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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.


~ February 2005 ~ Topics

Test Your Listening Quotient

Anyone engaged in training for paid staff or volunteers needs to be a good listener. Here is a quiz designed to help you determine your "LQ," or listening quotient.

Listening Quotient

Directions: Listed below are statements that relate to one's ability to listen to others. Rate each item by placing an "X" in the appropriate box. Try to be as candid as you can in making the rating. When you have rated all the items, take a straight edge and draw lines to connect the X's. This provides a profile of your capacity as a listener. A profile more to the right means better listening skills are at work.

Listening Practice Never Rarely Sometimes Usually Always
1. I refrain from "tuning someone out" because I disagree with them or do not like them.          
2. I strive to make sure that an individual's status in the organization or community has no impact on how well I listen.          
3. If I do not hear something I am open to admit it and ask the person to restate.          
4. I work hard to avoid letting outside distractions keep me from being focused on the speaker.          
5. I attempt to stay with speakers who are hard to listen to—slow speech, poorly organized thoughts, repeat ideas, etc.          
6. I work to interpret the non-verbal cues the speaker sends - tone of voice, gestures, mood, facial expressions, etc.          
7. I listen for information beyond "facts." Such things as feelings, attitudes, values are important, too.          
8. I avoid interrupting a speaker.          
9. I work hard to really pay attention to the speaker, not just fake it.          
10. I usually restate or paraphrase a speaker's statement, when necessary, to show I have understood what the individual is saying.          
11. I use non-verbal cues when I am listening. (eye contact, head nods, smiles, etc.)          
12. I try not to be influenced by what I want to hear, rather than what is being said.          
13. I try to listen to what is NOT said.          
14. I work hard to not be distracted by the speaker's outward appearance. (mannerisms, clothing, hair, pace, etc.)          
15. I try hard not to be organizing a response when someone is still speaking.          

Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, by Stan Smith.

Details for Training Techniques Book

Teaching Staff to Work With Volunteers: Correcting Mistakes

Staff working with volunteers need training. There should be classroom-types of training to enhance skills. Some staff members who supervise volunteers are in non-supervisory positions in the organization. They do not usually have the benefit of receiving training on supervision, so the manager of volunteers needs to train people on how to manage effectively the unpaid workforce.

While there may be excellent training for staff members, it is not insurance against mistakes. So, what is the manager of volunteers to do when a staff member makes a mistake in managing a voluntee? Here are some tips.

  • Be sure you understand the volunteer's tasks. Make sure you have a current position description and understand what the volunteer is supposed to do. Was the mistake a misunderstanding of a job duty? Maybe the staff member and the volunteer did not have a meeting of the minds about the work to be done.
  • Practice asking non-threatening questions. Work on tone of voice and physical demeanor as you make inquiries about the mistakes. Try open-ended questions: "When the volunteer came in yesterday what happened?" Try writing them out before you talk to the staff member.
  • Approach the situation with an open mind. Even if the staff member is not your favorite person, look at the conversation with him/her as a fact finding mission. The only people who really understand this situation are the volunteer and the staff member. This is an excellent place to practice those listening skills mentioned above. The manager's job is to determine the best course of action for all parties.
  • The best solutions come from the staff member. Discuss the situation with the staff member and encourage him/her to take ownership of the problem. Ask how the situation can be remedied. The solution is likely to be carried out if the staff member identifies it.

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Washington State University Extends Deadline for Training Institute

Washington State University will offer the first face-to-face Volunteer Management Certificate Program at Port Hadlock from April 26 – 29, 2005. This is an up-close-and-personal version of the award winning online course. Hosted by the WSU Learning Center the training is in the shadow of the Olympia Mountains and across the Straits of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Join three top drawer faculty in an intensively interactive institute designed to hone your skills in organizing and managing volunteers. For detailed information visit the Volunteer Management Institute Web site at: http://emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer. Deadline for registration is extended to March.


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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