Know the Needs in Advance
Ever wonder how to find out what volunteers want to know before the training session? You can find out without organizing a fancy and expensive survey.
As volunteers move through the screening process give them a pre-printed letter that is addressed to you. Tell them it is your organizations Dear Abby, and that one week before training they are to write you a letter telling what questions they have related to the material to be covered in the course. A stamped envelope is provided. A reminder card or call can go out to volunteers several days before the letter is due, just in case they forgot to do it. This is a quick and easy needs assessment; the trainer knows expectations and can prepare accordingly. Be sure to read the letters in class and make sure people got answers to their questions.
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Learning to Deal with Emotions
Volunteers with direct client contact frequently have to deal with people who are emotionally overwrought. How can the trainer prepare someone to deal with escalating emotions? It is simple, simulate an emotional behavior and then discuss the reaction.
Begin training with the normal ice breaker, as you come to the end of the ice breaker, pretend you have received a phone or pager message that is obviously disturbing. Leave the room. Stay out of the room for 2 3 minutes. Return with papers that you drop on the floor, stumble, appear angry, change your mind about something you promised learners would happen, lecture them on something you made up related to the organization. Do this for 2 3 minutes.
Sit down and ask the students, How do you feel right now and why? Lead into how they might react if confronted with this type of behavior by a client. Brainstorm ways to cope with the situation, calm the person down, know when to get help from another volunteer or paid staff. There is nothing like experiencing emotion to help us monitor our own reactions, so we can plan for the future.
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Right Brain/Left Brain
Are you having a committee meeting where people need to be creative? Is it the first training session for a new contingent of volunteers? Do you want to increase your own capacity to concentrate and learn new things? It is more than possible if the left and right side of the brain receive regular exercise. This exercise strengthens and expands brain function by encouraging balance of the right and left hand hemispheres of the brain. Practiced regularly, it helps to improve concentration and learning skills, to solve problems, and to overcome nervousness, tension and stress. You can use it as an ice breaker with a committee. Encourage volunteers to practice it before a training session or do it yourself at least once a week, until you get really good at it.
Exercise Instructions: Close your eyes and relax your body and breathing; empty your mind, keep your eyes closed. Concentrate on one side of your brain and your eye on that same side. Imagine with your right eye, and with the right side of your brain, that you see a tree in spring covered in pink and white blossoms. Then, use the left side of the brain, and the left eye, to see the same tree draped in snow. Establish these two pictures clearly and distinctly and try and merge the images of the two trees into the center of your brain where they become one tree covered in autumn foliage.
Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, authored by Stan Smith.
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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