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.
Orientation has a lasting impact on volunteers. If it
is well done the volunteer starts out with clear expectations and enthusiasm.
Badly done and you might have the beginnings of a problem with a volunteer.
Here is a checklist to be sure you are on the right track.
Orientation begins before the volunteer reports.
Be sure you have completed the screening process: application completed,
background check done, references called, interview conducted, or
other issues important to your organization.
Communication with the volunteer about such things
as parking, security, where to report in, dress style, when the orientation
begins, and brief information on what to expect during training should
be provided well before required orientation.
Review your training material. Prepare the supplies
needed for the orientation. Look organized and ready for the new person.
Tell others there is a new volunteer(s) being trained.
Spread the word. Let volunteers and paid staff know that a new "class"
of volunteers is being readied to join the team. Welcome signs near
the volunteer office are a good idea, as it alerts the staff and current
volunteers, and it is a warm welcome to new people.
Make no assumptions. No matter the person's previous
history as volunteer or paid employee, review your organizations
policies. Do not assume people understand the concept of confidentiality.
Review it and discuss it in orientation. And that applies to other
topics, as well.
Avoid information overload. The adult brain can
only capture so much information, before it shuts down and says "Enough!"
It is better to provide information, then take a tour of the building.
Come back to training space for more information. Break up training.
And if two sessions of training are better than one, then do it that
Make sure people have material to take home for
review. A volunteer handbook is essential at orientation. Make it
attractive and inviting to read.
Evaluate your efforts. Check in with volunteers
after several weeks on the job. Ask them specific questions about
each part of orientation and how it helped or hindered them on the
job. This is best done by another volunteer who is not one of the
trainers. The volunteers are likely to be more candid in their answers.
Want more ideas for training?
Check out our online
bookstore for Sharing Moments of Recognition Every Day by Linda
Training of volunteers can include group
experiencesgame, simulation, field trip, tour, video, role-play,
etc. The value of this experiential learning is in the "debriefing"
of the exercise. There are three parts to help learners understand the
impact of the experience What Happened? So What? And What Now?
• Ask learners to describe what they did.
• What did they see?
• What did they think about what they saw?
• What feelings did they have during the experience?
• What did you learn?
• Was there something you relearned?
• Were there benefits from the experience
• How does the experience relate to the real world?
• What are the implications of the activity?
• How can you apply what you learned to the task?
• How can you extend what you have learned?
• Will this help you do things differently? How?
Volunteers leave organizations, often
taking critical information with them. If a volunteer is moving on,
even to a new position within the same organization, capture the information
to pass on to a successor. This can be done in things like project notebooks,
samples, or step-by-step procedures on the computer (so it can be forwarded
electronically). However, nothing beats the face-to-face contact and
discussion about the position and its duties. Here are three terrific
1. Are there commitments or promises you have
made to people that we need to know about?
2. What parts of the task you do for the organization are more in
your head, than on paper?
3. List three things the volunteer who follows you could benefit
from knowing before they start.
Interested in assessing volunteer and
staff relations in your program?
COLLEGE PROGRAMS ON NONPROFIT
AND VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
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