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VolunteerToday.com~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


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 manager's training level.

Training Image

~December 2003~ Topics

Paper and Pencil Image Checking In With Volunteers

Are volunteers using skills learned in training? You can check it out. A little summary and a follow-up, and you can test the effectiveness of your orientation and training.

  • Begin by summarizing the evaluations collected at the end of the training session. Then prepare a handout with a summary of the “teaching points” or learning objectives for the training and the summary of the evaluations you compiled. This will serve as a reminder for the volunteers as they answer questions.
  • Once you have prepared this document you need to consult volunteers about how much of the work they are doing that was covered in training and if the training helped them to do their job effectively. The “interview” can be done in person, via email, or by the usual route of mailing with a stamp. Collect the responses and you will have a clear picture of how well training is helping people do their job.
  • Doing this annually can determine changes or additions to help volunteers be more effective. It also provides a broad picture of the effectiveness of orientation and training and volunteers will feel they are contributing to the planning for people who come after them.

Powers of Observation

Many volunteers have positions where their powers of observation are essential. Managers of volunteers can assume that some people are “born” with that skill, but it is likely that the majority of people need to enhance their observational skills. A training session to enhance the power of observation might begin with this exercise.

1. Ask everyone who is wearing a watch or carrying a timepiece to put it away without looking at it. Those without timepieces can observe someone sitting near them.
2. Assume those with timepieces lost their watch and I (the teacher) found it. I want to verify that it is yours, so I will ask you some questions about it.
  • Does it have Arabic or Roman numerals?Old Clock Image
  • What is the brand name?
  • What color is the face?
  • Are all 12 numbers listed?
  • Is there anything beside numbers printed on the face?
  • Does it have the day and date?
3. Besides the teacher, who flunked this test? Why?
4. Why aren’t we more observant? (time pressure, taking things for granted, lack of concern, etc.)

5. Can anyone give me an example of where someone over looked the details and problems arose?


The next step is to lead into training exercises that test the learners ability to observe and accurately record and report, when they are in their role as a volunteer.

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Right Arrow Image Test Your Grammar Left Arrow Image

A common complaint about email is the poor grammar and spelling of many writers. Here is a quiz on the use of "a" and "an." To calculate your grammar quotient, divide the number of correct answers by the total number of questions.

1. He gave __ eulogy.

2. Juanita was __ heir to beautiful hair

3. She attended ___ one-day workshop.

4. Sam wanted to move to ___ university town.

5. Gettysburg was ___ historic battle.

6. Kadesha received ___ $11,000 settlement.

7. Receiving the Silver Star was ___ honor.

8. I harvested ___ herb garden.

9. Ali sent a memo with ___ FYI post-it note.

10. The volunteer position required her to wear ____ uniform.

Answers: 1. a; 2. an; 3. a; 4. a; 5. a; 6. an; 7. an; 8. an; 9. an; 10. a

Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, authored by Stan Smith. Training Book Image Episodic Volunteering book Image


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 http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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