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Training and development for volunteers

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Why train volunteers

It's your organisation's responsibility to make sure volunteers can carry out their role. Training is one way to make sure they're well prepared.

If their training is good, volunteers will feel more able to do their role. This is likely to make them want to continue volunteering.

Volunteers may be hoping to enhance their CVs or to develop new skills by volunteering. Training is often a way to meet this need.

For new volunteers, see our guidance on running a volunteer induction.

What training and development to give

You'll need to train volunteers on whatever they need to:

  • feel confident doing their role
  • comply with policies and procedures.

This may vary depending on:

  • what they do
  • the skills and experience they already have
  • the work of your organisation.

Providing opportunities for your volunteers to develop outside of formal training courses or workshops is also important.

Training and development can involve:

  • shadowing other volunteers or staff
  • reading resources
  • completing e-learning
  • attending workshops online or in-person
  • taking part in reflective practice (for example, in support or supervision sessions)
  • external courses.

Some volunteers will take longer to build their skills and confidence, and some may be resistant to completing training or development activities. The following can help.

  • Be clear about any training your volunteers must complete – including deadlines.
  • Do not treat volunteers differently or less favourably if they have difficulty completing mandatory training, or choose not to take part in any optional training or development you offer.
  • Support volunteers to overcome any challenges they might be facing in completing training – if you’re asking volunteers to complete e-learning, for example, consider providing access to a computer.
  • Have supportive conversations with volunteers to identify anything that might make training and development more accessible to them.

How much training to give

To decide how much training to offer, think about:

  • how much time volunteers have available
  • how they prefer to learn
  • what they need to be able to volunteer successfully
  • what resources you have, such as staff time, technology, materials and budget.

Keep any mandatory training concise, relevant and appropriate to the volunteer's role. This shows that you respect your volunteers’ time.

It also makes sure training and development isn't seen as a perk or reward, which could make the volunteering look like paid work.

Making training and development inclusive and accessible

The training and development you offer should be inclusive and accessible so that all volunteers can participate and benefit from it. You should:

  • ensure the venues you choose are appropriate and accessible
  • use accessibility checkers and web content accessibility guidelines to ensure your volunteer resources are accessible
  • present information in more than one format – for example, as a hard copy in large print, or as an audio recording
  • add ‘alt text’ to images you use in any digital communications to make them screen-reader friendly
  • use closed captions or subtitles in training videos
  • use images that celebrate and represent diversity in all forms.

Ask volunteers for their feedback on the training and development you offer and respond to their suggestions to make improvements. You could create a review schedule to help ensure your training materials remain fit for purpose.

Read more guidance on digital accessibility and inclusion.

More support

Local volunteer centres often provide training for volunteers and volunteer managers. Find your local volunteer centre.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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