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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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~ September 2004 ~ Topics

Training Review: The Case of the Multiple Scribes

One part of training courses that is often skipped is the review. The excuse is: "I ran out of time." There are several causes for running out of time: too much content for the time allotted, lack of control of interactive activities—especially small groups, starting late. It is important for the trainer to exert control over the training so the review is never skipped.

It is possible to keep reviews to 5 minutes or less. This training review is slightly longer, but extremely thorough and is appropriate for in-depth training, rather than an orientation.

Post on the wall enough blank easel paper sheets so a small group can be seated in front of it, with someone from the group serving as scribe. It would be anywhere between 3 and 12 people.

The learners are asked to review all the material they received from the workshop and the notes they have taken. They are to find main points made during training or good ideas they heard. One by one, taking turns, the volunteers have the scribe write down the ideas. This usually takes 5 minutes or less.

Reconvene the group and have each scribe read the list from their group for everyone else to hear. The trainer should intervene only if an item is unclear or needs more explanation.

Plan an EDU-VACATION - April 26-29, 2005

Training for managers of volunteers, leading to a certificate, is being held April 26-29, 2005. Sponsored by Washington State University, the Volunteer Management Certificate Program will be held in Port Hadlock, Washington, in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Topics include:

Recruitment Evaluation
Training Management and Supervision
Recognition Risk Management
Diversifying the Volunteer Pool The Internet as the Manager's Next Best Friend

Interactive Case Models based on student process is the focus of Learning Activities.
For more information, visit the website at: http://www.emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer.

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Training the Committee Chair

How many times have you asked someone to chair a committee and then prayed they had the skills to carry it off? Usually everything works out well, but why leave things to chance! Here is a short outline that can be used to train those who head committees.

  • When a committee decides on a project, the chair should get the person who has volunteered to do something to summarize it for the group. Summaries by the chair only show what the chair knows and that is not nearly as important as knowing what the person doing the work thinks. "So, Alysha, can you review for me the minutes and what you will do before our next meeting?"
  • Always build in lead time for activities. If an order must be placed by the 10th of the month, ask the people in charge of that area to have it done by the 1st. This provides time for the inevitable "glitches."
  • Accept the fact that there will be glitches. To think there will be no problems is bound to give everyone a headache. Preplanning and acceptance of the occasional problem lowers everyone's blood pressure.
  • Create reasonable deadlines. Volunteers are doing their work part time, fitting it in around such things as grocery shopping, soccer games, wash, birthday parties, to name a few. Something in a work setting that could be done in 10 days might take three to four weeks by a volunteer. When the committee is setting deadlines, the chair needs to keep them from over reaching!

Answering Learner Questions

Trainers are often asked questions by learners. Here are some tips on different ways to respond.

  • Avoid one-word answers. "No" and "Yes" are not helpful. Elaboration helps explain a general principle or a policy.
  • Do not use "of course" as a response to mean yes. It is easy to misinterpret that term to something like, "Yes, that is the case and why are you so slow that you didn't get it." It can be heard as insulting by the learner and others in the group.
  • Turn the question back to the group. "That is an excellent question. How would someone else in the class handle this?"
  • Turn the question back to the asker. "What a great question. Before I respond, how would you answer the question, if I weren't around?" Let them struggle a bit and affirm the parts of the answer that are correct.

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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