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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.

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~ April 2004 ~ Topics

Reassuring the Staff

Paid staff members can become nervous if they are unaware of how prepared volunteers might be to work with clients or members of an organization. Reaction to volunteer involvement might range from worries the volunteer might do something or say something inappropriate with the client or member, to disdain for the volunteers skills, to outright hostility. How can the person managing volunteers reassure nervous staff about the skills volunteers acquire during training?

Ask for about 30 minutes at the next all staff meeting. Briefly, (and I do mean briefly!) review the outline of topics that volunteers learn during their orientation. Then have the staff participate in the most interactive exercise of the training. They become volunteers and the manager of volunteers is the trainer.

For example, an exercise on confidentiality might use cases taken from actual experiences in the organization. Groups discuss what is the policy about the situation and how the volunteers are expected to behave. As staff engage in this part of the training they are learning how well prepared volunteers are on this topic.

Doing something like this on the "hot-button" issues in your organization goes a long way to assuring staff that volunteers are trained and informed before doing any work for the organization.

Make this an annual event for an all-staff meeting and do different exercises each time. Hence, experienced staff are not bored sitting through the same things year in and year out. And who knows, you might find some allies for the volunteer program.

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The Portable Easel Pad Flipchart Image

Scenario: The trainer has been hired to present a workshop to a group of Girl Scout leaders. The training is at the resident camp owned by the Girl Scout council. The trainer assumes the session is in the dining hall or a building. There is electricity and easel pads. WRONG. All the buildings but the “shower house” with its bathrooms had been winterized and are unavailable for use. A lovely warm fall day finds the trainer and learners in a circle around the campfire, sitting on log benches, nary an electrical outlet or easel in site. And the planned activity was small groups with report out sessions to be recorded on easel paper. What is a trainer to do?

The portable easel pad is a possible solution. It is a sheet of easel paper that has been laminated. Made up in multiples, groups can use the sheets, write with washable markers, and sheets can washed after the session and be re-used. It is portable and certainly environmentally friendly. This is a good solution for a trainer who is not sure of the equipment available or for training in unusual locations, like the one mentioned earlier.

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Saying "Good Job"

Trainers need always to acknowledge the work of trainees. The "good job" comments should go to the entire group, as well as to individuals in the group for outstanding work. Another way to say thank you is with "compliment sheets."

The "compliment sheet" activity is best used with smaller groups of trainees, no more than 10 – 15. Place blank sheets of easel paper around the room posted on the wall at a level where people can write on them. Have each person write their name on one of the easel sheets. Put medium sized post-it-notes on each table for trainees to share.

As you complete group or team exercises or go for breaks, allow time for people to write a thank you or recognition on post-it-notes to another member of the group. The notes are then put on the "compliment sheet" of the people they wish to recognize. The trainer sets a good example by making sure to put a note on each person’s "compliment sheet." Learners go home with their compliment sheet having been affirmed and rewarded for their contributions to class.

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Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Building Better Relationships with Volunteers, authored by Nan Hawthorne and The Great Trainer's Guide by Sue Vineyard.

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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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