The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer managers training level.

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~ November 2002 ~ Topics

Variety in Delivering Training

The classroom is not the only vehicle where training can be delivered. There are many other ways to expand learning for volunteers or get the basics to new comers. Many of them are cost-effective, as well. Here are some potential vehicles.

Brown-bag lunches for volunteers can be used for training Urge volunteers to bring a lunch, reserve a conference room, and present training on a simple topic that can be covered in 30 - 45 minutes.
Create an organizational training module Volunteers and staff can be trained together on some topics. Work with those who do employee training to see if the volunteers and staff cannot be trained together. It saves money, these are people who will be working together, and provides the opportunity for staff to find volunteer "friends" and vice-versa.
Send a volunteer or two to specialized training Ask them to return prepared to conduct a training session for other volunteers ( or staff, if appropriate).
Book clubs are hot Put together a book club that meets once a quarter. Select books about those served by the organization. Have the club led by volunteers and invite appropriate staff to participate. Make the meetings of the group convenient to the time the volunteers serve to make it easy for them to attend.
Create job aids These are instruction sheets (laminated for multiple use) that outline how to do a task and can be left where volunteers do the actual work. It should be a step by step approach to how to complete a task. Be sure to include diagrams and pictures.

Teaching Decision Making

Volunteers are quite often in the position of making decisions. Sometimes it is a board or advisory group determining the fate of programs or staff in the haggles over a budget or it might be when a client asks a volunteer to do something that skirts the edge of what is appropriate and recommended.

One way to make decisions is to engage in a personal dialog that requires the use of the left and right side of the brain.

Left side = sensible, reasonable, business-like, rational
Right side = illogical, mysterious, playful, intuitive

1. Provide the volunteer with a decision they might have to make. It is very useful to use actual situations from the past, without giving away the outcome until the exercise is over.

2. Distribute this worksheet. And explain it to the volunteer trainee.

Right Brain/Left Brain Decision Making
Left-Rational/Practical Right-Playful/Intuitive
Who Would Support This Decision? Who would Support this Decision?

3. List all the reasons you can think of to support each of the options, using both sides of your brain. Then list the people who would support each side. You can repeat this option for as many choices as you have.

4. Treat this exercise like a debate with yourself. Here are some questions to help that process.

    • How do you feel about each argument?
    • What do you think about each argument?
    • What does this tell you?
    • Notice who might be on each side of the argument.
    • Do the opinions of these people matter in this situation?
    • What does their position tell you?

And remember what Mae West said,
"Whenever I have a choice between two evils, I always choose the one I haven't tried before."

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Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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