Volunteer Training and Supervision

Volunteer Training and Supervision

By Diana S. Cutaia

In one of our previous Coaches Corner Articles we spent some time looking at how you build a sustainable volunteer network with a particular focus on recruitment.  This month’s article we will examine the next step in the process and explore how we support and retain volunteers.

For many SBYD programs volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. Although these organizations have paid staff, the primary function of the organization – the delivery of the curriculum – is handled entirely by a volunteer corp. The financial benefits of this, albeit enticing, can get soaked up in high turnover and expensive recruitment efforts if volunteers aren’t retained year by year. This is why it is important that organizations ensure that they supervise and evaluate staff, provide them with training and access to resources and establish systems that help them stay connected and appreciated. Below we have outlined some ways that organizations can achieve this.

Supervision & Evaluation:

Central to any organization is ensuring that the mission and vision of the organization remain consistent down the line. Organizations that conduct evaluations and conduct routine observations of support staff have greater success in achieving these ends. When conducting an evaluation you should be sure to include the following:

  • Be sure to ask volunteers about their experience to gain a better understanding of what areas challenged them and which provided them with the most satisfaction. You may be able to find patterns among all volunteers that will help inform future policy changes or training needs.
  • Throughout the year you should be observing and providing feedback to coaches on a consistent schedule based on what the goals were for the season and the expectations that were determined when they began. Provide feedback based on goals for the year.
  • Ask the athletes for feedback through a standard and quick survey. Allow for some open-ended questions around their experience, but try to keep them to a minimum.

Training & Resources:

Just like our athletes, in order for volunteers in your program to be successful we must provide them with appropriate skills and resources. We can achieve this goal by taking the following steps:

  • Provide volunteers with an up-to-date written manual on polices and procedures and take the time to review it with them. Make sure that they understand how they should react in situations that may not be spelled out in the manual. This also includes emergency procedures.
    • Work together to set some clear, simple and manageable expectations.
    • Be sure that you review the organizations mission & vision so that they know how the work they are doing fits into the larger context.
    • Create and review the calendar of commitments so that each volunteer knows where and when they need to be certain places and can plan other work or social activities around that.
    • Also be sure to discuss how they should address and manage behavioral issues. Be sure they know to whom they report and how they can reach that individual when they are working.

Recognition & Connection:

Volunteering can be very rewarding and an excellent way to broaden one’s social networks. Many of the reasons that volunteers stay with an organization is because they feel like they are valued, the mission fits with their core values, and they have built strong connections with other people in the organization. However, programs need to ensure that they create an environment that allows all those things to happen, as it isn’t always something that happens organically. Here are a few tips to help.

  • Connect with volunteers throughout the season to see what challenges they might be experiencing in regard to implementing the curriculum or connecting with the organization
  • Recognize the efforts within and above expectations.  Everyone appreciates being recognized for the work that they do. Spend the time to set up systems where volunteers are acknowledged for the impact they make on all aspects of the program. This can include how they have helped an athlete(s), a co-worker or a community member as well as if they improve or create a better system or process for the organization.
  • Allows others to show recognition for peers through a weekly newsletter or social media. Provide them with opportunities to (share stories, challenges, successes informally)
  • Create database of best practices that volunteers can review and add to as they handle situations. This is not only a great way to provide them with resources but it is also an excellent way of recognizing the innovative actions of your volunteers.

Volunteer retention can make-or-break an organization at times. Providing them with a positive experience where they feel prepared, supported and appreciated can make all the difference.