Staff and Volunteer Training Tips
Providing formal training to staff and volunteers has obvious benefits for an organization, individual staff members and volunteers. For the organization, it is a means of ensuring staff and volunteers are knowledgeable, making them exceptional ambassadors for the organization in and outside of work.
In addition, training is an essential part of risk management – failing to properly train individuals, providing services to clients, or even representing the organization to the public can have serious consequences. For staff members and volunteers, training is a means of professional development many are eager to receive. In addition to it being an essential part of effective volunteer management, many volunteers find personal value in the training provided to them by organizations about which they care deeply.
Regardless of whether or not your organization has a formal training program, there are things nonprofit leaders can do to ensure staff and volunteers are appropriately oriented to the organization and able to continue to learn and develop professionally.
Before committing to a training plan:
- Be strategic – have an understanding of what staff and volunteers need to know and when they need to know it. Providing training is an investment, so be sure to develop a way to measure whether your training efforts are successful.
- Anyone responsible for training staff or volunteers should have at least a basic understanding of the principles of adult learning.
Selecting training methods:
- Classroom training or workshops provide a space free from the distractions of everyday activities, so participants can focus on learning and getting to know colleagues in a new context. New to workshop planning and facilitation? "How to Run a Workshop" is a comprehensive, practical guide.
- Nonprofits who struggle to host regular classroom trainings should consider partnering with other community organizations to provide training to a combined audience. Chances are good that the staff and volunteers of similar organizations need the same training as your organization. Combining forces is a good opportunity for networking and may lead to other opportunities for collaboration between the organizations involved.
- If bringing staff and volunteers together for an in-person training isn’t feasible, consider what training might be suitably delivered via online training, webinars or video-conference — keeping in mind the principles of adult learning.
- Be familiar with learning opportunities (workshops, conferences, classes) hosted by other community organizations, foundations and professional associations. Get the biggest bang for your buck by having those who attend outside events report back on what they’ve learned, giving the trainee the added benefit of demonstrating their knowledge.
Training is learning, and learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom or other formal training sessions:
- Add a training component to departmental or staff meetings – consider case studies and role play, which are both effective methods for helping small groups learn new concepts or review procedures.
- Arrange for staff and/or volunteers from different parts of your organization to swap roles for a day. Exposure to other parts of your organization can lead to a deeper understanding of the organization as a whole. You can even take it a step further and develop a checklist to guide the experience.
Developing a training plan for staff and volunteers can be a daunting task, but your mission is too important to risk neglecting it. Appropriate training is extremely important, but it should not be done for its own sake; training endeavors must be purposeful and measured. Armed with an understanding of how adults learn, training may be delivered in a variety of ways, so get creative!
Kate is the Training Administrator at Planned Parenthood Arizona. She develops and delivers classroom and online training. She graduated from the Masters of Nonprofit Studies program in 2010.