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Blog > Set up your volunteers for success: orientation and training

Set up your volunteers for success: orientation and training

affiché le 5 sep 2017

by Maria Lahiffe

So, you successfully recruited some volunteers for your cause. Congratulations! The next step is to give them the knowledge and skills they need in order to support your mandate to the very best of their abilities.

Orientation and training are crucial to volunteer success. They provide the following benefits: [1] [2]

  • Clarify the relationship between volunteers and the organization,
  • Provide volunteers with concise and accurate information to make them more comfortable on the job,
  • Contributes to a more effective, productive workforce,
  • Improves volunteer retention, and
  • Promotes communication between the supervisor and the volunteers.

Orientation and training are one of the 14 Standards of the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement (CCVI), which was outlined in our previous blog posts: Part 1 and Part 2.

What is the difference between Orientation & Training?

Orientation provides a general introduction to the organization, including information such as organizational departments, activites, location, policies, rules and regulations, etc. Orientation will likely happen before the first training.

Training increases a person’s knowledge, skills, and competences. It is usually job-specific. Training is not necessarily just provided to new volunteers; it may also be provided to people entering new roles, or to all staff if a new procedure or external standard comes into place.

What does good Orientation & Training look like?

These are the elements of the Orientation and Training standard from the CCVI. [2]


  1. Each volunteer is provided with an orientation to the organization, including its policies and procedures.
  2. Volunteers receive information on the history, mission, and structure of the organization.

Make sure your orientation goes beyond introducing everyone and showing volunteers where the photocopier is. Most people volunteer because they care about the cause the organization supports. Make sure you give volunteers some background on that, as well as enough information about how your organization works, that they can make decisions independently.


  1. Each volunteer receives training specific to the role and the individual needs of the volunteer
  2. Volunteers receive information on the policies and procedures specific to their role.
  3. Volunteers are given adequate training to perform their role without putting themselves or others at risk.
  4. Training is provided in a diversity of formats to ensure accessibility.

These are related. Training specific to the role includes the skills and competencies needed to fulfill the role to a high standard. Policies and procedures are related to skills and competencies, and also let the volunteer know the wider context of the role, to help her make decisions when she is unsure.

Training needs to take into account volunteers’ individual learning needs and prior knowledge. Training programs should be designed according to current best practices in instructional design.

  1. Volunteers have ongoing training opportunities to upgrade their skills and adapt to changes in the organization.

Volunteer retention is less work than recruitment. Make sure you provide your volunteers with opportunities to keep their skills current, and to move into other jobs if their interests and your needs align.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to volunteer management. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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Related posts:

[1] Oregon State University, "Why is Orientation Important?," Oregon State University, 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 5 September 2017]. [2] Volunteer Canada, "The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement: Values, Guiding Principles, and Standards of Practice," 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22 August 2017].
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