Baku, December 5, AZERTAC
A volunteer is a person that spends his time, work and expertise in pursuit of a particular purpose without expecting any material benefit. Volunteers play a major role in organizing mega-sport events. Scientific studies conducted in this area indicate that it is impossible to successfully organize mega-sport events without the help of the volunteers. It is a fact that any big competition, such as Summer Olympics, needs up to 50,000 volunteers to host the event. For instance, over 70,000 volunteers attended at the London 2012 Summer Olympics. We saw a huge number of volunteers participating in similar events held in our country. More than 15,000 volunteers involved in the 1st European Games in 2015, and 8,000 volunteers contributed to the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Baku in 2017. We have been hosting Formula 1 Grand Prix since 2016, and each year 3,000 volunteers contribute to the race.
The involvement of volunteers in sports helps the event organizers in two ways. Firstly, volunteers don’t expect any financial compensation for the work done, thus the involvement of a big number of volunteers will significantly reduce the operational costs of the event. Secondly, volunteers contribute to the success of the event by sharing their knowledge, abilities and expertise with event organizers. The main concern of organizers who want to host the event successfully by utilizing the benefits that the volunteers offer is to attract the high-skilled volunteers as much as possible. In order to achieve this goal, the event organizers should explore the very motivations of the volunteers who want to be a part of the event, and develop an appropriate volunteer program which meets the expectations of those potential volunteers.
Key issues in volunteering
It is very important to properly evaluate the current situation when developing a volunteer program. Before examining the situation in details, you should know what needs to be considered. The academics of this field recommend 3 points to review prior to the development of volunteer program: motivations which encourage volunteers to participate in the event, satisfaction that the volunteers derive from the event, and their intention and desire to volunteer again in the future events. These points are interrelated and they follow each other in a sequence. The first ring of the chain is about the volunteers’ interest of participating in the event.
Although volunteering is a non-financial activity, the volunteers have different motivations. The researchers of sport management classifies volunteers’ motivations for participating in the event in 7 categories: expression of values, patriotism, interpersonal contacts, personal growth, career orientation, extrinsic rewards and love of sport. These motivations vary due to the type and scale of the event itself, age, sex, education status and worldview of volunteers, etc. The first step in the successful organization of the event is to be aware of the exact motivations of volunteer, and create a proper volunteer program in line with the motivations.
It is very important for volunteer programs to consider the satisfaction and expectations of volunteers participating in it. The outcome of first involvement in the volunteer program will definitely determine the one’s willingness of future commitments. In other words, the volunteer will continue to attend the events if his expectations are met. If the opposite occurs, he will not be willing to volunteer again because volunteers' expectations for the event are not fully realized. In this regard, the organizers should especially work on ensuring that the program fully meets the needs and demands of the volunteers, and which in turn will encourage them to volunteer in future events.
The necessary step in establishing a productive volunteer program is to have a good understanding of both parties. First and foremost, the organizers of volunteer program should be able to properly investigate and identify motivations of potential volunteers, to develop the appropriate program, and to present the benefits of this program to those willing to volunteer. On the other hand, those who want to be a volunteer, in turn, must determine the reason for their participation in the event and then find a proper program that fully meets their expectations. Otherwise, the program will be unsuccessful and ineffective for both parties. In the end, it will not be possible to make volunteering a part of life and make it sustainable by transforming it into one’s second nature.
As an individual, a person must be able to dedicate his life to volunteering at different times and occasions by giving back some of his earnings to the community where he belongs in order to contribute to the overall development of that community. There is not any age limit for being a volunteer in any sport event. Any person at any age can attend and contribute to the success of event. For example, young people can add color to the volunteer program through their dynamic and exciting nature, while adults can share their professional experience with the event organizers and volunteer program attendants as well. Here the key point is to bring people of all age groups together as part of a volunteer program to achieve maximum productivity and diversity.
Multidimensional exchange platform
Anyone who participate in a volunteer program should at least derive some benefits for himself. The majority of young people in Azerbaijan view this activity as the first step in their career building process. But most of the adults in our country are not interested in volunteering. The average age of volunteers in our country is around 20. This number is over 35 in other countries. In fact, the volunteer program offers different opportunities for adults. Here adults can share their experiences with young people, get to know them through their lifestyle and worldview, try to cooperate with them, live nostalgia and so on. Considering all these benefits, we can say that the volunteer program is now evolving from a simple structure to a multidimensional exchange platform that provides the perfect environment for the social interactions among the volunteers from different age groups.
We have hosted many mega-sport events in our country over the past decade, and because of these events volunteering has become a tradition among young generation. Now it is vital to promote this activity among different age groups and turn it into a multidimensional exchange platform in order to further impressive development of volunteering. The current trend on the world is in this direction and it offers us an exceptional opportunity to be the pioneer of this process.
PhD student of Sport Management program at Troy University in USA
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