VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

~ November 2001 ~
  • Is E-Learning for Everyone?
  • Help Plan Training for Volunteer Managers
  • Technical Training for Volunteers
  • Recognition That Sticks

Is E-Learning for Everyone?

The rush to e-learning is on! E-learning is self-directed, uses computers, the Internet, and usually the Web. It is often less structured than a classroom. It is linear, but often allows the student to pick and chose the order in which they might take different parts of the course. But is it for everyone? If you are contemplating moving to e-learning for volunteers, here are some questions to help assess learner readiness to embrace e-learning.


Do you prefer reading books to watching TV?
  • People who like to read do better at e-learning than TV viewers. Readers like a self-guided study, while TV watchers can benefit from the structure of a classroom. 

Do you like to follow a schedule you have created?
  • E-learning means setting a time to do the necessary work, and not let life's little emergencies interfere with that commitment. The unstructured quality of e-learning is not for all learners.

Do you like to talk to other people when you are exploring a topic, or do you prefer learning on your own?
  • Many adults prefer talking with others in a classroom, to pulling out the information on their own. Learning for them is best in a classroom. 

Help Plan Training for Volunteer Managers

Washington State University's online Volunteer Management Certificate Program provides education and training in the critical skills essential for recruiting, managing, training, and evaluating volunteers. During three successful years of operation hundreds have registered to the courses in the program and ten have successfully completed all units to obtain their Certificate. WSU Volunteer Management program has won several national learning awards and praise for students. Current students and others are asking for in depth training on additional topics related to the management of volunteers. The faculty and staff need your help and input as they design new programs over the next year for a projected launch in the fall of 2002. You can complete the questionnaire on topics for the advanced courses by visiting the VMCP web site. We need your comments by December 7, 2001.

Technical Training for Volunteers

Technology is a fact of work life. Volunteers working in and around the office of an organization need training. Take this short assessment to see how your training program rates.

_____1. Volunteers receive a list of the technologies used in our program during orientation. (Fax, cell phone, e-mail, Web, computers, palm-type organizers, CB radios, etc.)
_____ 2. Volunteers receive a brief orientation on the use of the most commonly used technologies in our organization.
_____ 3. There are policies on the use of technology by volunteers and it is reviewed with the volunteers during training.
_____ 4. Experienced staff or volunteers train new volunteers on the use of specific equipment.
_____ 5. Volunteers are familiarized with the organization's Web site.
_____ 6. Volunteers using organizational databases have a through training session with a computer and practice examples using a simulation of the actual database before they work on the real thing.
_____ 7.  New technology in the organization prompts training for experienced volunteers in how to use it.


Recognition That Sticks

Recognition of volunteers is most effective when it is done by the person closest to the work the volunteer does. Ask for 20 minutes at the next all staff meeting and introduce the SIDE method of giving recognition, so staff can help in this important part of volunteer motivation.

Simple is best
Keep the recognition simple. A thank you is often the most effective thing to be said. A post-it-note near where the volunteer works expressing thanks is simple but effective.

Involve the family
A note to the volunteer's family thanking them for supporting this person while they do volunteer work can have a huge impact. The volunteer office should provide letters and note cards to make this easy.

Don't recognize too early
It is easy to jump the gun and thank a volunteer before he/she feels it is appropriate. Timing is everything. Let the volunteer make a contribution, then say thank you. Go to early and it can seem insincere or worse yet, manipulative.

Enlist others to help spot good work
Other staff or volunteers can be recruited to help you identify people who deserve praise. Encourage those people to tell you when someone is deserving of a special thank you.


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.

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