How to Train Your Volunteers to Be More Productive
Volunteers play an integral role for most nonprofit organizations, with their work spanning from the front lines to behind-the-scenes importance. Increasing efficiency and cutting down on personnel costs sound desirable to any business, and it’s no different for nonprofits. Having a capable core of volunteers can reduce overhead costs and make it easier to meet monthly or annual goals.
Having capable volunteers often isn’t possible without some training, which, despite its investment, will pay off in the long run. Honing a staff's skills will cut down on costs due to their increased efficiency in day-to-day work. Saving time often means saving resources, which can be expensive for nonprofits. As a result, training volunteers is a recommended practice for all organizations.
Create Training for Everyone
There are a wide variety of volunteer job types, but each one has equal importance in terms of training priority. Training some positions while neglecting others will just result in discord in regard to protocol and communication. Also, even if a new volunteer has an impressive resume, they should still go through training, considering every nonprofit is different.
Be Respectful of Time
Volunteers already are donating their time, so it’s recommended to give very early notice for any training sessions that will take place, preferably during their usual hours. It’s unlikely that schedules will allow for everyone to get together for one big training session, but training in various groups with fewer volunteers per instructor is beneficial anyway. This results in an atmosphere that’s conducive to asking questions and seeking improvement without feeling judged.
Elaborate on Nonprofit and Fundraising
Many volunteers are working from the goodness of their hearts, with relative knowledge of how a nonprofit operates. To avoid any confusion, part of the training should be to clearly define "nonprofit" in the function of yours specifically. Explain why nonprofits exist and how the typical nonprofit is run and organized, as well as the role of fundraising and the ethical considerations.
As most nonprofits revolve around the goal of fundraising, some training that elaborates on these practices is recommended. Several online sources, like the Foundation Center, offer free courses and self-paced tutorials on fundraising. Providing volunteers with a free option always is encouraged if further research or classes are required. Fortunately, many options exist in the form of free leader's guides that can aid in seminars and general training.
For clarity, it also is suggested to include a training division mission in a nonprofit’s website, as the Center for Excellence in International Ministries does here, which states their purpose as an organization, needs and training objectives. This will provide a clear picture to both volunteers and prospective members.
Provide Constant Feedback
Feedback is certainly a form of training. Volunteers have the aim of doing the best job they can, and quality feedback can help to achieve that. Keeping your volunteers motivated and engaged via support and feedback is a great strategy, as they'll then know precisely who to go to for concerns or questions. If volunteers feel their questions and concerns are a priority, they are likely to continue working hard and feel good doing so. Constant feedback, recognition for their work and positive enforcement are all things that can be given to volunteers to maintain high morale and a sense of worth.
Additionally, offer growth opportunities when appropriate, such as appointing a successful volunteer as a group leader and providing them with responsibilities for an assigned group. Although the growth opportunity isn't monetary, giving a volunteer a position of leadership expresses gratitude and says "job well done."
Providing various training opportunities that are affordable and relevant, in addition to providing a consistent support system that includes feedback and positive enforcement, will result in a more efficient and coordinated group of volunteers. That can elevate any nonprofit into a successful fundraising machine.