Olympic volunteers set an example the sector should follow
It was with an huge sense of pride that I heard the loudest round of applause at the closing ceremony of London 2012 initiated by Lord Seb Coe when he thanked the 70,000 Games Makers.
As one of the many that woke at four in the morning to trek across the Olympic park for my shift, with no guarantee of seeing any of the action, simply to be a part of that once in a life time experience, it left me both humbled and proud.
Now back in the office and getting a reputation as an Olympic bore, I am questioning what it was that made the volunteering experience of the Games Makers so successful and what benefits the voluntary sector can gain from the Games.
The overwhelming emotion I felt from being a volunteer was pride.
It felt good to be representing my country and helping people from all over the world enjoy the Games and hearing the amazing feedback from the athletes about the training venue.
It felt good too to play my part in making sure my city was shown in its best light. In fact the diversity of London was mirrored by the Games Makers.
The oldest volunteers were in their 80s and there was a genuine sense that there was a space for everyone to contribute and be involved.
I think capturing this spirit and recognising what individuals can contribute is one of the key lessons we can learn in the voluntary sector.
Another lesson for our sector was the way team leaders motivated their volunteers. For instance there was a structured reward and recognition programme that included pins (known as the currency of any Games), certificates and a relay baton. And there was a great understanding of the need to maintain a motivated team.
The team leaders really wanted to tap into why the Gamer Makers were there – whether it was a chance to be part of the greatest show on earth or meet, learn and connect with people they have never met before.
They also understood that the rollercoaster of the Olympics meant it was inevitable you were going to hit the wall. Their empathy meant the volunteers didn’t feel alone and unable to cope.
So for me the legacy of London 2012 is not just about winning British Olympians, regeneration of the east end and improved sports infrastructure – important though they all are.
I hope the lasting legacy will be a renaissance in volunteering.
I am not saying that it is the coming of the big society or a British embrace of a J F Kennedy style ‘ask not what your country can do for you’ ethos.
But my Olympic experience left me with a profound belief that the Games will inspire a voluntary sector, enriched by people from all ethnic groups, ages and social backgrounds dedicated to helping others and making a better world.
That to me would be the greatest legacy of London 2012.
Annie Clarke is the head of learning development at the Institute of Fundraising