Where to Start in Training Volunteers

July is a month of turnovers in association volunteering. This is the time we greet new volunteers to committees, chapters and boards. It’s the time we welcome new committee chairs. Whether it’s July for your association or another month, the question is always “where do we start?” when it comes to preparing our members to take on volunteer roles.

Based on the findings we’re seeing in a current research study on association volunteer programs, many associations do not have an organized response. Quite a few hand out the obligatory job description, committee charge, a few governance documents, conflict of interest and code of ethics. Most though cross their fingers.

What a missed opportunity! These members bring a passion to the work. What they don’t always have is optimal leadership and team skills to unleash that passion. What if the board member came to the first meeting with a clear understanding of the association’s strategic plan, able to articulate the vision, and knowing the financial dynamics? What if a committee chair understood effective meeting management and how to manager peer-volunteers?

The Ontario Real Estate Association addressed this issue with a video training series (see this Associations Now post).  Let’s take their lead. Video provides an easy and effective way of preparing our volunteers. Marketing teams see video as secret weapon: 70% of marketing professionals report that video converts better than any other medium and 64% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it.

It’s powerful and easy. Debra BenAvram of A.S.P.E.N. created a series of quick orientation slide decks for board orientation and to know that volunteers watched she’d add a “ask me about…” breadcrumb. John Tyler of American Association of Diabetes Educators creates easy videos from his computer to guide volunteers on a host of small tasks (think how-to’s for jobs like setting up an event, starting a group discussion).

We are often asked to create simple webinars for orientation and skill-training (and have done dozens of them) that be offered live and then archived. We recommend breaking down the subjects, keeping the webinars short (30-40 minutes), and making the webinars easy to access after the fact.

If you don’t have time to create your own, there is an abundance of simple training videos – often designed as career-builders – that you could co-op. Consider these sources:

Where are you starting to kick-start a strong year for your volunteers?