ISOTURE #4: Training

We’ve identified, we’ve selected and screened, we’ve oriented, this week it’s on to TRAINING.

So how do you train a 4-H volunteer?

The (maybe frustrating) answer is…it depends.  (I know… some days knowledge work makes my brain hurt too).

Before you can train your volunteers effectively you need to know what they need to know.  Enter the VRKC (Volunteer Resarch, Knowledge, and Competencies) Taxonomy.  The 4-H VRKC (much like the PRKC for professionals) outlines that necessary skills and abilities 4-H Volunteers need to be successful.

Your next question should be- where do my volunteers need the most development?  This can be determined by formal survey, observing your volunteers in action (i.e. during club meetings), or by (wait for it…) asking them.

After determining what they need to know, the next big question then is how to best disseminate the information.  Most (including myself) typically approach this by planning a formal in-person training (usually at night) at the county extension office.  Then, most (including myself) often find themselves disappointed when the participation levels were not quite what they had hoped.  What gives?

First, remember volunteering is a leisure activity, one in which people choose to participate.  Things to think about when planning your next volunteer training:

  •  Is a formal training the only way to disseminate this information?  Would a blog post, email, newsletter article, webinar, or other means be more effective?
  • How can you remove the barriers that might otherwise prevent your volunteers from participating in training?  Should you provide dinner?  Free childcare (offered by your County Council members)?  Offer your training as a weekday “Lunch and Learn” rather than during the evening?
  • Where is the fun on the agenda?  What do your volunteers want to learn about that might be beyond the realm of “normal” volunteer training?  Painting with a Twist (ok, maybe without the “twist”) at first blush doesn’t seem like a volunteer training activity, but why can’t volunteers paint and learn at the same time?
  •  Where is the value on the agenda?  Sometimes what we feel our volunteers need to learn and what they want to learn may be different.  In that case, lead with the want.  If volunteers value learning new get acquainted games, but you really want them to become better versed in risk management… advertise their want (and sneak your need into the training).

And don’t forget already existing training tools such as Volunteer Training Series and archived sessions of 4-H Make a Difference Monday.  Also check out the National 4-H VRKC Lesson Plans.

How have you been successful in training your volunteers?  Share your lessons learned in the comment section!

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