Why Volunteer Training Programs Are Important

Why Volunteer Training Programs are Important

Training programs for volunteers may look different for every organization depending on what your program does and what you want your volunteers to achieve.

However, for most organizations and companies, the purpose of volunteer training is to assist volunteers in completing their roles independently. Trainees should feel confident in their jobs, feeling they can achieve the goals set out for them without direct assistance or supervision from managers or mentors.

What Does Volunteer Training Consist of?

Volunteer training should give volunteers the knowledge and resources they need to complete their tasks correctly. No matter how you choose to train your volunteers, the resources you give them should make them efficient and effective workers.

Volunteer training should assist volunteers in the following areas:

  • Roles and responsibilities: Make the volunteer’s role expectations, tasks, and responsibilities clear and concise.
  • Objectives: Establish clear objectives and goals you want volunteers to achieve.
  • Tools: Ensure volunteers are familiar with the tools, tasks, and procedures they need to serve in their roles.
  • Knowledge and skill gaps: Look at any knowledge or skill gaps your team members may have. Work to fill those gaps in training before they begin volunteering.
  • Future evaluations: Create a reliable framework to prepare trainees for future assessments of their work, goals, and job roles.

Volunteer Training and the Management Process

Volunteer training also connects to the volunteer management process. In volunteer management, there are four processes to keep in mind that may help you build a suitable training model. The four methods include recruitment, onboarding, scheduling, and engagement.

1. Recruitment

Recruitment involves sourcing new volunteers through outreach programs. Ask about a person’s interests or skills during this process to help place them in the right area within your organization. Some organizations also vet potential volunteers through interviews and background checks. This is especially necessary if your volunteer organization works with children or at-risk individuals.

2. Onboarding

The onboarding process during training helps acquaint new volunteers with your organization and prepare them for the work they’ll be doing. Some include an orientation day during this step, welcoming volunteers and introducing them to staff, the company mission, and key information.

3. Scheduling

Some managers allow volunteers to self-schedule, meaning they use a management platform or automated tool. Others still prefer to schedule on their behalf, which usually happens after the onboarding process.

4. Engagement

Engagement helps volunteers feel supported and included. Some engagement activities may include check-ins, evaluations, training opportunities, or appreciation programs.

Why Volunteer Training Programs Are Important

The importance of training volunteers lies in four areas — engagement, empowerment, community, and efficiency. You see improvements in each of these areas when you train volunteers well, helping your organization run smoothly and continue its mission.

  • Engagement: Many volunteers who feel emotionally involved in your cause may make a better impact. Provide training that helps volunteers from deep emotional connections to your work, and you may find that volunteer retention increases.
  • Empowerment: When volunteers are equipped with the resources and knowledge they need to complete their work effectively, they may significantly impact the community. Empowering training can also encourage better performance and long-term involvement with your organization.
  • Community: The community benefits from volunteers who are prepared to work. Make sure your volunteers are familiar with the needs of the community and individuals they may serve, and teach them how to engage with sensitive or challenging situations.
  • Efficiency: Good training improves both performance and efficiency in volunteers. It also helps to reduce high turnover rates while increasing your organization’s return on investment.

What Do Effective Volunteer Training Programs Need?

What do effective volunteer training programs need? Flexibility, Collaboration, Simulations, Analytical tools, Equity

An effective volunteer training program relies on several factors to be successful. These include elements from flexibility and collaboration to equity, simulations, and analytics.

  • Flexibility: Make sure training is both convenient and accessible. You can consider online training or self-paced assignments that allow trainees to control their sessions.
  • Collaboration: Create a place that brings people together to collaborate. Hold live classes where team members across different areas can meet, or start in-person meetings where mentors and new trainees develop interpersonal relationships.
  • Simulations: Using simulations can help your volunteers practice without real-world consequences. Help them become engaged and confident in their actions while preparing for issues or problems in real-life situations.
  • Analytical tools: Understand how well your volunteers know the training tools and have them take quizzes to ensure there are no knowledge gaps. Stay current on gaps and assign training or tasks to fix those areas.
  • Equity: Ensure trainees have the same experience and knowledge consistent with the organization’s mission. Consider in-person, remote, or asynchronous teaching to allow equal access to materials.

Tips for Developing Volunteer Training Programs

Training volunteers for your organization’s mission and goals is easier once you’ve developed a thorough plan and training program. Here are a few tips for developing volunteer training programs you may want to follow.

1. Decide What to Teach

Decide what you want to teach to your volunteers and why. What should they know when the training is over? Have clear goals in mind and focus your teaching on the trainer and the trainee.

2. Decide How to Teach

Next, focus on what kind of training program you want to use. For smaller organizations, using a buddy system or shadowing may be helpful. Larger organizations with more resources to spend on personnel and materials could make extensive training plans that last hours or a week. Make sure you plan according to your resources.

3. Write a Budget

Plan a budget for your training sessions. Include sections for areas like equipment, rentals, trainer fees, refreshments, supplies, and materials. Make sure you choose training materials that fit your budget, such as videos, workbooks, or recorded training.

4. Spread the Word

Remind the trainees of the time and place to meet and tell them how long it might take. Make sure they can attend long sessions most of the time.

5. Work out Logistics

Fill the room with enough chairs and tables for your trainees and let the speakers know when to show up. Explain similar details to other personnel who may be assisting with the process.

6. Attend to Physical Comfort

Ensure the room temperature is comfortable and provide food and drinks if necessary. The bathrooms should be easy to find, and the tables and chairs should make guests comfortable and attentive during the session.

7. Create a Welcoming Environment

While new volunteers may be shy, you can break the ice by asking them to participate in discussions and question times. Create a comfortable environment for trainees to come out of their shells.

Volunteer Training Best Practices

Now that you’ve learned the benefits of volunteer training and some tips for planning a program, there are just a few more steps to follow. Learn some volunteer training best practices to keep in mind for future training sessions.

  • Use technology: Consider different forms of technology to create blended learning or online teaching. You can also use webinars, videos, interactive online learning, or quizzes to utilize technology and improve volunteer learning and memory.
  • Create a mentorship program: A mentorship program is a great way to help new and existing members feel supported. Hold meet and greets where mentors and volunteers can meet each other and have mentors help with the training and evaluation process.
  • Set measurable goals: Set quantifiable goals for volunteers to motivate them during the training process and beyond. Make sure the goals you set are relevant to the type of work they will perform and that they are both measurable and attainable.
  • Tailor training: By understanding your average volunteer, you can tailor your training to that individual. For example, you can offer more training sessions to overview technology if you are working with a group of older adults that might not be familiar with certain systems or software.
  • Ask for feedback: Help volunteers feel recognized and heard when you ask for feedback. Implement the necessary changes to improve the training process for future trainees.

Improve Volunteer Management With Volgistics

Volgistics is a volunteer management and information technology platform for organizations of all sizes. Volgistics’ affordable pricing models make the technology accessible to smaller organizations and midsize and large systems. No matter the size of your organization, Volgistics offers a centralized place to store volunteer data, track schedules and requirements, and communicate with various volunteer members.

Contact us today to get in touch or start a free trial online.

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