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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 managers training level.

~ May 2003 ~ Topics

Training Links Page

Opening the Mind

Ice breaker exercises should be related to the training topic. Having people get acquainted is an obvious purpose for the ice breaker, but it can also help begin the process for the learner to think about the topic at hand. Such exercises can also be used to encourage desired behavior on the part of the learner.
“Open the Mind” is an ice breaker that helps learners know each other better and can be related to keeping an open mind about topics in the training.

For example, inform the group that they have been given one million dollars, tax-free. Ask them to indicate to the group how they would use their newly gained fortune.

If you do not wish to use this question here are some alternatives:

    1. If you could take a free two-week vacation to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
    2. If you could become the leader of any country in the world, what would it be and why?
    3. If you could travel on a time machine to any era in time, what would it be and why?
    4. If you could talk to anyone one person now living, who would it be and why?

Debriefing the ice breaker:

    1. If a stranger walked in the door right now and asked about this group, what could you tell them, based on what you have heard?
    2. In what way can you use the concept underlying this exercise to help you be more open to new ideas from this training program?

Organizing for the Left and Right Brain

Every training session in which there are adults has variety: men women, Latino, African-American, white, Vietnamese, Canadian, Maori, Hawaiian, tall, thin, high school degrees, college degrees, experienced in the organization, new comers, and the list goes on. It is also true that the trainer encounters “learning style or type” differences. There are visual learners, auditory learners, those concerned with affect.
Some learners also favor using one or the other side of the brain, according to some researchers. In reality, all adults use both sides, but it would seem one is more appealing than the others. This preference means the trainer is best served by including training activities that appeal to both sides of the brain.

Left Brain - The Practical Brain Image Right Brain - The Magical
Predict/prepare for the future Imagine/create the future
Reactive - adapt to change Proactive - cause change
Forecasting - anticipate Designing - originate
Goal Setting - focus on results Imaging - focus on dreams
Objectives - specify outcomes Scenarios - propose scripts
Systematic - structure & approach Inventive - fantasize possibilities
Zoom Lens - center on target Wide-Angle Lens - take a broad view











Left Hemisphere

Right Hemisphere

As you can see from this diagram the right side or “magical” side likes ideas, imagining, creating possibilities; while the left engages in preparing for the future, anticipating, and working toward specific goals.

Here are some examples of learning strategies that can appeal to people who prefer using one side of their brain over the other.

1. “How Would You Handle this Situation?”
Identify a specific situation. For example: A volunteer is asked for information about a client of the organization by a neighbor. They provide some, but not much information. A small group is organized to discuss this problem.

    • Ask the group to brainstorm the worst possible things that could result from this lapse by the volunteer (right brain).
    • Then have them list 3 to 5 remedies for the current situation (left brain).
    • Then have the group brainstorm ways to prevent this in the future (right brain).

2. “Identify the Elements of Team Work”
A small group uses "Tinker Toys” to construct something. They are competing with the other groups.

    • Design the structure (right brain).
    • Problem solve before building (left brain).
    • Alter design for stability (right and left brain).
    • Focus on height (left brain).
    • Focus on beauty (right brain).

The tallest free-standing structure wins prizes, such as candy or pens, for their group. The prizes are awarded and each group convenes to list the strategies in the group that helped their team achieve their goal and those things that got in the way. This leads into a discussion of the elements of an effective work team.

Training Volunteers in Terror or Trauma Situations

If you have volunteers answering phones or dealing with terror or trauma situations visit our Internet Resources page to learn about a Web site with information on training them. This quote can go anywhere you think it fits-

"The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis." Thurgood Marshall

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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for An Introduction to Helping Adults Learn and Change, authored by Russell D. Robinson. Helping Adults Learn Book Recruiting & Retention book Image

Interested in assessing volunteer and staff relations in your program?

Looking for help from an expert?

Get help with one of the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series.


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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