In this article series, member organizations of the 25-year-old Kansalaisareena (Citizen Forum) describe their operations and activities

Volunteering is dead; long live volunteering. Dead? No, certainly not, and as a living example is the entire Finnish, very vital organization field, whose spirit still springs from the extensive contribution of volunteers. However, volunteering is dead in the sense that the golden badges of merit from umbrella organizations have started gathering dust in cabinets, as sports club icons, “sausage-roaster-Make” and “buffet-Berit” have hung up their aprons and there is nobody to step in. The self-evident usage of one’s free time for years, even decades, doesn´t get a green light in this almost manic, fast-paced modern time. The home couch seductively winks at us after a day of working, pulling us towards the attractive blue light rather than going out in the rain and sleet to sell coffee and flattened brownies.

I participate in soccer. When I ask members of the club about their biggest challenges, the answer is almost always lack of resources. Naturally the reason is economical because nobody has money, but above all it is about human resources. Why so? In clubs, especially in soccer, there are currently more paid employees than ever before, but still there are no resources. Do we get greedy, or is the problem in allocating and managing the resources? I dare to argue that almost everyone, who is or has been working for a sports club, identifies the pattern of the job description of every paid employee imperceptibly expanding towards multiprofessional. The head coach realizes he’s also the club’s secretary and the executive manager develops into a world-embracing multitasker dude. In the club, this is considered to be justified, because it´s paid work. A byproduct of this is the belief that volunteers are no longer needed, because “we have that full-time employee”.

Does volunteering even have a chance to revive its former glory? Of course, at least close to it, and the situation is not as bad as it seems. Even today soccer clubs, for example, have tens of thousands of volunteer parents acting for the hobby of their children. They definitely do it altruistically and enthusiastically, but their attention is mainly focused on the activities of their own child’s team. But what if the club has a vision of tomorrow and that vision includes the missing or maintaining resources, once again?

Project “Hyvää seuraa” focused on this very problem. The target of the project was to create extra resources for the game events of soccer clubs. However, the cooperation with colleges and vocational schools enabled so much more, and the two-year journey developed into a great number of opportunities. The world of sports clubs is changing. Today, we are at crossroads where the traditional work, which focuses on playing the game and competing, is gaining visions of social influencing. Somehow, these activities that support the development of sports clubs should be able to be implemented without increasing the workload further.

Ten clubs, ten club identities, ten operational cultures – in other words clubs with very different looks and sizes, all with their own needs. Game events themselves are like micro-enterprises where Make and Berit hustle and keep the engine running. Still, a countless number of hands is needed to make the event successful, so that the audience – the paying customer – gets the experience he/she has expected.

On the other hand, regulations have been imposed on the event to fulfill, for example, the criteria of security. Through the project, we filled positions of pre-match hosts, security, stretcher carriers, ticket scanners and ushers, among others. As for the audience, there were splendid innovations such as selling fan products, child parks, customized club pastry, and a gourmet hot dog as well as construction projects producing, for example, a kiosk and a deck for a pub. And let’s not forget the mascot outfit for Rolle the reindeer bringing joy to the games in the Arctic Circle.

As a common factor of the project remained the open-mindedness in the inclusion of young people. The effectiveness of the concrete work was a three-way win. The club received extra hands and the opportunity to implement, for example, the long-planned kindergarten soccer and after-school clubs. Students were allowed to test the steps of adulthood through learning and taking responsibility in an authentic environment, doing genuine work, and educational institutions realized the potential of the third sector, so the situation was “win-win-win”.

The work periods of the project were short, but among other things, they also generated summer jobs, permanent jobs as an instructor, and in the future they will especially generate more assistance in game events and the implementation of individual projects that support the club´s activities, as well. Volunteering is at its turning point, and there is always a need for Make and Berit – but long live temporary volunteering!

Text: Leena Allen
Project manager of Hyvää seuraa -project

Football association of Finland has implemented, in cooperation with Sakki ry, a biennial, ESR-funded Hyvää seuraa -project, which is one of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences’ top projects in the key project Osuma. The goal of Hyvää seuraa -project has been to increase volunteering in clubs and to make students more active during the school-day.

Read more: www.palloliitto.fi

Translation: Kati Merikoski