World Humanitarian Day is just around the corner on August 19th, recognizing humanitarian individuals and those who lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. This is the perfect time to evaluate how you prepare your organization’s volunteers, in order to make sure that your volunteers can help your cause to the fullest.

Volunteers must feel welcomed, informed and thoroughly trained to help them stay motivated and sufficiently perform their tasks. Sure, they may have read what your organization is all about about; however, that does not take the place of someone describing the ins and outs of working for your nonprofit.


Provide a proper orientation which covers specific key elements:

  • Explain what your nonprofits culture and contribution to society.
  • Go over its history and how it has evolved.
  • Describe the programs and whom your organization serves.
  • Provide an overview of how your organization is set up so that volunteers understand who does what.
  • Introduce volunteers to your facility while taking them on a tour.
  • Go over general policies and procedures, mostly those that impact volunteers directly.
  • Explain the volunteer management system, such as schedules, if check in is needed, and whom can they turn for help.


Provide training to addresses specific job functions they will perform.

Training should go over:

  • How the volunteer will perform particular tasks.
  • What to avoid when performing these tasks.
  • How to handle an emergency situation.
  • What the goals are for their task/ how it will be evaluated.
  • What equipment will be required and how to use it.
  • A walk through coaching while the volunteer tries out the task.

Strong training is experiential, practical, and hands-on. Even if the volunteer task is easy and the time volunteering will be brief, don’t neglect the basics.

Learning Types

Methods and materials need to appeal to all learning types. Volunteers are can broken up into three categories:

  • The Analyzer – These people are perfectionists who hate making mistakes and want to know and practice everything before they start their duties. The best way to teach these people is to give them clear steps to follow, lots of details to adhere to, and a good amount of practice time.
  • The Doer – As the name suggests, these people learn by doing. They may make mistakes, but they prefer to take on small tasks alone and learn from them rather than simply being told what to do. As a bonus, these people are often the first to volunteer for a new challenge.
  • The Watcher – The watcher learns best by watching someone else perform the task, and is a great imitator. By paring these volunteers with experienced ones, they will learn a great deal and quickly feel more comfortable.


Training is best with input from current volunteers. Ask what they wish they had known before they started doing the work and let them help you design orientation and training for newcomers.

Have new volunteers fill out a survey about how they liked it and if they found it sufficient.  At the very least, provide a face-to-face session where unforeseen concerns can be addressed.

If you want happy loyal volunteers, put effort and thought into your training. Otherwise, you’ll see high turnover and possible bad word-of-mouth from resentful volunteers.

As a final note, as you work with volunteers new and experienced, make sure you’ve protected your nonprofit organization with a specialty nonprofit insurance program. With this coverage in place, you will be able to keep your business protected while still having the time and budget to devote to your cause.

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