The Art of Finding Volunteers
December 13th, 2018 — This week we catch up with Philippe Richer from our National Capital Division (NCD) to talk all things ‘volunteering’. Phillipe is the Volunteer Chair with the Camp Fortune Ski Club (CF). As a true team effort, combining the leadership of the Club Program Director Patrick Biggs and the support of the whole Board of Director functions, CF have successfully turned the tide of volunteering at this club from an ‘ask’ to a ‘mandatory requirement’.
Q: What is your official role with Camp Fortune?
A: I’m a proud parent to an NGSL racer and U12 racer. I have two volunteer jobs. I’m the NGSL Parent Chair which is busy as we can have up to 110 NGSL racers! I’m also on the CF Board of Directors as the Volunteer Chair. This, of course, is an even busier job since many parents have a lot to learn about ski racing and the important role of volunteering. Our sport is unlike many others where you can simply drop your kids off and go home. To run a race we need bodies and lots of them!
Q: Can you briefly describe the Volunteer Policy at Camp Fortune?
It’s an evolving program based on research at several Quebec clubs that includes ‘volunteer days’ and a credit system using a financial deposit. The time commitment is as follows:
- Nancy Greene (NG): Family time contribution of 3 days per registered athlete including a minimum of 1 day outside of NG events and up to 2 days of shadowing/training roles.
- U Categories: Family time contribution of 5 days per registered athlete including a minimum of 0.5 days of weekday functions.
- A maximum requirement of 10 days per family.
The refundable Financial Deposit is:
- NG: $150 refundable at the end of each season on compliance with the policy.
- U Categories: $250 refundable at the end of each season on compliance with the policy.
Q: Does the credit system work?
A: We found that 1/3 will do it no questions asked, the next 1/3 will help with lots of effort and the last 1/3 just won’t do it at all if we just use the financial risks for non-compliance. Money is not enough to make it happen was an important lesson learned.
Q: What happens if members don’t comply?
A: Last year and this season parents simply lose their deposit. Since we just launched the new policy on October 2018, we have a two-step process which we want to be progressive, impactful and educational at the same time.
Year 1 at CF Racing Program, non-compliance with the policy will result in no refund.
Year 2 will result in not allowing athletes to be registered in CFSC racing programs for the following season. This is routine at several Quebec clubs, in fact at Mont Ste. Anne parents are fined $175/day if they are not present during an event of which they have been assigned.
Q: Do members find this policy a bit extreme?
A: We’ve been very clear with our communications – and we communicate a lot! The club started last year by explaining to its members that the programs are at risk without volunteers. When a family becomes members of the Club, they sign on to our philosophy. Simply put, we are a family-contribution-driven, not-for-profit organization. We rely on the participation of families to run the races and events to ensure safe and successful experiences for all of its athletes. The last thing we want is to cancel an event due to lack of volunteers, the reason why this policy and the support of the whole Board of Director functions, especially all the parent chairs, race operations, and training is so important to be impactful and successful.
Q: Are you succeeding?
A: Yes but we are far from over! In our first year of launching our pilot project with the NG, we were able to reduce our “non-compliance” ( i.e. they didn’t volunteer) numbers by half! Now with the policy officially in place, we are targeting an almost 100% compliance within two years across all of our racing categories.
Q: What do you attribute this success to?
A: Many things are working together. First of all, we have an integrated approach to volunteering which starts with a comprehensive training strategy lead by Kerry Fagan. We ask that all new club members take their Level I Officials. Once this base is developed we use a ‘shadowing’ program so the new Officials are paired up with more experienced parents who can provide training. We also rotate the volunteers around a lot to encourage them to learn new roles – for example you cannot always be a starter, or at the bottom, we ask that the volunteers learn many different jobs. We also host training days where we practice what it’s like to be a Gate Judge or even build a Course with the netting. Also key are the parent chairs that support on all fronts, especially on advising each family on volunteering opportunities, and not just on their own category, across the whole club events, we are a family and all must support each other is our mantra!
Q: This sounds like a ton of ‘organizing’ on your part. What does this involve?
A: Well I send a lot of emails! Here are some tricks we’ve learned:
- Don’t collect the ‘financial’ deposit at the same time as registration, this confuses members. Make it a separate payment entirely. We learned that many families were pleased to buy out their volunteer obligation with money. The Club does not do this for more money rather they do it for more volunteers!
- Don’t send emails out from the “Club account”, use a person instead – a personal touch works.
- Make it bilingual if your members are, it is highly appreciated by the community as a whole and makes the club fully inclusive and diverse at the same time.
- Families are closely linked to their respective parent chairs; parents are invited to follow up with their respective Parent Chairs to discuss their potential contribution to the organization.
- Create a schedule for the entire season, not single events. Send out the schedule and then require the sign up by a certain date in order to qualify. At Mont Ste Anne they require the sign to be completed within a week and then they start assigning roles.
- Use Sign-Up Genius (https://www.signupgenius.com) and block off the key volunteer jobs so the new volunteers can fill in around these.
- Be sure to focus on mid-week days as these are the hardest to fill. It’s easier if parents know in November the entire winter so they can block a few days off work.
- Be realistic and comprehensive– some parents have valid excuses like an illness.
Q: What clubs in Quebec did you research?
A: Mont Sutton in the Eastern Townships, Mont Ste. Anne and Mont Tremblant. Sutton is interesting with a cap on their program in terms of athletes. This allows them to turn parents away who don’t volunteer. The Best-In-Class volunteer policy we found was from Mont Sainte-Anne (French only): http://clubdeskimsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Politique-de-B%C3%A9n%C3%A9volat-2017-1.pdf
Q: What are your goals for this season and beyond?
A: Currently the Club has more than 250 athletes and the vast majority of families have at least one member that has a Level1, close to 40 have a level II and we are exploring for some Level III. For the 2019-2020 season, we’re aiming to see 100% of families having a Level I, and then from here, using the Level II Shadowing program, we can hope we can have a strong volunteer base in the years to come.
It really is all about education. Three years ago I didn’t even know the difference between a Slalom race and a Giant Slalom race. I knew absolutely nothing about ski racing. I grew up as a competitive cyclist training and cross-country skier so this sport was all new to us. I have learned so much under the CF umbrella. Many parents are somewhat afraid of making a mistake which is why we have practice days, lots of shadowing opportunities and a great support network from all the functions of the Board of Director.
Simply put, our members know that if we don’t do this we won’t have a program, and all of the athletes and families are proud to contribute to the success of the organization!
Readers can find the Camp Fortune Volunteer Policy online here http://campfortuneskiclub.org/parent-lounge/volunteering/
AOA thanks Phillipe for his time. When not working at Camp Fortune with the kids and the volunteers Phillipe manages supply chain management research in aerospace and advanced manufacturing for industry consortia’s and lecture logistics on-demand at Universities such as IVEY and HEC Paris.