June 21st to 27th is National Volunteer Week 2020, a week in which we celebrate the contribution of volunteers in New Zealand who enrich and support charitable organisations around the country.
Part of supporting volunteers is making their jobs easier by supporting the organisations they’re passionate about. Many of our clients are organisations who rely heavily on volunteers and who need to save time, money and valuable resources while still training them to the highest level.
There are several challenges to high-level training and ongoing engagement that are unique to the volunteer sector:
- Often, organisations that rely on volunteers have budget restrictions and can’t afford to run regular expensive training programs.
- Volunteers are already giving up their time for free, and asking them to give up more time for training is an extra drain on their generosity.
- Volunteer retention is lower than in paid positions, meaning training needs to happen more often.
- For events, such as festivals, there are usually many volunteers who are all new at the same time and only on board for a very brief period.
The solution to these problems, of course, is online volunteer training. Intuto’s online course structure is perfect for volunteer training – benefitting both the volunteer and the organisation, saving resources, increasing engagement and making it easy to track learning and compliance.
Let’s dive into the benefits:
The first, and most obvious one is that by doing your volunteer training online, you are saving your organisation the costs of running training courses in person. These costs can be significant, including venue hire, catering, trainers fees, stationery/ printouts etc.
The largest costs will be venue hire and catering, which are completely eliminated by running training online, and trainers’ fees, which can be significantly reduced by using them in a lesser capacity to create programs.
Another major cost of training that an Intuto course can eliminate is the cost of printing educational material. This allows you to use almost unlimited images and diagrams in your training workbooks without spending a fortune on paper and ink. Depending on your organisation, that can be essential.
If you’re training volunteers to work with rescue greyhounds, for example, you may want 50 images showing the signs of an aggressive animal. Having your training online with Intuto allows you to store all those images – with mark-ups – in your training workbook, without worrying about printing costs. You can also add short videos into your course to supplement or explain images.
And, of course, online training comes with strong economies of scale. Your one training program with Intuto can be used to train 10 volunteers or 1000 volunteers at the same cost. You won’t need to hire bigger venues or run multiple events – your whole training program is ready to go out to every single volunteer who needs it.
In-person training also incurs costs for volunteers in time taken from work and transport costs. Eliminating these costs for your volunteers makes it more appealing to them to join your organisation, and may increase your numbers.
Intuto’s online training structure allows you to mitigate the need for volunteers to attend multiple courses (for example, for different roles or different venues), by creating one master training program, then simply giving volunteers access to the sections they need.
For example, your master program might contain your volunteer handbook (read more about that in our next blog [hyperlink here]), a behind-the-scenes volunteer training course, a front-of-house volunteer training course and a volunteer leadership course. Behind-the-scenes volunteers would only need access to the handbook and the behind-the-scenes course, unless they were a volunteer team leader, in which case they would need access to the leadership course as well. A “floating” volunteer might need access to all the courses.
Traditionally, you would need to hold three separate training sessions and require certain volunteers to attend all three, but by doing it online, you can simply allow online access to the correct training programs for each volunteer.
This is a handy feature for organisations that require volunteers for similar but different events throughout the year, or have volunteers doing the same work at different venues. Courses covering the elements of the work that are the same can be distributed to all volunteers, while the points of difference – for example, venue maps, schedules, OHS information, parking – can be sent only to relevant volunteers.
This saves them having to attend irrelevant training sessions or wade through material that doesn’t apply, and saves you having to repeat training that covers the same content.
Ease of tracking
By running your training courses online through Intuto, you can add checkpoints at which you can track your volunteers’ understanding of the material. If a volunteer demonstrates a lack of comprehension, you can send them back to revise the material in a way you could not if you were running a seminar for 500 volunteers.
An online volunteer training program allows you to update information for volunteers as it becomes available, or as it becomes clear that more information is needed on a certain topic. If your organisation is in a field where knowledge or best practice is always changing, this feature of online training will be invaluable. Instead of needing to hold constant training sessions to update volunteers, you can simply update your online program and require them to complete that course.
This is also of benefit to organisations that hold similar events regularly. Minor updates can be made to the training materials to cover these changes, and while new volunteers do the whole training course, returning volunteers can just cover the segments that have been updated.
This is also where the tracking benefit comes in handy, as it’s a clear way to determine which volunteers have completed the updated courses. Especially for health and safety related courses, you’ll need to know which volunteers are up to date and can be on-site or dealing with certain situations.
For volunteers, who are already giving up what can be substantial amounts of their valuable time, the benefits of doing their training program online are enormous. Instead of having to give up whole days to attend training, and all that entails (taking time off work, arranging childcare, paying for transport or parking, etc.), they can do their training in their own time and from a location that is convenient to them.
To make it even easier for your trainee volunteers, create your training in smaller, bite-sized chunks that they can complete in short time periods. For example, five courses they can do in an hour after dinner each night over a week is more likely to be completed in a timely fashion than one five-hour course that may feel overwhelming.
Making obligatory training fit into their lives, rather than the other way around, is likely to make volunteering for your organisation more appealing, and may lead to greater intake of willing volunteers, as they know that all the hours they put in are benefitting their chosen cause, rather than being spent on box-ticking OHS courses.
By providing your volunteers with their training materials online to let them complete as and when suits them, you’re also giving them the materials to refer back to when they need to refresh their memories or check a detail. Of course, you could give them printouts of every piece of information they need to know, but how much easier is it for them and you to simply have access to that information through Intuto on their laptop or smartphone?
Depending on your organisation and the work volunteers are doing for you, you may decide to do your volunteer training completely online, or you may like to incorporate some face-to-face training.