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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~ September 2002~ Topics
  • Helping Them Learn Better
  • Rules of Brainstorming
  • A Performance Improvement Plan

Helping Them Learn Better

Most adults have never given much thought to what helps them learn new information. Here are some tips to share with volunteers before the training session.

  1. Before arriving at the training, jot down some questions you would like answered before the session is over. This helps your brain focus on the topics coming and brings to bear past experience in this area. Both of these are aides in retention.
  2. Arrive in sufficient time to find a place to park, find the training room, settle in (get a beverage, shed a coat, find a seat, greet your neighbor). Rushing to training means that the first 10 - 25 minutes will be lost while the brain is getting settle into a new mode - learning.
  3. Plan to get a good night's sleep after the training. There is new research that indicates that 6 - 8 hours of sleep following training has a profound impact on the retention of the material presented.
  4. Be prepared to participate. The most effective learning for adults is interactive. Tuck natural shyness away for the duration of the training. Join in the group activities and participate fully to get the most out of the training.
  5. There are several ways to recall information from training. (a) Repeat it; (b) recall frequently; (c) associate it with other things. Any of those techniques can increase the ability to recall information.

Rules of Brainstorming

A recent workshop reminded a trainer of the importance of reviewing the rules of brainstorming. As a group got into a brainstorm discussion, the trainer overhead comments like the following, "Yes, but that isn't practical." "You shouldn't put that up." "I think we need to eliminate some things."

It is easy to assume that all adults know and remember the rules of brainstorming. Bad assumption! It is easier to quickly review the rules, than trying to fix a very judgmental group

Brainstorm Rules
  • Generate as many ideas as possible. Volume is the key word.
  • Wild ideas are welcome
  • No critical judgment is permitted.
  • Combine and improve on the ideas generated
  • What everyone says is valuable

To illustrate your point give everyone a paper clip. Have people sitting near one another brainstorm for 60 seconds all the uses for a paper clip. Make sure two people are writing. Then have the group with the highest number read their list. This quick exercise helps the brain go into a creative mode and brainstorming around the workshop topic that follows is more productive.

October 9-12, 2002 - International Conference on Volunteer Administration, Denver, CO, Adams Mark Hotel, sponsored by the Association for Volunteer Administration.
A Performance Improvement Plan

Sometimes volunteers have problems carrying out an assigned task or duty. They want to get better and the staff and clients or members wish they would, too. Once the problem has been identified, the staff person responsible can engage in a planning process to enhance skills. Here is a Performance Improvement Worksheet to help the volunteer move into the winner column.

Performance Improvement Worksheet
Directions: Performance problems can be corrected with an improvement plan. Listed below are some questions, to which you should respond. Think about what you can do and who can help you reach your goals and how. When you have completed this take a copy to ___________________. They will meet with you and help you carry out the plan.
Question Responses What I Will Do? Who Can Help and How?
  • List the causes of the problems you are having.





  • For each cause you have just listed, set a goal for improvement.





  • Indicate at least one specific action you will take to achieve each of the goals you have listed.





  • How can you measure whether you have accomplished each of these goals? Be sure to list how and when.







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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