Sunday, April 14, 2013

A higher level of professionalism for volunteers

As we require a higher level of training for our volunteers we end up with more training time.  This is a double edged sword.

First it means more of a commitment from our volunteers - I have spent the last year becoming qualified as a volunteer Response Team Member for Shelterbox.  During that time I have spent hundreds of dollars, flown to Texas (on my own dime) lived outdoors in 100 degree heat and traveled again to England where I lived outdoors in cold wet weather just to become qualified as a VOLUNTEER. So why did I spend time and money to volunteer?  Because the mission of the organization speaks to me.

During all that time flying I began to think about the process I was in and the process for the volunteer program I manage and I came up with a few things to think about.
  1. What is the goal of your program? How can you make it approachable, but not make it too easy? You have to keep the standards so that your volunteers feel well trained when they go into their first event. 
  2. The training shouldn't stop once they get their badge - consider mentors.  Even after all I noted about my training, I am still considered a "trainee" until my first deployment; nothing test you like the real thing.
  3. Your training better be awesome! If your newly found volunteers give up their evenings or weekends for training don't waste their time.  Make the training topical and interesting.
  4. Make them part of the organization by asking some questions:
    1. Did this training meet your expectations?
    2. Do you feel prepared for _______?
    3. What would they change?

While volunteers work for free, they are not cheap, you have to spend the time and effort to make them fully trained and integrated.