4imprint, LLC

Each year, roughly 12.5 million Canadians donate approximately 2.1 billion hours of their time to volunteer work. As you know, these individuals are the lifeblood of successful, nonprofit organizations; and to retain these precious resources, you need to properly and effectively train them. A well-trained volunteer, with clear expectations of what the job entails and how things work within your organization, is much more likely to remain loyal and long-term.Here are few simple training tips to build a lifelong relationship between your organization and its volunteers.

Start with basic training
Familiarizing volunteers with the ins and outs of your organization will get them feeling comfortable in no time. Introduce volunteers to the rest of the staff. Give them a tour of your facility and show them where they will be working and where they can find whatever equipment and/or supplies they may need. Tell them when and where they can take a break and present them with a company logo’d tumbler or coffee mug to welcome them aboard. Make sure they know who they can go to with questions or concerns.

Don’t just assume that because you have a group of people willing to volunteer their time for your cause that they know the basics about your organization. A thorough breakdown of who you are, why you exist and how you operate will provide volunteers with the necessary background they need to be successful. Encourage questions and keep training light and fun with rewards. Present your volunteers with a logo-imprinted tote that will be their meeting survival kit complete with bottled water, mints, lip balm, a 2-in-1 pen and hand sanitizer, lotion and more to get them through their orientation.

Don’t forget to provide clear expectations either. Supply volunteers with a manual detailing everything from basic office policies, to what sorts of hours they can expect to work and what to do if they are ill or running late. Only then are you ready to train on job-specific duties.

The type and level of training needed by your volunteers will depend largely on their role within your organization and their individual skills and experiences. For example, volunteers that will primarily be performing administrative duties will need to know how to use the phone system, copy machine, scanner/fax, postage meter, etc. If you are operating a soup kitchen, volunteers may need training on basic food safety, meal preparation and clean up. Whatever the role is, utilizing seasoned volunteers for job shadowing can be a great training tool.

Retain, retain, retain
Once you have your volunteers trained and ready to make a difference, you need to make sure you keep them happy. Doing so requires more than just effective training. Make sure to offer constant support. Schedule periodic meetings and/or reviews where volunteers have the opportunity to express what they like and what they feel could be better. Use these times to provide continuous and constructive feedback to ensure your volunteers always know where they stand.

Keep volunteers motivated by sharing success stories and let them know how they are making a difference. Be sure that there is always something to work on to reinforce that you value your volunteers’ time and that it is in high demand.

Finally, alert volunteers to new opportunities for growth—not only what those opportunities are but also how they can be achieved.

Recognize a job well done
Be sure to say thank you early and often with positive reinforcement and recognition for a job well done. Provide volunteers with tickets to company events. Organize appreciation activities such as picnics or outings. Plan an annual volunteer party to express gratitude. An engraved plaque or award goes a long way in acknowledging an exceptional volunteer for a job well done.

Remember, a well-trained volunteer is a happy one and a happy volunteer is most likely to stick around and make an impact on your organization.

Volunteering by the Numbers.National Volunteer Week –. Web. 08 May 2012.

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