What should go into a volunteer training program?
To develop a training program is not an arduous quest, nor a costly option, but rather a simple process that helps to retain any volunteer seeking personal development. There is an appreciable difference between the organization offering and not offering training and development opportunities to their volunteers. Many not-for-profits are making a transcendent effort by implementing those needed interventions to help alleviate issues that stem from poor training and development offerings. Those organizations whose avowed intention is to offer extensive, but yet necessary training and development opportunities are on the right track to future growth and successes.
Volunteer retention is complimented by such training programs. Many volunteers today either fall under the youth or senior categories. Youth volunteer, to not just only build up their school applications, and resumes, but also they volunteer with organizations that they feel will compliment their short-term or long-term goals. But in order to get the most out of their experience with the organization, they need training, they need opportunities for personal development, and in this they find their true calling to the organization. For senior volunteers, it is all about gaining intrinsic rewards, i.e. self-satisfaction, giving back to their communities etc.
Most volunteer training programs are permeated by what the organization wants to be learned; not taking into consideration what the learners actually want to learn. There needs to be buy-in by the volunteers. Of course the organization has to have say in what goes into the training content, but this should largely be conveyed in the training offered to volunteers when being oriented into the organization. Any ensuing training programs, (unless the volunteer is transitioning into a new volunteer position), should have substantial input from the volunteers ahead of time to accomplish three things: volunteer buy-in; save costs on designing a training program that no volunteer will want to partake in; as well save the organization time, this time can then be allocated to meeting the needs of their target market. Ways in which you can solicit the input of your volunteers on what type of future training they would like to participate in is simply conduct a thorough needs analysis. This can be accomplished by surveying an ample portion of your volunteer base just simply asking them these three questions:
(a) Is there any additional types of training you would like our organization to offer, if so please state what type of training?
(b) Are you available Monday-Sunday to come in for additional training
(c) Is there a time that works best for you?
This should give the basic foundation for which type of training to offer to meet the volunteers' satisfaction, as well when best to host the training program, as a way to appease the volunteer's busy schedule.
There is no need to have a punctilious facilitator (or trainer); there needs to be a trainer that allows for flexibility, and deviation at times. It is important to first consider that part of the needs analysis process is to not only define what the training issues are etc, but as well to identify what the trainee's hopes and wishes of being a direct recipient of the training material is. Next, volunteer trainees need to be reminded of this during the training process. Meaning that they need the flexibility to ask questions that may not be at sometimes directly pertinent to the material being taught during training. For example, if during a skills building workshop i.e. team-building, a volunteer asks "is it true that innovative organizations promote individualism just as evenly"? It is the trainer's job to first, refer back to the workshops subject matter, and then find and apply any relevant information into their response to the trainee's question. Perhaps this could be the trainer's response, "Yes this is true, but there is a certain degree of individualism in every team member's contribution. You are still thinking your own thoughts, making suggestions and stating opinions as an individual, put with the direct intention to tell your fellow team members".
Greg Procknow is the principle of Intrinsic Non-Profit Training, which provides a variety of training and development services to not-for-profit organizations and their volunteers respectively. Currently Greg works extensively with the Canadian Cancer Society. Greg can be reached at email@example.com or visit, http://www.trainingvolunteers.ca.
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