Netting a great result for volunteers

The Aucklander, 31st October 2009

One man's technological know-how is helping sporting and community organisations link up online, as John Landrigan discovers.

Knobbly knees aside, Maurice MacLaren looks like a big-league professional referee as he casually leans on a goalpost.

Like many  Aucklanders, Mr MacLaren's knees have taken a battering on the pitch for love of game and community. And he's quick to admit it's not just his flailing joints feeling the pinch when people like him put their hands up to referee age-grade football. It is also the time and stress rallying 2000 kids and 6000 parents, grandparents and loyal supporters at the likes of the Eastern Suburbs Football Club his kids attend.

"I've been volunteering for 30 years. For the last 15 years, I've had two kids to be driven everywhere. I think it's important everyone contributes."

But, sometimes, contributing can be daunting, especially when facing hundreds of hours registering and organising people and assigning skills and preferred work times.

"Unbelievably, most of this is still done by hand. This means volunteers and organisers end up cutting and pasting details into spreadsheets."

Mr MacLaren, who has a background working with high-powered databases for the financial sector, has figured out a better way to run his children's soccer club.

Yesterday he launched to help other clubs and events organisers do the same.

"Over a million Kiwis volunteer for all sports and other activities every year, but a huge problem facing would-be volunteers and event organisers is simply linking up with each other efficiently."

His new system also makes it easier to identify people who have special language and other skills, and to develop a knowledge base that can be used for future events.

There are strict privacy provisions so volunteers always  have the option of receiving information from an event organiser.
PutYour HandUp is designed for volunteers to register their interest in participating in major events.

Event organisers have already tested the system, and say it is great for communicating with volunteers and for volunteers to get to know each other before an event starts.

Shane Goldfinch, technology and accreditation manager of the 2009 FIBA U19 World Basketball Championships, used the system to muster 600 volunteers for the event in July.

"PutYour HandUp helped save more than 50 per cent of volunteer time on some tasks and over 90 per cent on registration data-input time," says Mr Goldfinch.

Think soccer clubs, community groups, think tree planting ... think Rugby World Cup.