Training Your Volunteers

Whether your volunteers are answering phones on the emergency line, dishing up hot soup on Wednesday evenings in the church basement or passing cups of water to marathoners during the big race, they’ll need at least some degree of training–and it’s up to you to make sure they’re doing the job right. Follow these three simple steps to ensure your volunteers are psyched and ready for the task at hand.

Step, step, chassé!

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Make sure those volunteers know their moves. A training session should include a step-by-step of their actual job duties. Bonus points if you can bring in existing volunteers to give newbies the real low-down on how things will work. Do they know where to check-in when they arrive? Do they know what to bring? Who to talk to if they get lost or confused? Introduce the Volunteer Coordinator; it’s always helpful to associate a face with the name of the person who’s choreographing the big dance.

Repeat after me…

Your volunteers are the most visible representation of your organization; make sure they know the lingo. All your volunteers should be able to talk the walk in case they are interviewed by a media or news outlet. Equip each volunteer with a map of the event grounds or venue where they’ll be working, and make sure they can locate information booths and bathrooms on a dime. Always assess risk. If you’re running a beer garden or beverage tent, prep your volunteers on the importance of being honest. If there is the possibility of physical injury during your event, be sure to explain proper protocol to your volunteers. Liability less, volunteer more!

Status Updates, Tweets, and Posts–oh my!

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Welcome to 2013. Your volunteers will almost undoubtedly turn the volume up on your organization–through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, you-name-it. As representatives of your organization, be sure they understand the gravity and implications of what they post online.

My best advice? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Leverage social media to draw attention to your event or organization–create a hashtag you’d like your volunteers to use when they tweet about their experience. Share with them your Facebook page and encourage them to “Like” what you do online. Ask your volunteers to tag your event in their photos (you might even consider hosting a photo contest!). There’s nothing wrong with a little free publicity–just make sure it’s the right kind of publicity. You’re not Ke$ha: any attention is not always good attention.

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