This past Saturday I participated in a three hour training session for Braven, a terrific nonprofit I'm volunteering with. Braven's mission is to empower promising, underrepresented young people—first-generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds, and students of color—with the skills, confidence, experiences and networks necessary to transition from college to strong first jobs, which lead to meaningful careers and lives of impact. They do this in four cities including Bay Area, Chicago, Newark and NYC. You can learn much more at (www.braven.org)
This training was Efficient, Engaging and Energizing! If you read my stuff you know I love 3's of anything (see 3B's To Focus On) so there you have it! I'm grateful that some - maybe many - of the nonprofits I have the privilege of working with read my posts. If so, here are some best practices when training a new cohort of volunteers - these were all evident in the training I experienced. Let's go straight down the line.
Timing and Length: The training kicked off promptly at 10:00 am and went to 1:00 PM for a total of three hours. Not too much to give up out of a weekend. More importantly, all of the time was well spent. No filler. Just real content mixed with the opportunity for the volunteers to get to know each other as well as the key team members from the organization. More on that below:
Content: As noted above, the training was a valuable mix of the Why, What (Happens) and How. Specifically, the training started off by providing us volunteers with background information about the nonprofit and why it does what it does. In this case, since the organization deals with young people, the team shared the benefits to those we'd be serving when we serve in the role we're training for. Next, we took a deeper dive into how we'd be doing what we do. This included providing a full understanding of the dynamics of the program, the platforms, the technology and the resources that would be available to us. This included plenty of access to guides as well as yes, humans that could help us (yea!). Finally, we had the opportunity to test drive what we were learning in small cohorts. (Bonus: This gave us additional opportunities to build our network among the volunteering group).
Continuous Learning and Development: This was just the beginning of the training for what will be a full semester engagement. Too often I've seen volunteer training viewed as a one and done deal. Here's what you do now off you go and do it. Not here. After this first session, we have several more sessions before we begin the actual role. Once the real program commences, there is ongoing training as well as a liaison - an exemplary volunteer from last year - there to support us as we do our work.
Oh and other thing - GRATITUDE! While no one volunteers for the thank you (or the t-shirts, bagels or the other niceties), it's always nice to hear thank you. And we heard it from everyone on their team both during and after the session. Personally speaking, I felt beyond appreciated.
I look forward to continuing to share - and hopefully you've got a takeaway or two that you can add to your toolbox.
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Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com