When recruiting and training volunteers, it’s important to determine how you can make your volunteers’ experience more equitable. When it comes to volunteering, equity means that your volunteer programs are accessible, fair and welcoming to all.
Whether you’re training humanitarian workers or prepping employee volunteers to participate in your corporate philanthropy initiatives, adopting an equitable mindset allows you to address and eliminate volunteers’ barriers to participation. When volunteers feel comfortable throughout your training session, they’ll be much more likely to stay involved with your organization for the long term.
Volunteers play a crucial role in ensuring your non-profit’s programs run smoothly and successfully. Dedicating some time to plan equitable training sessions will result in higher engagement levels and the best performance from volunteers. Here are four tips to make your volunteer training sessions more equitable:
1. Consider your volunteers’ specific barriers to involvement.
To offer an inclusive volunteer experience, considering your volunteers’ barriers to involvement is a must. Volunteers can face a variety of different kinds of obstacles, whether it’s physical, social or situational, and these can present roadblocks to your volunteer’s ability to participate.
Here are some barriers that your volunteers may face and ideas for mitigating them:
- Transportation: Some volunteers may not have a car to get to your volunteer site. Consider offering a free shuttle service or creating a carpooling program to help volunteers access reliable transportation.
- Language barriers: Certain volunteers may not be able to speak fluent English, which may stop them from participating in your program. Ensure you incorporate different languages in your volunteer training sessions to make every volunteer feel comfortable. You can do this by offering an on-site translator or different language options for your digital training materials.
- Time: Your volunteers have busy lives outside of your volunteer program. Offer shorter shift commitments to provide an alternative option to your regular-length shifts and allow busy supporters to continue being a part of your program.
- Physical: Some individuals may not be able to stand for long periods, carry heavy items or move easily over rough terrain. Consider offering a variety of different non-physical opportunities for people with physical disabilities or temporary physical limitations such as casts.
- Child care needs: If you have volunteers that need to supervise their children but still wish to participate, consider offering child care options to allow them to volunteer.
One way to understand your volunteers’ personal barriers is to send out a survey before your training session to gather information about any accommodations volunteers will require. Once you understand your volunteers’ specific needs, you can design your training opportunities to be more accommodating for all participants.
2. Embrace digital learning.
Finding free time to volunteer can be a major barrier for many supporters. Offering digital training options for those who may have transportation, physical or time restrictions allows them to complete their training in the comfort of their own homes.
Digital learning tends to be more engaging than traditional learning, such as reading from textbooks or listening to an instructor. Be sure to make your digital training content valuable and engaging by paying attention to the small details. For instance, your training videos should tell a story, include examples and feature quality editing work.
Additionally, with virtual training, your volunteers can access learning materials online at any time. This allows volunteers to learn at their own pace. Consider offering modules that you can track so that you know how far volunteers have gotten with their training process. Lastly, let your volunteers know to come to you if they have any questions or concerns.
3. Incorporate accessibility and inclusivity best practices.
To offer an inclusive learning experience for everyone, it’s essential to incorporate accessibility and inclusivity best practices in your training sessions. You want to ensure you are delivering important training information in a way that’s easily understandable by everyone.
Here are some accessibility accommodations to implement:
- Transcripts or captions for video content: Certain volunteers are better at grasping audible information through captions and transcripts. Captions offer volunteers an option to read along while the video is playing to understand and learn better.
- Alternative text for images: If there are images in your training modules, remember to incorporate alternative text. Alt-text is a short description of the image that offers context when it can’t be viewed for any reason.
- Different learning formats: Offer a variety of learning formats that appeal to different learning styles, such as auditory, tactile, and visual learners. You can ask your volunteers about their learning styles in your pre-event surveys.
- Training materials in multiple languages: Not every volunteer will be fluent in English, so it’s important to offer your training in several different languages for them to grasp important information easily.
Incorporating these elements will ensure you aren’t limiting your training to a certain group of volunteers and turning away other learners who aren’t able to go through your training content properly.
When your volunteers have a positive training experience, they are more likely to succeed.
4. Keep your training opportunities flexible.
Remember, your volunteers may have a busy personal life outside of volunteers, so it’s crucial to make your training sessions flexible. Consider offering multiple session options that include both weekday and weekend options for volunteers to choose what works best for them.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that every volunteer will have their own preferred way of learning. Some volunteers may prefer hands-on training in groups, while others may prefer individual self-guided training. Ensure you tailor the learning experience to appeal to different methods of learning styles. For instance, allow volunteers to access a virtual training session if they can’t attend an in-person meeting.
After your training session, send participants a follow-up survey asking for their feedback. Adjust future training opportunities based on their comments and suggestions. This will show your volunteers that you care about offering them the best learning experience possible.