News - 25th April 2018

The joy of volunteering


In our 2016 annual ‘Run Report’ we featured a number of parkrunners who highlighted the benefits of volunteering, and we looked at the financial value that volunteers contributed in terms of the number of hours they gave to parkrun that year. Since then we have significantly developed our understanding of what volunteering is about, as parkrun UK’s Head of Volunteer Management Jaz Bangerh explains…


Volunteering is every bit as beneficial a form of physical activity as walking, jogging, or running, and it provides a fantastic opportunity for people to participate in their community. I’d even go as far as saying we have redefined, in our minds, what being physically active actually means. Whilst the established view is that it’s measured in heart rate, calories, intensity, or duration, we increasingly believe that it’s much less tangible than that. Aspects such as personal development, social interaction, and exposure to a natural environment add huge value to physical activity, yet are not accounted for in the aforementioned measures and are often undervalued by those looking to improve their health and wellbeing.


Whilst we’ve always understood the function of volunteering and how it can effectively add operational capacity at scale, it’s only in the past year or two that we have really begun to understand how beneficial it is to the volunteer in terms of health and wellbeing. So often we hear negative terminology around volunteering, even from prominent members of the volunteering sector, with comments such as “giving up their time” and “doing their bit”. All of those statements position volunteering as something that should be done for reasons other than the simple joy of volunteering. This strongly contradicts the significant feedback we receive every day, where the act of volunteering has changed people’s lives.


Throughout 2017 we saw a weekly average of around 12,000 volunteers supporting our 5k and junior events in the UK. An amazing number, and one area of parkrun where we have significantly changed our approach since the early days. Originally, when we saw volunteering as a necessity in order to put on runs for other people, our aim was to reduce the number of volunteers to the smallest amount possible. Now, with our new-found understanding, it is quite the opposite.


The parkrun model makes volunteering easy and accessible and anybody can come along to help out. Roles can be easily delegated so that people can do small or large bits of volunteering, and there is an opportunity for collective volunteering so people can do roles such as marshalling and tail walking in groups or with their friends. There is a volunteering opportunity for everyone regardless of age, background or ability. parkrun volunteers come from all walks of life, which brings a diverse range of skills, expertise, support and opportunities.


Volunteers are referred to as parkrunners in the same way as walkers, joggers and runners are. Volunteering opportunities are promoted, and we continually strive to make it as easy and accessible as possible. parkrun has always been committed to celebrating the volunteers who make a significant contribution to parkruns around the globe every week. The next step is to celebrate everything that is positive about volunteering.


Jaz Bangerh
Head of HR & Volunteer Management
parkrunner A7786


Jaz’s article is taken from parkrun UK’s 2017 Annual ‘Run Report’. You can access the full online report using this link. It looks best when viewed in full-screen.

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