Volunteers are the lifeblood of movement, physical activity, and sport in Greater Manchester.
Whether it's raising vital funds for a club or group, taking tea orders and washing kit, through to being a walk leader or supporting children with disabilities to be active, the contribution of people who volunteer their time supporting others to move more cannot be overstated.
Not everyone who gives time supporting others to move more might define themselves as volunteering in sport and physical activity; volunteers are individuals with their own aspirations, skills, and motivations, but all are equally as valid, valued, and significant in achieving our shared ambition of active lives for all, and with the collective ability to empower and transform communities.
We know that the benefits of positive and inclusive volunteering opportunities can be life-changing, whether through improved mental wellbeing, personal development or building community networks and trust.
In turn, this creates a positive impact on those supported into activity, helping communities to build connections and enabling people to move more.
We also know that whilst sport and physical activity volunteering in Greater Manchester has increased in the most recent Active Lives survey, there are significant barriers to volunteering for some individuals and groups, which have only been exacerbated by factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis.
A more diverse and representative voluntary workforce can support and encourage people from under-represented groups to engage in activity.
By improving the diversity of volunteers, more people from under-represented groups can benefit both from volunteering, and from having inclusive opportunities to be active.
In the face of these challenges, we have a collective opportunity to transform volunteering for the future, making volunteering in movement, physical activity and sport simpler to navigate and promoting an experience which is more meaningful, accessible, and reflective of Greater Manchester’s communities.
The Vision for Volunteering sets out an ambitious future for how we can let go of the volunteering practices that no longer serve us and tackle some of volunteering’s enduring inequalities.
This aligns to our vision for transforming the future of movement, physical activity, and sport-based volunteering in Greater Manchester, and there is a clear synergy between the Vision for Volunteering, Sport England’s Uniting the Movement strategy, and GM Moving in Action.
At GM Moving, our role is to create the culture and conditions that enable more, and a greater diversity of, people to volunteer in ways that support and encourage others to move more; leading, supporting and connecting across Greater Manchester in the sphere of movement, physical activity and sport-based volunteering.
To fulfil this ambition, of a more co-ordinated approach to volunteering across Greater Manchester is needed.
To develop this shared approach, we need to better understand the landscape of movement, physical activity and sport-based volunteering across the city region, and what is needed to make this more easy, meaningful and supported.
We have been working closely with colleagues from 10GM, Manchester Metropolitan University and Bolton Council to conduct research which will help us to create a collective understanding of how to develop a systemic approach to volunteering in movement, physical activity and sport across Greater Manchester.
We have also been working alongside a VCSE Volunteering Advisory Group, who have been helping ground the research in knowledge of what the picture looks like on the ground, across different sectors, communities, and places.
We’ve compiled a list of resources to support volunteers, organisations, clubs and groups. There is no one size fits all to meeting the needs of local people, so whether its champions training, community engagement or connecting with local networks, if you are looking for guidance on volunteering, or connecting with your local infrastructure organisation, you will find information to help you below.
Jen is a carer for her husband and felt guilty about being away from him and taking time for herself. However, she’s learned that as a carer she has to take time for herself to help her be the best support to her husband that she can be. Through volunteering with the On Your Bike programme, she’s found something that she loves to do and an extra support network for herself, that she didn’t even realise she needed.
Lindsey wanted to improve the health and wellbeing of her local community in Burnage, Manchester, by setting up a parkrun, but was worried about how much time she could commit to it. With work commitments and family responsibilities filling her plate, she was unsure how realistic taking on more would be for her. Despite her uncertainty, Lindsey decided that it’s important to make time for things that you value, after all, we're all busy! Read her story.
For Kiera, who has multiple learning disabilities, sport was the first place she was able to make friends after being bullied at school, and it was seeing her coaches helping others that inspired her to start her own journey. Volunteering and coaching people of all ages, as her mother Jacqui says, has been the making of her. People with learning disabilities are often told that they can’t do things, but can’t certainly isn’t in Kiera’s vocabulary.
Having a disability had meant Katrina had been verbally abused a lot of her life, causing her self confidence to be rock bottom, and meaning she only spoke to those in her close family. Whilst Breakthrough were supporting Katrina in finding employment, she started volunteering with the UK Cheerleading Association, which helped her to grow in confidence, gain lifelong friends, and find employment, doing a job which she loves. Read her story here.
5 December 2023 marks International Volunteer Day (IVD), an annual international observance which provides an opportunity for organisations and individuals to champion and celebrate the contribution of volunteerism, advocate for government support for volunteer efforts, and spotlight the contributions made by volunteers worldwide.
As Volunteers Week 2023 draws to a close, our People & Leadership Lead Holly Grimes reflects on 6 months in post, leading our work around volunteering, including the launch of our Volunteering research and the inaugural meeting of the new GM Moving Volunteering Community of Practice.
To celebrate Volunteers Week, GreaterSport speak two members of our VCSE Volunteering Advisory Group to reflect on their research.