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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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~ May 2004 ~ Topics

Reenact Events as Training Tool

Teaching volunteers to deal with the more ticklish issues of working with clients can be more than a lecture. In fact, lecture is the least effective way to have volunteers truly understand the nuances of issues like confidentiality, safety and health policies, client rights, harassment, or so many other things. Reenactment of events can be a powerful teaching tool.

Write up a "realistic" scenario of an incident or event in the history of the organization that relates to the policies you are trying to teach the volunteers. For example, suppose some volunteers ignored a fire alarm in the organization's building and stood around drinking coffee. You have decided to do refresher training for all volunteers on the policies related to health and safety. You could use this as a scenario.

Be sure to write up the details of the event so everyone can understand what is happening and who did what and why. Imagine you are collecting newspaper clippings in order to share the information.

Next, select members of the volunteer trainees to reenact the incident for the group. Assign such positions as the client, the staff who were involved, fire personnel, and other individuals impacted by the event.

The volunteers selected to play the various "parts," then reenact the incident. The other volunteers observe.

Distribute copies of the organizational policies and ask the volunteers to determine which policies apply in this situation. Much more fun and likely to stick with them longer than a lecture.

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Sharpen Word Usage

Training volunteer usually involves some type of writing. Here is a quiz to determine your skill with frequently misused terms or words.

Directions: Read each sentence and determine which of the two words is correct to complete the sense of the sentence. Write your choice in the right hand column. To check your answers go to the Recruiting and Retention page.

My Answer
1. John is likely to (affect/effect) a change in procedure.  
2. Marsha’s (authoritative/authoritarian) boss would not give her leave to visit her sick mother.  
3. It was a large complex (comprising/composing) three buildings.  
4. As the police approached, the rowdy crowd (disbursed/dispersed).  
5. The approaching storm was a source of (eminent, imminent) danger to the volunteer fair.  
6. After much discussion, we finally decide that $100 was an (equable/equitable) price.  
7. Our new supervisor wants us to hand in brief progress reports (every day/everyday).  
8. Juan needed more information, so he asked the volunteer to (flush out/flesh out) the proposal.  
9. She wants to use this meeting to (home in/hone in) on some new strategies.  
10. The chair is the right color, but more (important/importantly) it is in the right price range.  

To check your answers go to the Recruiting and Retention page.

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Training Volunteers to Work with Non-English Speakers

Most work places are full of people with different language histories. Perhaps their first language was Vietnamese, or Russian, or Spanish. While they are fluent in English and use it in the work place, it is nice to be greeted or thanked in the native language. Volunteers can be trained in such phrases as "Please," "Thank you," "Good morning," or "Goodbye." This is also a nice touch when volunteers deal with the public who speak many different languages.

Begin by learning the phrases, creating some "cheat sheets" with the words and their definition in English and phonetic pronunciation. Then have some practice sessions for volunteers. Work with supervisors to see if employees can help as "language coaches" as the volunteers learn to greet people in their native language.

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.

Building Better Relationships 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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