Good Volunteer Training Needs Stories

volunteer training

It’s summer, and it’s pouring down rain. Pelting down. Everything is soaked, and you would not believe how happy I am about it.

You see, here in the central interior of BC we’ve been burning up. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest are on fire. Thousands of people, including friends of mine, have been evacuated from their homes, and too many of them no longer have a home to return to.

So, while rain in the summer is not something that I would normally enjoy, now I’m thrilled about it.

It’s amazing how even the simplest of stories can attract and keep our attention.

Think in terms of  volunteer training.

Some not-for-profits need their volunteers to go through quite extensive training. The SPCA is one example.

Those hours of training are off-putting to some potential volunteers because they don’t see the need for it. “Why do I have to know all this just to take a dog for a walk?”

People may not care enough to take the training (so you lose the volunteer) – or if they do take it, won’t really pay attention to it, causing problems down the road.

What can you do about it?

Tell stories during your volunteer training.

Humans are hardwired to learn from stories. It was our main form of education for thousands of years, and is still the most effective.

During training, you can leverage the brain’s natural tendency to focus on and retain information from stories.

Storytelling during training can make an incredible difference in both a volunteer’s understanding of the importance of the information, and their ability to recall it when necessary. It adds interest and increases knowledge retention.

I learned this first hand in high school.

I was sitting in history class staring blankly out the window as the teacher droned on about … something. Then he switched from the boring lists of dates and names and other dry facts. He started telling the story of how Louis Riel met Gabriel Dumont. All of a sudden the Riel Rebellion became real and alive, and you could feel the attention of the class focus in. I remember details of it to this day.

Sprinkling quick stories and anecdotes throughout your training will reinforce the importance of the training, and help set the information in their minds so that it’s there when they need it.

For example, talk about a dog that got into a fight with another dog while being walked. Or when one got away from the volunteer and was hit by a car.

Stories like this demonstrate exactly why it’s important to know the protocols for something as basic as dog walking.

The stories don’t have to be long or complex.

All that’s needed are three or four sentences that cover the situation. You need just enough detail to make it come alive. What’s important is to make sure that the story is relevant to what is being taught. The connection between the story and what they need to know must be clear.

Learn the areas where your volunteers question the need for training, and collect stories and anecdotes to illustrate its importance and to help you answer the question of why you insist on all this training.

Adding stories makes a massive difference in the acceptance and retention of your volunteer training.

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