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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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~ February 2004 ~ Topics

Get The Most From That Workshop

Managers of volunteers frequently attend workshops. Sometimes volunteers are sent to workshops to enhance skills. Here are some tips to get the most from the next workshop. Managers should share them with volunteers when the person is attending a session on behalf of the organization.

  • Think about what you hope to learn in advance. Read the description of the workshop. Ponder those things you would like to learn during the session. If you have more questions, call someone who is organizing it to make sure what is to be covered.
  • Sit near the front. Sitting in front means you are close to the speaker, with an unobstructed view. The back of the room is a sure site for disruptions; people coming and going, evaluations being distributed. At the front you are more likely to pay closer attention.
  • Be prepared. Take pencil, lined paper, and highlighter. The pencil and paper are for notes. The highlighter is to mark handouts distributed by the speaker during the session. The speaker is likely to highlight certain things in the handouts and the highlighting pen lets you mark what the “expert” thinks is important.
  • Write down the highlights. Some people take loads of notes during workshops, but you do not need to do that. Notice what the speaker says is important. Write down the key points. You are looking for the overall messages.
  • Be positive. Assume the best, not the worst. If you enter the workshop believing there is something to be learned it is likely you will learn something. If you enter the workshop expecting to be bored, that is likely to happen.
  • Share what you learned. Tell people the key points of the training. Friends, family, other staff, or volunteers can hear about the session. The more times you share the information the more cemented in your own head it becomes. Try to put at least one thing you learned into practice. That, too, is a way to retain what you learned.

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An Ice Breaker To Promote Interaction

Distribute to each person in a workshop the following questions on a handout. Trumpets Image

  1. My volunteer assignment is to the _______________________.
  2. My two favorite movies are _____________________________ .
  3. I am considered very good at ___________________________ .
  4. Today I am hoping to learn ________________ from this training.
  5. My favorite food is ____________________________________ .
  6. My favorite pet is _____________________________________ .
  7. My favorite fiction book is _______________________________ .
  8. Ten more questions related to topic of training, for example:
    a. I like working with (children, elderly, the poor, etc.) because _______________________________ .
    b. I need to know more about ___________ to do this volunteer job.

Have each person answer five of these questions. Arrange people in groups of five to seven. Each person selects one question. They introduce themselves and then answer the question for the group. Different people will answer different questions, which gives more spontaneity to this exercise.

An adaptation of this is to have each person stand and tell the most interesting thing about one person in their group. Do not do this if the group is larger than 20.

Another adaptation is to have each group determine one question they would like answered by the trainer. Then the trainer answers them by way of introduction.

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Graffiti Wrap-Up

Reviews are a means to remind trainees what they learned in a workshop or training session. The more interactive that process the better. Incorporating planning helps with the transfer of learning to strategies in the workplace. This graffiti wrap-up takes about 30 minutes, but can be worth the time taken.

Put people in class in groups of three. Give each group two sheets of easel paper. Have them tape the paper together on the short side. They then should turn the paper lengthwise to make a graffiti wall.






The groups’ assignment is to use words, symbols, diagrams, pictures, or graphics to illustrate what they have learned and what they plan to do when they go to their volunteer position. Each group then presents their graffiti wall to the rest of the group.

Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, authored by Stan Smith and The Great Trainer's Guide by Sue Vineyard. Episodic Volunteering book Image The Great Trainer's Guide 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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