Take for example a volunteer role that involves leadership which might require training in many areas:
It is likely that many volunteers will keep a mental note of what they will receive for volunteering their time and energy and the training experience might be the main reason for a member volunteering. You will need to balance the need to get the project completed on time, with the volunteers desire to learn new skills.
You should start by identifying for each task the skills that are essential and those for which you are willing to provide training. You might already have training resources for some of these areas for members. If you don’t, you could set up a complimentary arrangement with another membership association that does.
You need to consider the training options available. In the training industry the current trend is to use a ‘blended learning’ approach and this uses a combination of training formats. The traditional face-to-face classroom style training or manuals and handbooks are now being complimented with on-line e-learning, teleconferencing, one-to-one coaching or CDs.
Professional training providers also consider:
How do you keep volunteers involved? The best way to keep a volunteer involved is to make sure they have a good experience.
To achieve this you need to offer interesting and meaningful work, ideally with a real and visible impact they can feel proud of, and prepare a supportive environment for the volunteer.
A supportive environment means:
Watch out for problem areas because volunteers have a very easy exit option and can depart as quick as they came. The main problem areas are poor planning, poor recruitment practices, relationship problems with paid staff and the organization not being ready for volunteers.
There are many advantages if you can successfully engage members in volunteering. They can extend your resources and sphere of influence. They can bring you extra credibility and bring a wider and more objective perspective on issues.
Finally in the years ahead a key task for association leaders, will be to remain vibrant and representative of the community, by engaging and harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of its younger members. Are you prepared for this challenge?
Every volunteer opportunity for members should be thought through and planned from the start. Good preparation will help you prevent problems that could result in delays and frustration.
This article was published in Association Manager in August 2005