not covered under the employer's liability insurance. It also protects for loss or damage to property caused through the negligence of someone acting with the authority of the organisation including the actions of volunteers.

When organising public liability cover it should clearly cover loss or injury caused by volunteers. In some cases a volunteer could be sued as an individual for damage cause to a third party so the organisations public liability insurance should indemnify them.

  • Professional Liability

Professional liability, professional indemnity errors and omissions or malpractice insurance covers the organisation for claims arising for loss or injury caused by services provided negligently or without reasonable care. Such loss might arise, for example, from incorrect care or inaccurate advice. An organisation can be sued for claims arising from incorrect advice or information even if it is give free or via a telephone helpline. Professional liability insurance should also cover defamation, inadvertent breach of copyright, confidentiality and loss of documents.

Back to Questions
How does the Data Protection Act affect volunteering?

In law any organisation that collects personal data about individuals is known as a data controller and will have to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. The Act covers information held on a computer or in paper files about a living individual who could potentially be identified from the data. Anything that you do with data is known as 'processing'. There are eight data protection principles that anyone processing data should follow. Data must be:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed only for specified particular purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purposes for which it is kept
  • Accurate and kept up to date
  • Not kept longer than necessary for the purpose
  • Processed in accordance to the subject's rights
  • Kept with appropriate security measures
  • Not transferred to countries outside the EEC (data published on the internet is automatically regarded as an overseas transfer)

Data processing should only take place if:

· The person who the information is about has given permission, knows who is using the information, what for and who it is likely to be passed on to. It is assumed that by agreeing to fill out application forms etc. people have given implicit permission because it is obvious what the information will be used for. However when collecting sensitive data (criminal records, health, equal opportunities information etc.) explicit permission must be sought Or:

  • It is necessary for the completion of a contract with the data subject Or:
  • It is necessary to protect the interest of the individual or carry out public functions Or:
  • There is a legal obligation to process the information

For most organisations the main points that they will need to remember are: to make sure that everyone that you hold information about knows that you do and has given permission for it to be stored and used. To make sure that records are not held for longer than necessary and are stored and disposed of securely and to make sure that records are held in such a way that individuals who wish to see what information you hold about them can.

It is a good idea to have a Data Protection Policy. This will be particularly useful for organisations who are going to register with the Criminal Records Bureau as the CRB wants to know how very confidential Disclosure material will be stored and dealt with before it agrees to send it out.

Useful links from this page:

Data Protection Act 1998

Information Commissioner (office responsible for overseeing the Act)

Back to Questions
Are volunteers covered by health and safety legislation?

In general volunteers are not referred to by health and safety legislation that applies to employees. However, Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, imposes a duty on every employer "to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment, who may be affected by their undertaking, are not exposed to risks to their health or safety" and "to give to persons (not being their employees) who may be affected in a prescribed manner information as might affect their health or safety."

Organisations have a duty of care to avoid carelessly causing injury to their volunteers. They may be found liable following an accident if a court decides they failed to take reasonable care. This means organisations should make adequate risk assessments. Once hazards are identified they should take appropriate steps to lower the risk. This could be through training, the provision of safety equipment, changes to work practices and so on

Back to Questions
Where can I find more volunteers?

Recruiting volunteers is a perennial problem for any volunteer manager. There are no magic solutions, but you can make life a little easier for yourself by trying to decide what sort of people you are targeting, and what methods are likely to reach them.

Volunteer Centres act like employment agencies for voluntary work in their local area. Once you register with them, they will refer on individuals interested in volunteering for you. You can find the Volunteer Centre closest to you by using our volunteer centre finder

Posters and leaflets are a traditional method of recruitment. They work best when care is taken with the messages they contain, and the locations they are placed in. Look at what your volunteering opportunity has to offer people, whether it’s fun, the chance to learn new skills or the opportunity to meet new people, and make sure this comes across in your material. Put posters up where you know they’ll be read, and where you think people likely to volunteer for you will be – youth clubs, GP and Dental surgeries, places of worship, job centres and so on.

Local newspapers are usually crying out for stories, so a story on your 100 th volunteer or 5 th anniversary could be an opportunity to raise awareness. The paper may be happy to simply run a feature on the work that your volunteers do. National papers can also help; the Guardian’s ‘Society’ jobs section often runs ads from organisations wanting to recruit volunteers, if they have space (but they do charge for it).

