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7. Induction and Training

  • Introduction
  • Induction
  • Trial period
  • Volunteer agreement
  • Training
    - Structured training programme
    - On-the-job training
    - Ongoing training
  • Evaluating training
  • Training magnets versus training resistors
  • Induction checklist
  • Training record
  • Training budget


Having a good volunteer induction programme shows the volunteer you care and take their contribution seriously. Appropriate, quality and timely training gives them the skills and information they need to do the job to the best of their ability and to your satisfaction.

While this may seem like common sense, a number of organisations think that once the volunteers are in, everything else falls into place. This misplaced assumption is one of the main reasons why volunteers leave.

This section goes through the common sequence of training inputs offered from induction onwards.


Everyone remembers their first day so make sure that your volunteer's first day is memorable for the right reasons and avoid comments such as the following

"No one had a clue what I was meant to do"

"She handed me the health and safety manual and I never saw her after that"

"They all went off to a meeting and left me answering phones"

The first thing is to invite the volunteer to start on a day when you have time to welcome them and help them settle in. That first day is a key part of the induction.

All volunteers need some level of planned induction that covers:

  • Background on the organisation
  • An introduction to the team
  • A tour of the work area
  • An overview of the role
  • A breakdown of the tasks involved
  • What supervision and training is available
  • An overview of how volunteers fit into the organisational structure
  • Other activities which volunteers are involved and invited to
  • Completion of documents
  • Clarity on the trial period

Download the Word version of a Volunteer Induction Checklist Word document icon

Induction can happen in groups or individually. If your recruitment process is staggered and you plan to run an induction after some volunteers have started, you will have to go through the points above with each individual.

In-house preparation: this list will help you prepare for the new volunteer starting.

  • Brief the team/relevant staff about the volunteer, their role and how they fit with the team
  • Make sure that they are working alongside someone with experience and positively disposed to volunteers
  • Make sure there is space for the volunteer to do their work
  • Include their name in the team details, rota sheets, computer records

Trial period

A trial period is very useful for testing the water. It gives the volunteer an insight into the work and you get a chance to see if the person is suitable for the job. The length and components of the trial period vary according to the role and resources. Either way they need to be structured and keep to the agreed time frames and sequencing. Here is an example of how it might work.

Download the Word version of a Trial Period example Word document icon

Volunteer Agreement

Once the trial period ends, it's important to clarify the ongoing commitment agreed between the volunteer and the service. The advantages of using a Volunteer Agreement are

  • It clarifies the commitment in writing
  • It recognises the importance of the volunteer contribution
  • It can be referred to as needed

Download the Word version of the Volunteer Agreement Template Word document icon


Training is an investment in staff aimed at developing their skills and abilities to do the job well. Because funds are always limited you have to be clear about what training people actually need to do the job and what training would be good to offer, if the budget permitted. One way of doing this is to list the core, essential training for each role and the team and then what would be additional. Some organisations make a point of offering non-work related workshops as a way of thanking staff. Sessions such as relaxation, stress management or music therapy can be very enjoyable and good for team building and morale.

The two most common ways in which training happens are:

i) structured training programmes prior to starting work as a volunteer

ii) volunteer jobs where the training/learning happens by doing the job

Structured training programme

Organisations which require volunteers to do certain jobs often run compulsory training programmes which volunteers must successfully complete before they can join as a volunteer. These courses can take a number of weeks or months and they form another opportunity for the organisation to get a sense of the commitment people are willing to make as well as give an insight into their potential suitability for the role. They may also be attractive to the volunteer, for a host of reasons. Courses are resource intensive and can result in people choosing to opt out of the volunteering experience. However on the positive side the organisation benefits by having a well trained and committed group of volunteers.

On the job training

Every job requires some element of learning. New skills might need to be learned and even if the volunteer already has the skills, they still have to learn how the work is done in your particular organisation.

The application form and the interview you tell you what skills the volunteer has and what skills they will need to learn to do the job well. On the volunteer's first day, or very shortly after, you will need to sit down and discuss with them bridging the gap between the two. The methods of learning a new skill include:

  • Demonstration: where the person is shown how to do something
  • Mentoring: where an expert guides the person
  • Coaching: where an expert teaches the person
  • Experiential: where the person tries something and learns from the experience

You will have to decide what is the most effective way for volunteers to develop their skills within the resources available. However it is important that you include a training budget for volunteers so that volunteers can access expert training either in-house or by attending courses externally. A sample of a Training Budget can be downloaded below.

On-going training

You should provide on-going training as the role changes or develops. Below are some pointers for you to remember:

  • Ring fence a training budget
  • If changes are due to happen, predict what team or individual training people will need and organise it to coincide
  • Organise training as it is needed
  • If you have to delay training for any reason make sure that some basic training is given or appropriate support
  • Develop the training skills of the team to provide training

It's important to specify that on-going training is part of the volunteer commitment and a refusal to attend can result in asking a volunteer to leave.

It is important to keep a record of all training undertaken. A sample training record sheet can be downloaded below

Evaluating training

It's important that the training offered does what is intended. You can assess this by asking participants for their impressions of the training but also by observing what, if any, impact it has in the workplace. Some training outputs may be easier to measure, for example computer skills. Others, such as dealing with queries, may be difficult to assess. Where a volunteer is dealing directly with the public, the best way to check the impact of the training is to observe the person dealing with the service user.

You must decide what is the most appropriate way to assess training and what impact it has on the volunteer's ability to do the job better.

Some key questions could include

  • How do you assess the value of training?
  • What follow up do you do?
  • How do you know you are getting value for money?
  • What feedback mechanism is there for people to share what they have learned at external training courses?
  • Who is responsible for keeping volunteer training records?
  • Do you make training materials available to everyone?

Training magnets vs. training resistors!

Most managers face these extremes at some stage and even if you haven't yet it's worth putting a training policy in place. With new volunteers you can be clear from the start what the training plan is and what is expected. With existing volunteers it can be difficult for some of them to accept the introduction of a training policy.

One way to make it easier is to involve the people directly affected in drafting the policy. Some guidelines on what it could include would be:

  • An opening statement on the value of training
  • A comment on how training needs will be identified
  • How is training organised
  • Where training happens and what, if any, travel might be required
  • Who pays for training
  • How training is assessed
  • If there is a limit to how much training a volunteer can have
  • What the consequences are of refusing training that is suggested?

Induction checklist

Download the Word version of a Volunteer Induction Checklist Word document icon

Training record

Download the Word version of a Volunteer Training Record Word document icon

Training budget

Download the Word version of a Volunteer Training Budget Word document icon

Further resources

Vineyard, S. (1995) The Great Trainer's Guide. Heritage Arts

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