A New Approach to Volunteer Training

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As National Volunteer Week approaches (April 18-24), let’s take some time to re-evaluate our volunteer training programs. We know that a comprehensive volunteer and chapter leadership development program consisting of multi-channel, asynchronous, and live delivery (virtual or face-to-face) training and resources is key to success. We also have come to realize that volunteers learn better when they have more control over what they are learning and when that learning takes place.

So, how about flipping our training programs from a global “here’s what you need” to one that begins with the learner, i.e., targeting the learning to the learning needs. By moving from transactional volunteer training to a volunteer learning model where the volunteer takes more control and responsibility for their own learning, we can create a better experience that sticks long after it’s done.

Where do we get started? The first step could be to build volunteer personas that would characterize volunteers by career levels, interest in issues/causes, geography, demographics, volunteer motivation, and more. The overarching goal would be to shift the training from what you think a volunteer needs to know to who the volunteers are and what motivates them. Of course, personas will vary from organization to organization, but you get the drift. Check out VolunteerPro for an interesting post on volunteer personas and Higher Logic’s post on member personas.

So, what do you do with this knowledge once you receive it? Building on the idea of the consumer/member journey map concept, you could then create learning journeys based on the personas you built. Ideally, this will help you better develop training and strategy that meets volunteer’s needs based on motivations, experiences, learning styles, etc. It should also assist you in identifying gaps in your volunteer training.

Sounds interesting? We’re exploring more on this via a workgroup of association professionals in the coming months. We look forward to sharing our findings. In the meanwhile, here are two actions: consider what are your volunteer personas and read about how to use learner journey mapping to improve the educational experience.

Stay tuned!

Check out more resources including Coaching Volunteer Leaders: Tips for Creating a 12-Month Strategy in our CRP Solution Center.  

Mariner Management & Marketing provides association management, volunteer coordinator and leadership development information for associations and non-profit organizations.