Another method is to give a talk at a sports or social club. It helps to have something visual and interesting to capture people’s attention, as does having a volunteer describe their experience. This method of recruitment is particularly useful if you need a group of people for a short term volunteering opportunity, as your audience is likely to include several groups of friends who may see the voluntary work as something fun to do together. People are also much more likely to volunteer if they're approached directly, so mingling with people after your talk can give you the opportunity to ask them if they’re interested and to answer any questions they might have.

Word of mouth is one of the strongest reasons people give for volunteering. If people hear from a friend or neighbour that volunteering with you is rewarding they pay more attention than when they read a poster. Of course, this means that volunteers have to find their time with you interesting and enjoyable, making this another reason why good practice is so important. One drawback to word of mouth is that it may reinforce a lack of diversity, as people tend to have friends whose age, background and outlook is similar to their own.

There is also a volunteer recruitment website called 'Do-it', which you can post vacancies on through your local Volunteer Centre (or directly, if you’re a national organisation or a branch of one):

Back to Questions
How can we retire older volunteers?

The first question to ask is whether or not this is really necessary. If some tasks are too physically demanding, then can the role be changed to avoid them?

Certainly there should be no arbitrary age limits on volunteering, and organisations that impose a 'retirement age' on their volunteers are behaving in an unfair and discriminatory way. Although the forthcoming legislation on age discrimination in the workplace won't apply to volunteers, it’s time for volunteer-involving organisations to think hard about whether their age-related policies are necessary.

It also helps to take a wider look at the outcome of the volunteering. Someone who makes clients feel welcome with a friendly face may be as invaluable as a volunteer who is extremely efficient at paperwork, for example. Flexibility is the key: talk to the volunteer about their work, and try to draw up a role description with tasks that are more suited to their changing capabilities. Where there is really no alternative to asking a volunteer to leave, this has to handled with a great deal of sensitivity. Like all volunteers, older people volunteer for a wide range of reasons. These may include the wish to feel useful, for companionship, to utilise skills that may not have any other outlet, or to regain confidence. Be ready with suggestions on where they may be able to achieve their aims elsewhere – perhaps other organisations might offer suitable voluntary opportunities. If possible, continue to include them in the social life of the organisation. It is also important to show gratitude for the work the volunteer has done.

Back to Questions
Is there a minimum age for volunteers? What does the law say about children volunteering?

As is often the case with volunteering, the law has little to say on this matter. There is no general legal restriction on volunteering by children in not-for-profit organisations. However some local authorities have by-laws restricting the number of hours children can work. Some people might argue that that organisations ought to fall into line with the Children and Young Person's Act, which applies to profit-making organisations only. It limits children aged 14 and over to a maximum of two hours work on Sunday or a school day. These hours must be between 7am and 7pm and must not be in school hours.

It is sensible to bear this basic guidance in mind whilst looking on the volunteering opportunity in the light of the other demands in the child’s life. For example they will need enough time for homework and a social life. Discuss this issue with the volunteer and between you work out a reasonable level of commitment.

As with all applicants, young people should be judged on their merits. Minimum and maximum age limits for volunteers are extremely arbitrary and the fact that someone is someone is willing and able to do the work is more important than a date on a birth certificate.

You should also check that your insurance policies cover volunteers as young as 14 - some have a minimum age of 16 or 18.

Back to Questions
Volunteering and the law

Volunteers and the law

  • Are our volunteers covered by employment law?
  • What are our health and safety obligations towards our volunteers?
  • should we be doing criminal record checks on our volunteers?

A readable guide to legal issues for volunteer managers. This publication is the first of its kind dedicated to volunteering. Valuable for large and small organisations alike, Volunteers and the Law covers all the main areas of concern:

  • Expenses
  • Benefits
  • Criminal record checks
  • Health and safety
  • Data protection
  • Avoiding creating employment contracts

You can get a free down loadable publication from the volunteering England Website

Back to Questions
Is it always right to involve volunteers?

Sometimes organisations, particularly charities, feel that because they operate within the voluntary sector they should involve volunteers but this is not always appropriate. There are many good reasons to involve volunteers, i.e. to extend the service offered, to involve the local community, to add value to services; but there are also bad reasons i.e. to replace paid staff, because it looks good, because you feel you should. Before you involve volunteers in your organisation you need to sit down and work out why. Look at your reasons and try to draft them into a statement that explains to your staff, user group and potential volunteers why volunteers need to be involved in the organisation. If you cannot come up with a reasonable argument then the chances are it isn’t appropriate to involve volunteers. If you involve volunteers when it is not appropriate then you will find that they are not fulfilled and do not stick around very long, at worst you may find that they feel exploited, that staff feel they are an extra burden and that your user group feels short changed.

