Volunteer training is an essential process for any nonprofit or other type of organization that accepts volunteer work. It imparts the knowledge and skills helpers need to properly assist your organization and its supporters. Though volunteer training is generally less extensive than employee training, it’s still very important.
Done right, it will help unpaid workers know what’s expected of them and empower them to participate in your organization’s mission. On the other hand, a poorly developed training program can become a drain on your time and resources. In the worst case scenario, a lack of proper training may lead to confusion, frustration, and disengagement among volunteers, ultimately undermining the very goals and purpose your organization strives to achieve.
Creating an exceptional volunteer training program requires money, time, and effort upfront. But your exertions will pay off in the long run. A good training solution will help your unpaid workers feel more engaged and involved in your cause. It will also give you confidence that each helper has the information and tools necessary to do their job correctly. Here’s how to quickly and smoothly train your volunteers so they’re ready to become an asset to your organization.
Show, Don’t Just Tell
Too many hiring managers and volunteer organizers rely on written or verbal instructions alone to train workers. But giving your unpaid workers a boring training speech or multi-page pamphlets of instructions is not ideal. Those are only good options if your goal is to lose their interest within the first few minutes. When training volunteers, it’s much more effective to show information, not just tell it or make them read it.
For this reason, training videos are generally much more effective than pamphlets or verbal training sessions without visual aids. You don’t have to hire paid actors to create your videos for you (though there’s nothing wrong with doing that). You can develop budget-friendly training videos using a screen recorder and your own verbal script. A screen recorder is a simple tool that allows you to capture video of your screen activity. That way, you can show workers what you want them to do, walking them through necessary processes.
Using visual aids for training can enhance the learning process. It improves viewer engagement better than textual information alone, which is why it’s such a popular marketing tool. It also helps viewers retain information and recall it more easily. In a world where attention spans are shorter than ever, video training can convey pertinent information in an attention-grabbing way. If you aren’t currently utilizing the power of video training, give it a try and notice how your volunteers respond.
Offer Hands-On Learning Opportunities
In addition to video training, you should provide hands-on learning opportunities. There’s arguably no better way to learn something than by doing it yourself. If you can remember, think back to when you learned how to tie your shoes. A parent or older sibling most likely talked you through the steps while demonstrating how to do them. But you probably didn’t fully grasp the concept of shoe-tying until you tried it yourself.
Hands-on training is one of the most effective teaching methods. Teachers know this, which is why the best educators often rely heavily on experiential learning techniques. Everyone can relate to hands-on training, no matter what language they speak or what age they are. As a method of training, hands-on learning can also improve confidence in your volunteers. They’ll be more self-assured in their ability to do the job correctly when they’re able to practice beforehand.
Business simulations are popular for promoting hands-on training. They can be done in person or they can be entirely digital, based on your needs and preferences. Simulations, role-playing, and other interactive scenarios give volunteers opportunities to practice their skills.
Welcome Feedback to Improve Future Trainings
When you’re testing out a new training video or technique, it’s essential to get feedback. You can rely on the opinions of other high-level colleagues in your organization if you wish. However, you’re more likely to get pertinent insights from those who actually experience the training. Welcoming feedback from volunteers is a wise move that can help you revise and perfect your training methods going forward.
There are several ways to solicit feedback regarding your training methods. If you ask a vague question such as, “What did you think of this training session?” prepare to receive a vague answer like, “It was alright.” To encourage more specific responses, ask specific questions. Examples include, “Was there any part of the training that didn’t seem clear to you?” or “What important questions did we fail to answer?”
Once you receive feedback, use it to update and improve your training materials. Your volunteers will appreciate your efforts to make sure they have sufficient information to fulfill their roles confidently and capably. You’ll also benefit from having well-trained volunteers who can help your organization succeed.
Volunteer training doesn’t need to be as in-depth as full-time employee training. However, you still need to give your unpaid workers the tools they need to succeed. That means creating a thoughtful, comprehensive training program that will give them the knowledge and confidence they need to excel. Confident, well-trained volunteers reflect positively on your organization and can help you make a bigger impact.
Written by Rida Sheppard