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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.

~ January 2005 ~ Topics

Pack Your Bags

Participants in workshops often bring "baggage" with them to training sessions. The baggage can be work-related or just how long it took to get to the training session. A clever way to help them set aside those concerns for the length of the training and to do introductions is the "Pack Your Bags" exercise.

Pair off the trainees. They should be with someone they do not know or know well. Each person gets two minutes to introduce themselves, say where they work (or did work), and the preoccupations they set aside in order to attend this session. Watch the time limits so each person gets his/her two minutes.

At the end of four minutes, ask each pair to make introductions. The best way is to have the partner introduce the person he/she talked to. "Baggage" or those preoccupations can be added, but only if the person is comfortable doing it. Limit the bags descriptions to one per person. Depending on the size of the group, this takes 20 to 30 minutes.

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

Details for Training Techniques Book

Macduff Conducts Basic and Advanced Workshops in Seattle in January

Nancy Macduff, Senior Editor and Publisher of Volunteer Today is conducting two workshops on the management of volunteers in Seattle, Washington, on January 24 and 25, 2005. Topics for the first workshop include the basics of recruiting volunteers, including episodic volunteers, and working with corporate volunteer programs. The advanced training, for those with two or more years of experience managing volunteers, involves supervision strategies, empowering volunteers, and a primer on risk management planning. For more information contact: Patty Igo at PattyI@UWSC.ORG.

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Keep Training Real

Adult learners are interested most in training that is directly related to their position. They expect training to be relevant to what they do and practical. As you plan training think of exercises or practice sessions to connect training to the reality of the position they will undertake. Here are some examples of "reality training."

Type of Position Sample Reality Exercise (done in the training session)
Construction-type of positions
  • Boards for hammering practice.
  • Levels for leveling practice.
  • Ladders for safe ladder climbing.
Outdoor Work
  • Paper dolls with clothing appropriate for the type of work to be done. Have learners dress the dolls in the recommended layers for the work.
  • Use toy tools and vehicles to practice safety in the out of doors.
Close personal contact with vulnerable clients
  • Case studies based on actual situations are discussed in small groups.
  • Get drama students, high school and/or college to "play" clients and have trainees interact with them.
Working with youth
  • Actual exercises that involve appropriate touching.
  • Quiz on current youth language.
  • Ask young people to come to training and give testimonials about what they like about working with adults.
Health Care
  • Have trainees write down the information that would make them uncomfortable if it were known by others. Review privacy laws.
  • Practice pushing each other around in wheel chairs.
Historic site
  • Hang pictures around the room of the site and artifacts. Give learners a walking quiz during training the actual pictures. Blow them up at a copy center to be more life-like.
  • Have an actor come and interact with trainees as character who is related to historic site. Let trainees propose questions.


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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