Swim England

A nation swimming

Making the right personal connection is key to engaging volunteers

Swim England’s reigning Club of the Year has revealed its mantra for engaging volunteers.

Bristol Penguins Olympic Swimming Club received the accolade at the 2019 National Awards.

When chairperson Ben Mullen proudly received the prize, he said the club’s aim was to help ‘develop people to become better’.

And as part of National Volunteers Week 2020, Ben says the key to that is making the right personal connection with those willing to give up their spare time to help out.

He said: “We place importance on getting the culture right – we aim to be a friendly and approachable club.

“When someone shows an interest in getting involved, we make a personal connection with them, understand what they want, what they can offer and develop the relationship from there.

“We have many examples of supporting parents, student, young volunteers, and members of the public into volunteering through a mixture of poolside and organisational roles.

Sense of pride

“Next, we look to support people to gain experience, skills, and qualifications. This supports the swimmers and the club but has also helped some people gain employment and opportunities within aquatics and elsewhere.”

Bristol Penguins was formed in 1969 and is made up of ‘Juniors’ (Stage 7 upwards), age group swimmers, youth swimmers, masters and has a small number of swimmers with disabilities and additional needs.

The club is led by a committee which is entirely made up of volunteers and manages a mixture of paid and voluntary staff.

Since lockdown, Bristol Penguins’ committee has been active managing day-to-day business of a home exercise and wellbeing programme.

Ben added: “We are planning for a safe return to training for both swimmers and our workforce and working on the challenge to do this in a financially sustainable way.

“Winning the National Award instilled a real sense of pride in the club.

“It solidified the loyalty of many of our members, helped to retain swimmers and volunteers and attract new members.”

To find out how to start your aquatics volunteering journey, visit our volunteering pages to find out how you can get involved.