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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.

Training Image

~ July 2004 ~ Topics

Teaching Image Teaching Customer Service

Many volunteers are asked to greet the public, wait on clients or customers, assist paid staff in welcoming people to an organization. Much of what they do is "customer service" in orientation. Here are some ideas around which you could organize a training session on working with the public.

  1. Be attentive the minute a client appears. Acknowledge the person, even if you are on the phone. No personal phone calls while on duty.
  2. Look the person in the eye, with friendly thoughts in mind, and smile.
  3. Tell the person your name and ask how you can help them. "Hi! My name is Nancy. What can I do to help you?"
  4. Be proud of the service you offer to each person who visits and the way you serve them.
  5. If you must make someone wait, explain why.
  6. If you cannot do what the person requests immediately, tell them what you can do for him/her.
  7. Keep your promises. Do what you say you will do and don't get distracted.
  8. If someone calls and you must help them later, be sure to make a note of it and return the call - promptly!
  9. Check in with the person to make sure their needs are being met and he or she is not being overlooked.

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Typo-Free Handouts and Easel Paper Corrections

Handouts are pesky animals. They can be your best friend or an embarrassment of typographical errors. The same goes for writing on the easel paper in the training room. Here are some tips to cope when the mistake is in your handout or on the easel pad.

  • Always look up words, even if you are only slightly unsure of the spelling.
  • Prepare in advance. Have handouts ready days ahead. Then proofread for spelling or grammar errors.
  • Read the text aloud. Errors often become quite obvious.
  • Recruit a volunteer with a good eye and good computer. Ask them to proof everything for you.
  • When writing during class, you might make a mistake. Ask the class to help you with spelling. It provides a lighthearted moment and is not perceived by adults as unprofessional. Not everyone is a good speller.
  • Find humorous ways to deal with errors. Quips like, "This marker is defective. It can’t spell," helps lessen the tension and keeps people focused on the content not the spelling.
  • Ask the learners to tell you if they find typos. Circle in highlighter and fix them before the next training session.

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Be the Organizational Training Department

Most volunteer programs have a strong training component to prepare people to do their work. There is an infrastructure with sign-up sheets, registration mechanisms, databases to record who has attended what training, criteria to select trainers, methods to evaluate training, and a certificate of completion. Those are tasks completed in any training department, whether for paid staff or for volunteers. Dart Image

If your organization has no training department, this could be a function of the volunteer program. Recruit volunteers who are interested in helping organize training for paid staff. Then set up a separate, but parallel system similar to the system with training volunteers, but unique to paid staff needs. Be sure to keep careful records including the time expended by volunteers and attach a price tag to it.

This provides a visible service to the entire paid staff and administrators. Paid staff now have personnel records of training, both on and off site. There is likely to be more cohesion in the types of training provided. It positions the manager of volunteers closer to the administrative leadership of the organization. It is also wise to create a paid staff advisory committee as the training "service" of the volunteer department is set up.

Seek an experienced and respected volunteer to provide leadership to this effort and offer it as a promotion. Help the individual recruit a team of people to assist with the design of systems and processes. The leader should work with the advisory group, with the idea that at some point the manager of volunteers is merely supervising the volunteer. There will be a flurry of work initially, but it is likely to level out to a manageable level after a few months.

Quarterly reports on training for volunteers and paid staff should be presented at all staff meetings. The new "service" from the volunteer department should be in the Volunteer Program Annual Report.

Worker ImageThis idea is a potential win-win for everyone. Administrators have a clear vision of where and how training dollars are being spent, paid staff have a consistent method of signing up and registering for training, there are records for individual personnel files for people to use as they compete for promotions or seek new employment, and the volunteer department is the place to go for a specialized service.

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.

Training Techniques Book 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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