Volunteering is an underrated membership benefit. When members contribute their expertise, energy, and time to your association, they get a huge return. They feel good about themselves for giving back and making a difference. Volunteering increases their sense of belonging and community, as well as their sense of purpose and self-esteem. Your association can enhance the volunteering and leadership experience by using your learning management system (LMS) for volunteer training and onboarding.
The advantages of online volunteer training
Volunteers don’t want to waste time. When they get together for a meeting or arrive on site for an event, they want to get to work and spend their time doing what they were appointed or signed up for. They don’t want to spend precious meeting or event time going over bylaws or “housekeeping” practices. Instead, deliver volunteer orientation and onboarding online, so they can get the training they need when it’s convenient for them.
Volunteers can work through online training at their own pace. Veterans won’t become frustrated by delays caused by the least experienced person in the room. Newbies can review information as often as necessary. When you deliver online training in brain-friendly, chunks of microlearning, volunteers feel a sense of progress as they recall and apply what they’ve learn and move through their learning pathway.
Another advantage: your association saves money by not having to host special training events in different locations. You no longer need a budget for site visits, venue rental, catering, and instructor and staff travel costs.
If your LMS has an integrated online community, members can get to know their fellow volunteers as they discuss exercises and scenarios or share lessons learned from previous volunteer experiences.
Leadership orientation and onboarding
Many associations use their LMS to provide orientation training for their association and chapter boards, committees, councils, sections, divisions, and other components. As much as members look forward to their leadership service, they don’t usually look forward to long obligatory training sessions. How many hours of PowerPoint can a person tolerate?
Let volunteer leaders do the training on their own time. You can be sure they understand their roles and responsibilities by tracking their progress through the modules. Allow veteran leaders to do a self-assessment so they only take the modules they need or let them skip to a refresher module that reviews any updates since last year’s training. Schedule automatic reminders so members finish and take the final exam before the deadline.
Besides the traditional curriculum, board training should also include:
• Conflict of interest, anti-trust, and other legal issues
• Reading financial statements
• Cybersecurity awareness—especially critical considering the increase in phishing attacks targeted at association officers
A pre-meeting orientation for committee members can cover organizational goals, policies, and a review of ongoing committee work.
Keep the learning going in your online community. Chapter leaders especially benefit from discussion forums where they can seek advice, share success stories, and connect with their peers across the country.
Leadership training at NIGP
NIGP - The Institute for Public Procurement uses TopClass LMS to deliver a “volunteering 101” type of training to members appointed to leadership positions. This e-learning program—which takes one to two hours for members to complete—covers NIGP’s governance structure, goals, mission, and other topics pertinent to volunteer service. The content is delivered in a mix of audio recordings and text. NIGP is in the midst of developing a second training program for committee chairs.
In the past, volunteer training was done by staff on a one-to-one basis, so shifting it to TopClass LMS has saved an immense amount of time. Now, staff can track the progress of volunteers through the training modules, and send out automatic reminders if someone takes longer than 30 days to complete the program. They can run a report for the board showing the number of members who have participating in the training program and the increased growth in their volunteer pool.
To keep your leadership pipeline full and your succession plans in gear, create leadership development learning pathways in your LMS. Allow any interested member to take these free self-paced online courses. This association-specific content covers strategic, operational, and personal leadership competencies. For example, topics could include:
• Overview of the mission, goals, and governance and operational structure of your association
• Effective communication and collaboration
• Understanding member needs
• Volunteer recruitment and management
• Developing agendas and running meetings
• Delegating tasks
If your association has an annual leadership conference for chapter leaders, use flipped learning to help attendees become familiar before the conference with some of the event’s key topics. At the conference, attendees can spend time with peers going deeper into the content and its applications.
Consider creating digital badges for each of your leadership pathways. As members complete a pathway and earn a badge, they can display it on their social profiles, member profile, or elsewhere online for their peers and employers to view.
Event volunteer orientation
Prepare event volunteers before they arrive on site. If they watch a video and review a tip sheet before they go, they’ll have more realistic expectations and will be ready to fulfill their responsibilities.
For major events, invite volunteers to participate in an online community discussion group where they can get to know their fellow volunteers. Always look for ways to simultaneously deliver the two biggest benefits of membership: contribution and connection.
Instructor and speaker training
Don’t expect instructors and speakers, especially if they’re member volunteers, to understand the principles of adult learning. Require online course or workshop instructors to take an online “train the trainer” mini-course. As part of the session approval process, require speakers to watch a video on adult education best practices.
Peer review volunteer training
Prepare members for their peer review responsibilities with an online self-paced mini-course on the basics of peer review, referee reports, and publishing ethics.
Mentor program orientation
Whether your association has a formal or informal mentoring program, a basic training program helps to keep mentor and mentee expectations in check, and sets them up for a productive partnership. Training could include a program overview, self-assessments, goal-setting exercises, and program dos and don’ts.
Use your LMS to train episodic or ad-hoc volunteers for specific roles. For example, you could encourage these volunteers to read or watch a video on tips for:
• Making a “touch-base” call with a new member
• Following up with a non-member event attendee
• Moderating roundtables
• Preparing for legislative visits
• Raising money for the PAC
With volunteer and leadership training on your LMS, you no longer have to worry whether every volunteer is getting the same information. You can see who’s been through training and who hasn’t. You can quickly update old content and deploy new content in response to changing volunteer needs and regulations.
Volunteer training brings a large group of influencers into your LMS where they can see what else you have on offer. Once they’re familiar with your educational programs, they’re more likely to return themselves to try one out or spread the word to other members and professionals in your industry.