Friday, 9 November 2012

What about a parkrun Volunteering Amnesty?

Why don't we have a parkrun Volunteering Amnesty, where anyone who has not volunteered at parkrun before is invited to come forward and try it out? Let's show the reluctant volunteers just how easy and rewarding it is.

An amnesty can be used to take away any uneasiness or embarrassment at not having volunteered previously. An amnesty may bring reluctant volunteers out of the woodwork.

Perhaps we should have a weekend dedicated to first time parkrun volunteers! Maybe, on that same weekend, we could get the most regular volunteers to volunteer again and shadow the newbies to help give them confidence. I'd happily do that. Or maybe, if first time volunteers don't come forward, parkrun events get cancelled that weekend. Perhaps then some of the most adamant non-volunteers may see what their approach risks them (and all of us) losing. I wonder how many first time volunteers we would get if the alternative was no parkrun that weekend?

Personally, I had no idea that such a small percentage of parkrunners actually volunteer at parkrun. Would you believe that the figure is somewhere in the region of 11.4% (very roughly speaking of course!)?

I would guess that there are a hell of a lot of runners who only run once at parkrun ever, or perhaps so few times a year, that they believe, and I agree, that we should not really expect them to volunteer. But once you get over some figure around 10 runs a year, then I think it is fair to expect those people to volunteer, maybe just once a year. And I suppose that a formula of one volunteering stint for every 10 runs is probably about fair. If everyone took that approach, we would never be short of volunteers.

I think I am saying, that thinking you can ever get up towards 100% is not fair on the vary occasional runners. Perhaps we would be fairer to quote these figures in terms of the number of people who run more than 10 (or some other magic figure) times a year.
The parkrun guideline has always been that if you volunteer 3 times a year you are doing your bit. But clearly the overwhelming majority are not volunteering at all, let alone thrice (I never thought I'd type the word thrice. And now I've done it twice!).

The custodians of parkrun have always said that volunteering is optional and that all help and guidance would be given to anyone who offers to volunteer. The tasks are not difficult and this help means that anyone who has volunteered knows just how easy the tasks are.

I have only volunteered twice this parkrun season, but luckily I am volunteering twice in the next three. So I can (just about) hold my head up high. Though not as high as some of the dedicated core of volunteers who are truly the backbone of each parkrun event. Without them, we really would not have our weekly parkrun.

I think most parkrunners agree that running is more fun than volunteering at parkrun. But once you have volunteered you realise just how good it feels to have enabled so many others to enjoy their weekly parkrun fix. Volunteering really is a very close second best to running at parkrun. You probably won't believe me if you haven't tried it.

So parkrun HQ, what about a parkrun Volunteering Amnesty sometime soon? I for one would be more than happy to shadow someone who has never volunteered before if that is what it takes. Teams of two on every task would aleviate any anxiety and make it a nice social event too.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm sure it would help for some sort of amnesty, especially where parkrun events are really struggling. But an amnesty is probably the wrong word - it sounds like something bad, banned or just not right?

    There are great ways to find volunteers and your local service providers can help.

    At Sheringham parkrun we had a volunteer referral through the NHS Health Trainer Scheme. One of the Health Trainers was providing advice to a member of the public at a Doctors Surgery. This person was looking for health advice, and also for a new social activity to be a part of (Health Trainers can advise on physical improvements, but often mental wellbeing comes into it). Voila! We now have a great new member of our volunteer team who has signed up for every week in the foreseeable future!

    Parish & Town Councils (they could ask for volunteers at their meetings)

    District Councils
    They have a mandate for health & wellbeing and may also be leisure providers and so will share your enthusiasm for parkrun.
    They can provide support, community links and PR - do they have a regular newsletter to all households? Can you get an ad in it?. I've just done one which goes out to 100,000 residents.

    NHS Health Trainers
    If you ask them they could refer their clients to parkrun for running or volunteering (i.e.

    Your local Voluntary Organisation has links with people seeking voluntary responsibilities right now! (i.e

    No doubt there are lots of other resources out there if you have the time and energy...


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