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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 2006 ~ Topics

Training Customer Service Volunteers
Conflict Can Be Positive
Reviewing: A Powerful Training Tool

Training Customer Service Volunteers

In some organizations volunteers are the public face of the organization to those who visit, be they clients, members, patrons, or family members. Training them in customer service is a priority of training. Once the volunteer masters the basics, the next step is teaching how to diagnose problems. Here are some questions to help train volunteers and some tips on what to do once the information has been collected.

  • What are your specific concerns?
  • When did this take place?
  • What information can you share with me so I can help you?
  • Where did the problem/situation occur?
  • Have you talked to anyone else about this?
  • What would you like to see happen?
  • How would you like to resolve this situation?

After information is gathered, the volunteer needs to practice (during training, so they can do it on the job) clearly restating the problem. Take time to paraphrase the situation and have the individual confirm that the volunteer has the correct understand. The next step is to move to solve the problem. Those steps are different for different organizations.

Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for Sharing Moments of Recognition Every Day by Linda L. Graff. Details for Slide Shows Book

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Conflict Can Be Positive

Many managers of volunteers see conflict in negative ways. This is frequently communicated to volunteers. Hence, any whiff of conflict and people retreat and avoid...which never solves problems. If the volunteers in your organization are apt to encounter conflict use this clever mnemonic device to teach them that it can have value.

Networking can result
Fixes a problem
Lessons will be learned
Confidence is built
Thinking powers are stimulated

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Reviewing: A Powerful Training Tool

A powerful tool, often missed by lay-trainers, is the review. It can occur at the end of a training segment or the end of the training day. If you are training one-to-one or to 600 the review will help cement the information provided for the learner. If we remember things we are more likely to use them. Over the next couple of months Volunteer Today will provide concrete ways to carry out reviews, from one person to a cast of thousands.

Reviewing for the Individual—

    1. Silence - context is always important in reviewing material, but a well-placed pause, with no talking for a few minutes allows someone to think. In a group setting individuals "drop-out" periodically to process information. That is harder to do when there is only one trainee. So the trainer needs to announce that periodically he/she will stop to allow think time for learner and trainer.
    2. Graphic reflection – This idea is not about art, but rather creating diagrams, charts, graphs, patterns, drawings, and the like to capture the information learned and its use.
    3. Scavenger Hunt – Following training, the trainee receives a list of things to "find" that provides feedback for the trainee and the trainer on what is yet needed for the person to be proficient. This works especially well if volunteers must use manuals or directories.
    4. Structured/Unstructured Written Review – The review might be structured (written questions with a standard list of reflective and review type questions) or unstructured (use of diary, journal, or notebook to record memories of material covered). These two methods train people to mentally review the information and its use.


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://tltc.shu.edu/npo/. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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