USTA Florida unveiled a brand-new initiative to recruit new volunteers for the section and increase engagement of current volunteers at the local and section level during USTA Florida’s 70th Annual Meeting held Nov. 22-23, 2019. The USTA Florida Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Program – known as Volunteer Aces – will officially launch in Jan. 2020, and will use new technology tools and community outreach opportunities to help mobilize and retain USTA Florida volunteers.
“Volunteer Aces is designed to recruit new and younger volunteers who enjoy the game and would love to help USTA Florida accomplish its mission: to promote and develop tennis for all,” said USTA Florida President Clark Higgs.
The ability to promote and develop tennis throughout the state depends heavily on the ability to attract and retain volunteers. USTA Florida has been a volunteer-run organization since its founding in 1949 and has benefited from its extensive and loyal volunteer group throughout its 70-year history. During the last decade or more, the organization recognized it had not aggressively pursued new volunteers and as a result, relied heavily on the same volunteers.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of USTA Florida and many other non-profit organizations such as ours,” commented Higgs. “They act as extensions of the staff by helping to provide programming, communication and education in their local tennis communities.”
Lacking a formal recognition program, many current volunteers felt disconnected from the Section. Similarly, without a formal process to match new volunteers with opportunities, the organization lost chances to engage with a new, diverse volunteer base. Recognizing these deficiencies, USTA Florida developed Volunteer Aces.
“It’s exciting to see USTA Florida take on a number of new growth initiatives during this past year,” said USTA Florida Executive Director Laura Bowen. “We know that growing the game happens at the local level, and it involves more than just USTA programs. We need more volunteers than ever before to help bring new players into the game and ensure that everyone can play and have a great experience.”
Volunteer Aces is intended to improve the organization’s overall engagement with volunteers by focusing on three areas: recruitment, retention, and recognition.
- Expand volunteer network to include opportunities for all, including those with little to no tennis experience but want to share in the benefits of the sport and its community
- Engage with youth, college, adult, and corporate volunteers by tailoring opportunities to their interests
- Form community partnerships to create a pipeline for volunteer recruitment and additional avenues for USTA Florida volunteers to engage locally
- Use the digital platform to create an opportunity calendar where volunteers can sign up to serve at events and programs
- Improve presence in the digital space with social media and an online portal for volunteers to track their involvement
- Create an online store where volunteers can redeem points earned for involvement
- Recognize high-performing volunteers to promote community involvement and dedication to the game of tennis
- Highlight local programs, National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTLs), and Community Tennis Associations (CTAs) that are excelling at their efforts to develop tennis in their communities
“As population demographics change, USTA Florida must adapt to those changes, including the manner in which we recruit, utilize and reward these new volunteers,” explained Higgs. “This program is just one of the many ways that we are doing so.”
The program is designed to be a clearinghouse for all tennis volunteer opportunities in the state, not just USTA Florida programs. USTA Florida will work alongside other organizations to post all tennis volunteer opportunities in a single location – an online platform. Prospective volunteers only need to register once to be able to see every volunteer opportunity in their area. Project leaders will then use the system to track, recognize and reward volunteers for serving. The more they volunteer, the more rewards they can earn.
“By partnering with NJTLs, CTAs and other facilities and organizations who need volunteers, we can build our network and provide more play opportunities for everyone,” said Bowen.
Part of the Volunteer Engagement Initiative is the USTA Florida Leadership Academy that was launched in Sept. 2019. The Academy includes a volunteer development program designed to grow the professional skills and organizational knowledge of potential future leaders, equipping them with valuable leadership qualities that would make them an asset to the organization. Members of the first-ever USTA Florida Leadership Academy will be offered the appropriate training and education in order to continue the valuable work done by previous volunteers.
“I am excited to see what this program brings to the organization, to work with these new volunteers and to see them grow into positions of leadership just as I have been mentored and coached by past volunteers,” Higgs enthused. “I expect it will have an excellent impact on the organization for many years to come.”
No tennis experience is necessary to become a Volunteer Ace for USTA Florida. Volunteers can sign-up by visiting ustaflorida.com/VolunteerAces. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can also contact USTA Florida Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Jasmine Baptiste-Apena at firstname.lastname@example.org.