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How volunteers can support development

In August 2021, we showcased the work of Portico Vine ARLFC, a Rugby League club based in St Helen’s who created a positive volunteering culture and recognised the vital contributions their volunteers make.

Since then, the hard work, dedication and passion of these volunteers has led to significant developments at the club, both on and off the pitch. Our team caught up again with Mark Hobin, Chairman of Portico Vine ARLFC, to learn more about the club’s progress and how this has been achieved.

Development of a new clubhouse and community hub

A major development for the club, in May 2022, was the opening of a brand-new clubhouse facility.

The drive to create a space which could be used for more than just rugby and benefit their local community was at the fore of this project, undoubtedly the biggest they’d undertaken. 

From the outset, the important role the club could play in providing wider social benefits for the local community was recognised.

Providing a place where groups of local people could meet regardless of the event or activity, would enable the club to support the community who have in the past, and continue to support Portico Vine. 

Mark explained that the club started with a blank canvas when designing the facility and wanted to ensure it would include all the amenities that any potential users would need.

The volunteer workforce were instrumental in these developments, and were a powerful force in bringing people together through the process.

They were able to consult with their local community groups, businesses, emergency services and their National Governing Body to ensure that different stakeholders were informed and could help shape the provisions and facility design.   

This approach gave us a lot of direction, and a good understanding and confidence that our project would benefit the community.

It also helped the development of a shared understanding and vision for the facility which everyone had contributed to.

The club worked hard to identify a number of parents/carers of existing members who were passionate about helping others, or had skillsets suited to greater involvement with the club.

These individuals formed a subcommittee responsible for the management of the new facility to ensure that community engagement was, and continues to be, a priority. 

Both an increase in participant and volunteer numbers, and greater involvement from the community has been evident since the opening of the new clubhouse.

Existing and newly gained contacts have made it possible to tap into a wider community pool and ensure the facilities can be of use to many.

The new facility has already been used to host: 

  • Merseyside Police - basing their community outreach from the club’s new facility for community and social good. 
  • Cost of Living events - including stalls from social care, mental health services and other community organisations to assist the local community and offer advice on increased cost of living. Members of the local community were invited, and hot food and drinks were provided. 
  • A local brass-band group. 

The facilities are available to the community to hire at a low cost, and to maximise usage outside of club use time, with longer-term plans to allocate these generated funds to subsidise members fees and to have zero-costs for local children and young people to attend. 

Volunteering at Portico Vine ARLFC 

Portico Vine would not be the club they are today without the phenomenal support of the volunteers. 

The club prides themselves on the experience Portico Vine is able to provide to those who give up their time to support the club.

This attitude is made possible through a desire to live out the club’s 10 principles, outlined within their volunteer code.

The club aims to give all volunteers a voice and empower them to make decisions for their own benefit and the benefit of the club.

This culture ensures volunteers feel valued and important for the role they play within the club. 

Another club focus is keeping their volunteers informed.

As such, daily updates are provided through internal communication channels, so volunteers have up-to-date information on club developments outside of formal meetings.

However, Mark highlights the important balance between regular communication and not constantly asking too much of volunteers to avoid them becoming overwhelmed. 

Where possible, the club tries to offer volunteers something in return for their time and effort. This includes: 

  • Training to ensure volunteers feel comfortable in their role, ranging from guidance on how to stock the bar, to welfare and safeguarding training. 
  • Identifying a 'Volunteer Of The Month', who is awarded with a small gift. 
  • Providing uniform for their volunteers which gives a sense of pride and club community. 
  • Planning dedicated-recognition evenings annually to spotlight the incredible contributions of the volunteer workforce. 

Whilst the club currently have between 40-50 volunteers, they have developed a wider recruitment plan and advertise any volunteer roles through a portal supported by the RFL.

Regular communication, social media efforts and informal discussions with their people drive consistent volunteer-recruitment efforts internally. 

When advertising vacancies, Portico Vine takes time to understand an individual, their capacity to help and their skill set to assign smaller tasks that suit them, as opposed to assuming traditional and often time-consuming roles.

Mark noted that this flexible and task-based approach is paramount to the club’s success, and the desire of the community to give back in any way they can.