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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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~ October 2004 ~ Topics

Ice Breaker—the Name Tag Exchange

Quick and fun introductions are an important training tool. The name tag exchange is a quick and fun way to meet people and begin building the team spirit of volunteers. Here are the instructions.

  1. This works best with groups between 8 – 12 people.
  2. It takes 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. Materials: A name tag for each participant and a pencil or fine point marking pen.
  4. Each person fills out the name tag and wears it.
  5. Each person is to introduce themselves to someone in the group they do not know. Information should be exchanged for about 1 1/2 minutes.
  6. At the end of the time allotted, the participants exchange name tags and go on to meet another participant. The person only talks about the individual whose name tag he/she is wearing.
  7. When time is called, the participants switch name tags and find a new person to talk with. Again, they can only talk about the person whose name tag they are wearing.
  8. This is repeated until most of the participants have met one another.
  9. End the introductions by asking people to retrieve their own name tag.

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Introducing a Speaker

Some training of volunteers is done by speakers. Frequently they are current staff or someone familiar with the organization. You know them and they know you, but the trainees have no idea who the person is. It is wise to follow the rules of effective introductions, even when the person is well known. It makes a smooth lead in to the topic for the learners, and sets the speaker up to present his/her material. Here are some tips to make effective introductions.

  • Get background. Learn things about the person; education, years with the organization, jobs the individual has held, books or articles published, honors received, how they are an expert on the topic to be discussed.
  • Make a mini-speech. Construct the introduction like a speech - have a brief introductory sentence or two, then the body, then transition, and end with a conclusion. Use the background information to help you organize it.
  • Try to memorize it. Try to talk conversationally without notes. This makes it seem more conversational and sounds better. If you must use notes keep them to small 3 x 5 cards. Never read an introduction.
  • Speak with energy. Be sure you have everyone's attention. Then speak with warmth and enthusiasm. Your job in the introduction is to set up the speaker to gain the audience's interest in the topic.
  • End with applause. Ask the trainees to help you welcome the person with a round of applause. Your job is to begin the clapping.
Getting people to like you is just the other side of liking other people. Norman Vincent Peale

Staff Training Assessment

Staff should be trained on how to work with volunteers. If the clerical staff works with volunteers, they can use help in the ways of organizing and managing volunteers. The same is true for program staff. Do not assume paid staff knows how to manage volunteers, even if they are a manager of other paid employees. While you have an idea of what they need to know, it is also important to know what people want from you in the way of training. Here is a simple assessment to get ideas on what staff might need.

Directions: Staff working with volunteers is interested in information on working effectively with our volunteers. Here is a short survey to help me plan a training session for you on organizing and managing volunteers. Please complete and return to __________________ (name) by ___________ (date).

1. I want to learn specific skills such as ______________ because _____________ .

2. I want to change the way I _________________ because _____________.

3. I want to have some help with _______________ because _________________.

4. I want to receive information about _________________ because ___________________.


Name: _____________________ Phone: ____________ Email: ______________

Please return to the office of the manager of volunteer programs. Thank you.

Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Slide Shows on a Shoestring, authored by Nancy Macduff and An Introduction to Helping Adults Learn and Change, by Russell D. Robinson.

Details for Slideshows on a Shoestring Book Details for Helping Adults Learn and Change Book


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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