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7 Elements to a Successful Volunteer Training Program

Group of goldfish effectively being trained by another goldfish

Your organization spends countless hours recruiting and engaging new volunteers. But what happens after they express interest and are ready to give your nonprofit some of their free time? You need to build an effective training program that will help your volunteers develop skills and adapt to your nonprofit’s culture. You want to make sure they are the right fit for your organization and are passionate about your cause.

Want to streamline your program and increase your efficiency? Follow these few steps to ensure you develop and execute an effective training program.

Develop the Perfect Training Program for Your Cause

The first step towards creating an effective volunteer training program is establishing what the program will look like. Determining your goals and incentives for this program upfront will help create direction. You want your training program to be aligned with your nonprofit’s mission. This is one of the first interactions your volunteers will have with your cause. Make it count!

Here are a few questions you should ask your team before developing the program:

  • What does your organization plan to gain from this program?
  • What are some of the goals of the program?
  • Do you have a budget?
  • What do you want to teach your volunteers?
  • How will you train your volunteers?
  • Which one of your team members will facilitate the program?
  • Do you need to create a manual with procedures and guidelines?

When brainstorming, consider what a first-time volunteer might be thinking. Create the experience you would want and one that would leave you feeling welcome.

Induct New Volunteers

Once you determine your guidelines for your training program, it is smart to induct your trainees before they begin. This is a part of your onboarding process. Properly screening your volunteers can be tremendously beneficial for your nonprofit as well as your volunteers. You want to make sure everyone is safe and that you preserve your organization. Your team works very hard to grow your cause, you wouldn’t want anything to ruin that.

Properly screening your volunteers may take time but it is worth it. Using a volunteer management software will help make your onboarding process simple. Not only will it help automate some of the work but it will help you organize all of the volunteers into groups. Organizing your volunteers into groups will help you see where they are in the onboarding process.

Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

It is important to make a good first impression. Developing a training environment that makes your volunteers feel at home will increase your retention rates. Strive to provide an environment where your volunteers will feel welcome from the moment they step through your doors.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Which room will you use to train your volunteers?
  • Be sure to provide a comfortable room temperature.
  • Do you plan to provide snacks or coffee?
  • Make sure the appropriate team members will facilitate the training.

Remember: the first impression can leave a lasting impression.

Produce a Memorable Introduction

Now that you have developed a solid training program and begun the onboarding process, you are ready to begin training. You want to build a program that is easy to follow and sets the right tone for your volunteers moving forward.

In your introduction to training you want to establish expectations, guidelines, and procedures. Establishing your expectations upfront will help determine if your recruited volunteers are the right match for your cause.

This also creates transparency. They will know your goals and where your organization is trying to go.

Execute Your New Training Program

Volunteers want to feel as though they are gaining something by working with your nonprofit. This could be a transformational experience or help volunteers with their skill development. Your execution of your training program is just as important as the process itself. This is where your volunteers will feel the value they can add and the growth opportunities they could be given.

Celebrate Milestones

Once your volunteer training program is complete, it is time to celebrate with your volunteers. Although training is an ongoing process, celebrating milestones can have a big impact on your volunteers.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate with your volunteers:

  • Throw a pizza party.
  • Give your new volunteers a little appreciation gift.
  • Share a social media shout out.

Supervise, Support, and Evaluate Your Volunteers

Just because your initial training program is over doesn’t mean training stops. Every interaction your volunteers have with your nonprofit is an opportunity for learning and growth. Training never stops. If you want your volunteers to be lifelong supporters, create an environment of growth and development.

Supervising, supporting, and evaluating your volunteers will assure them that they are just as valued as your employees. They want to know that you don’t keep weak links around just to have more volunteers. Someone who is not performing or being helpful can slow down any event or the entire organization. Your volunteers want your organization to grow just as much as you do.

Communicating your observations and evaluations could create more loyalty among your volunteers. They want to feel like their time is contributing to the betterment of your organization. By giving volunteers feedback and support you can strengthen your relationships with them.

Take the time to truly develop a volunteer training program that is right for your organization. Your training program can help grow your nonprofit as well as your volunteers. Make every training opportunity count. This is your chance to show your community your passion and dedication for your cause. Creating an effective training program will ensure you are on the right track to increasing volunteer retention.

About Rob Cardosi

Prior to joining VolunteerHub as Director of Sales, Rob served as the Associate Director of Development at the University of Cincinnati Foundation and as the Associate Director of Annual Giving for the University of Kentucky.

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