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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.

~ January 2003 ~ Topics

Teaching the “Vision” Thing

Organizations that involve volunteers, board members, advisory groups, or committees, usually have the opportunity to engage in vision planning. It is staring into the future and imagining where you would like the organization or program to be. There are people who inherently are good at this, but most need to learn how to vision. Here is an exercise to help train a group in doing a vision planning process.

Directions: Imagine what you will be doing, where, with whom, how, and why, one year from today. There are three ways in which I would like you to consider your vision for the future.

1. The probable future: the one you believe will happen
2. The best future: the most desirable one you can imagine
3. The worst future: the most unpleasant future you can imagine

    • Close your eyes and imagine you are really there, one year from now, doing what you are imagining.
    • Ask some of these questions the participants any or all of these questions.
    • Stress the “process” of visioning and how we put “brakes” on thoughts we consider “outlandish.”:

Was the probably future easy to see? Why?
Can you see details or is it fuzzy? Why?
How did you feel when you were thinking about the future? Why?
Was a year too far or too near to imagine? Why?
When you thought about the desirable future was it easy or difficult? Why?
Was it really the best or merely the best you could think of?
Was your vision impacted by optimism or pessimism? Why?
Was there a clear vision of the unpleasant future?
Was this harder or easier than the best future? Why?
Was your unpleasant or desirable future closer to the probable vision? Why?
What does this exercise tell you about how you come to your view of the future?

The next step is to use the three types of visioning as it applies to the organization or program. This type of visioning exercise works better when people practice before they leap into real visioning assignment. It is the equivalent of an aerobic warm up!

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Evaluating Your Leadership: A Light-Hearted Approach

You lead meetings, train volunteers, sit on committees, or attend staff meetings. On some occasions you are in the leadership role. Here is a quick way to get feed back on how people perceive your leadership style in a light-hearted and non-threatening way.


  • Plain white paper
  • Crayons or color markers for drawing (not the easel marker size)


  • Ask each person to sketch or draw a picture of any animal that might describe the way you led the session. It is important to keep this light. For example, you could tell the group that last time you evaluated your session you got two bulls, and four gazelles!

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Getting to Know You

Volunteers who serve on boards, committees, or advisory groups are usually focused on the task at hand. Quite often they know very little about one another outside the opinions given during meetings. Meetings and training sessions can open with "disclosure" questions that help reduce the "face" people wear at meetings. Each meeting or training session can start with one of these questions. This helps people get to know one another at a more personal level.

  1. What is your most prized possession?
  2. If you could have a t-shirt printed with a message, what would it be?
  3. What is the most fun you ever had?
  4. If you were stranded on a desert island:
    • What three books would you like to have along?
    • What three people would you like to have with you?
  5. What is your greatest achievement?
  6. If you discovered you only had one year to live, what would you do differently?



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. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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