Volunteer training is a key part of delivering value to supporters from the very first interaction. Is your training program exceeding the expectations of volunteers or pushing them away?

Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Developing a training program that exceeds the expectations of volunteers will impact retention, engagement, and referral sources for your nonprofit. A study, performed by Middlesex University for Work Based Learning, found that 74% of people felt they weren’t achieving their full potential due to lack of development opportunities. Is your nonprofit providing volunteers with opportunities to grow and become a greater asset to your nonprofit, long-term?

Developing a training program with the foundation of engagement is worth the investment. A recent Dale Carnegie survey actually found that engaged individuals outperform those who are not engaged by up to 202%. Creating opportunities for engagement provides your nonprofit with a substantial avenue to increase volunteer impact and reach new volunteer segments. Many nonprofits say reaching Millennial volunteers is a challenge. Did you know that Millennial’s want to be engaged? In fact, 87% of Millennial’s say that development and growth is significant to them and dictate the opportunities they take. Training presents a great opportunity to create engagement from day one.

Developing a volunteer training program that exceeds expectations requires strategy and understanding of supporters. Here are a few ways to exceed expectations through engagement and create a high return on investment from your organizations training program.

Job Specific Training (Hands on)

Hands on training is one of the best ways to introduce volunteers to a role and engage them at the same time. Allowing volunteers to train in the field introduces them to other volunteers (creating friendships) and gives them the opportunity to see your organizations mission in action.

Here are a few additional benefits hands on training provides:

  • Provides supporters with a safe learning environment
  • Allow volunteers to link theory, teaching, and practice
  • Offers supporters the opportunity to collaborate and learn from others
  • Influences emotions increasing knowledge and skills

Identify Skills and Leverage

Training should be used as an opportunity to get to know volunteers, identify skills, and leverage those talents to improve your volunteer program. Think of training as a chance to introduce your organization to volunteers and allow them to introduce themselves in return.  Supporters want to be utilized to their fullest potential. A recent survey, performed by The Millennial Impact Project, found that 77% of people would be more likely to volunteer if they could use their skills and expertise. Volunteers are also more likely to continue to give if their talents are being utilized in pursuit of greater good.

Here are a few ways to identify volunteer skills during training:

  • Ask volunteers what they want to do and learn during opportunity fulfillment
  • Allow volunteers to train and learn new skill sets (see if they resonate with a task)
  • Survey volunteers after training to make sure they felt utilized
  • Review a volunteer’s application to identify experience (consider roles that match skills)

Motivation and Growth Opportunities

One of the best motivators for volunteers is growth. Providing supporters with an avenue to grow in their volunteer role, personally, and professionally can influence their decision to continue to give. A recent survey, performed by Clear Company, found that 76% of people are looking for growth opportunities.

Consider providing volunteers with skill-development opportunities that can positively impact their life outside of volunteerism. Learn about each supporter and find ways to deliver value through skill development training.

Role Flexibility

Many volunteers give in order to fulfill a desire to learn a specific skill-set. As mentioned earlier, skill development is a great way to influence engagement. Allow volunteers to train on roles that are interesting to them. Your organizations volunteer training program should be flexible and allow supporters to help decide their direction. Research even suggests that flexibility lowers stress. According to a survey, 97% of people say that flexibility would have a positive impact on their overall quality of life.


Exceeding volunteer expectations is all about developing strategies and deploying program components that impact their lives. Focus on providing job specific training that is hands on, leverage skill-sets, motivate through growth, and provide an experience that is flexible.