Secondly you need to decide whether it is practical to involve volunteers in your organisation. Lots of organisations decide to take on a volunteer to 'help out' without planning what their role will be or how they will be managed. What will they be doing, who will supervise them, how will they be trained, where will they sit, is there money to reimburse their expenses? If you can't answer all of these questions then your organisation probably isn't ready to involve volunteers. It is good to be flexible and adapt to the skills and experience of people offering time but you do need some idea of areas of work that are appropriate for and can be completed by volunteers and of the boundaries and limitations of volunteer involvement in your organisation. If you take on volunteers without proper planning and preparation then you are setting yourself up to fail. The volunteer will have a poor experience and may not offer time again and you will feel very disheartened. Your local Volunteer Bureau should be able to advise you about setting up a volunteer programme and Volunteering England can provide you with advice, information and publications that you may find helpful.

Back to Questions
Who volunteers more, women or men?

It's about equal. An identical percentage of women and men, 48%, volunteer each year and an identical 29% make a regular monthly commitment. But men volunteer for longer, an average of 4.7 hours per week compared with 3.4 hours for women. These are figures taken from the 1997 National Survey of Volunteering and reveal a trend towards male volunteering compared with 1991 when the last national survey was undertaken. However, when you look at more informal volunteering, that is activities not organised through organisations or groups, such as visiting elderly people, women volunteer more and more often they are carers for relatives.

The 2001 Home Office Citizenship Survey found that men and women were equally likely to be involved in both informal and formal volunteering.Back to Questions
What are the most popular areas of voluntary activity?

The 1997 National Survey of Volunteering shows that the most common type of voluntary task was raising or handling money (66% of current volunteers), followed by organising or helping to run an event or activity (55%), serving on a committee (36%) and providing transport (26%). The most common areas of involvement for volunteers were sport and exercise (26% of current volunteers), followed by children’s education and schools (23%), religion (23%) and health and social welfare (19%). Most volunteering had a local focus: 65% of those active in the voluntary sector were involved in an independent local group, compared with only 38% with a branch of a national organisation.

In the 2001 Home Office Citizenship Survey, the top four areas of involvement for formal volunteering were: sports/exercise (34%); children's education/schools (30%); hobbies/recreation/arts/social clubs (25%) and religion (23%). The top activities were: raising or handling money (56%); organising or helping to run an activity or event (54%); giving other practical help (direct services) (35%) and leading a group or being a member of a committee (34%).

Back to Questions
How can I persuade my colleagues that our organisation would benefit from taking on volunteers? They say they are too busy.

Being too busy can be a genuine reason for not working with volunteers, but it can also be a polite way of hiding the real reasons. It could be that staff fear that volunteers could be used as substitutes for staff or that they might find it difficult to 'control' volunteers. It can be useful to organise a meeting to discuss the issues and bring these fears out in the open. Techniques such as staff talking in pairs and then feeding back to a larger group can encourage more openness.

Once you have found out what the barriers are, you can start to deal with them. A well thought out and well-written and well-understood policy can help to dispel fears. This can cover issues such as: reliability and standards of work, induction, training, support and supervision and procedures for moving volunteers to more appropriate work or requiring them to leave if necessary.

It is also important to acknowledge the skilled and complex role of paid staff who manage volunteers. This could be part of their job description. With the exception of the very smallest organisation, every organisation will probably need one person who is the main volunteer co-ordinator. On a practical note, it is important to look at space and equipment. Volunteers will need adequate physical space to work in, and access to telephones and computers. It can cause real friction to introduce volunteers to already cramped accommodation.

Back to Questions
How can the EGU/EWGA support me as a Volunteer?

From the executive staff at head office, your local golf Development Officer and your county union and associations, there are a variety of people who are close at hand to help support golf clubs and volunteers.

Your First point of contact should be your regional development officer.

Back to Questions
How do I become a golf volunteer? How do I find out more about volunteering within golf?

There are a wide variety of opportunities for people of all ages who want to get involved in golf. No matter what your background, whether or not you play the game, whether you understand the game or not, you could be a golf volunteer. Opportunities are numerous and cater for all ages and abilities.

Remember, don’t wait to be asked to Volunteer

Back to Questions
I want to volunteer, but I work full time. How much time must I commit as a volunteer?

Your time is valuable, and how much of it you spend as a volunteer is up to you. We appreciate all the time that volunteers contribute. Some volunteer opportunities require a one off commitment. Others require a longer commitment.

Back to Questions