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February 14, 2024

How to Train Volunteers

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Mandated Reporter Training

Volunteer manager teaching recruitment class of incoming volunteers.

You always want your volunteers to be passionate about your organization’s mission, but you also want to make sure that they’re equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet your objectives. During recruitment for volunteers, you may run into a number of candidates who are eager and educated on what to do, though in most cases, volunteers will require a bit of training to get started.

Training not only gears your volunteers up for the job, but studies also show that organizations that implement training have better recruitment and retention rates for their volunteers. In addition, some states, like California, require certain volunteers to take mandated reporter training in order to work.

Read more on the best ways to implement and carry out training with your team.

What Does Volunteer Training Consist of?

Get started by giving an overview of what training typically consists of across volunteer programs. The goal of training is to ensure your volunteers can complete their roles successfully, confidently, and independently. To ensure this, most training programs should go over the following basics of their duties and responsibilities of where they’ll be working & answering questions they may have:

  • Orientation: Introduce volunteers to your organization, its mission, and its impact.
  • Role-specific training: Provide detailed instructions and practice for volunteers' specific tasks.
  • Soft-skills development: Enhance communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
  • Safety and compliance: Ensure volunteers understand safety protocols and legal requirements.
  • Ongoing education: Provide continuous learning opportunities to help volunteers grow with your organization.

Best Practices for Volunteer Training

An excellent training program will focus on more than simply conveying the information; it will resonate with your volunteers and prepare them for whatever they face. You want your volunteers to be passionate and internalize the principles of your organization, and making sure your training is engaging and easily understood is essential. Luckily, there are several tools and strategies at your disposal:

Define Clear Learning Objectives

When designing your training, make sure that you have clear objectives about what should be learned while taking your program. This can include setting up measurable goals or specific benchmarks that align with each role and responsibility. This will also help your students create a clearer roadmap for themselves.

Use A Mix of Training Methods

Everyone learns differently, so it’s important to mix up the delivery of your training to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to learn. This can include hands-on training, workbooks, online courses, video tutorials, and much more.

Note: A learning management system (LMS) is a great turnkey solution to online training. You can track progress, update courseware easily, and give your volunteers easy access to learning. Learn the ways LMS solutions are being implemented.

Incorporate Real-Life Scenarios

Giving real examples of what your volunteers might encounter will help them prepare properly for their roles and responsibilities. Role-playing exercises can also help volunteers experience and work through situations in a safe space.

Foster Interactive Environments

Encourage your volunteers to ask questions, enter discussions, and interact with one another during training. Not only will this make your training more engaging, but it will also help reinforce lessons learned through peer discussions and solving problems as a group.

Provide Continuous Resources and Support

Offer ongoing learning opportunities for your volunteers. This can include refresher courses, online/in-person resources, and regular updates on any changes in your procedures or policies.

Keep Training Succinct

Volunteers are typically dedicating time out of their own schedules to contribute to their projects. It’s nice to respect their time and keep your training concise and to the point. Try to group your complex lessons into small, manageable segments.

Leverage Experienced Volunteers

During recruitment, you may run into volunteers who have previous experience in similar roles. These volunteers can share valuable insight and serve as mentors or trainers for other volunteers. Peer-led training can foster more community and group problem-solving skills as well.

Evaluate and Revise Your Training Program Regularly

Each ‘season’ or other respective period, you should look at and revise your training program to make sure it’s running efficiently. It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul every time, but small, consistent improvements can make large differences in the long run.

CA AB 506

In California, some volunteers must take mandated reporter training to work at certain organizations. This is a requirement of Assembly Bill 506, which specifies that administrators, employees, and regular volunteers of youth service organizations are required to complete child abuse and neglect reporting training, also known as mandated reporter training.

AB 506 states that a “business that provides services to minors” refers to non-profit or for-profit businesses that meet the following requirements:

  • Its primary purpose is providing extracurricular services or instructions to youth under 18 years of age (does not include daycare or childcare providers)
  • It has adult employees with supervisory or disciplinary power over a child/ children

Learn more about the applications of AB 506 and how it affects training for volunteers.

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