Volunteer training

There are some issues you need to consider when training volunteers. They may work for you for just a few hours per week and are likely to have other commitments, so you may find it hard to get people to come to training courses, especially if there are several sessions.

However, if you feel that some training is essential - such as manual handling or food safety - you can stipulate that training is mandatory for all volunteers and build this into your induction programme. If your food co-op is part of a larger organisation, it is worth considering they might require that all volunteers have training, especially on safety issues.

Some volunteers may not be interested in receiving training, so you will need to agree which skills and knowledge are essential, and which are optional. However, if you receive funding to provide training, it may be important to encourage participation, as funders are often expecting to help volunteers gain the skills and experience to qualify for a paid job. But you should never force volunteers to attend lots of training if they would prefer not to.

As well as skills and knowledge on food themes, training can also increase a volunteer's confidence and benefit the person and the food co-op in several ways, for example:

  • Giving volunteers the sense of being valued and improving self esteem
  • Inspiring volunteers, developing their motivation and boosting morale
  • Building skills for the project to run in the longer term
  • Giving volunteers a chance to assess their progress
  • Providing opportunities for volunteers to meet and learn from each other

You might also arrange training as a way to bring all your volunteers and members of staff together, and to cover a wide range of issues in one go, for example by running a one-day course with all new volunteers.

Existing food co-ops advise that to increase the chances of volunteers taking part in training (whether run by your organisation or provided by another body) it is useful to:

  • Have already developed a rapport with potential participants
  • Arrange for the training to be at a local venue and at a convenient time
  • Ensure that training is short and to the point. Half a day of concise and relevant learning is better than a long day with too much detail
  • Check that there are clear benefits for attending, including incentives such as a certificate, take-home training materials or freebie
  • Highlight that there will be an opportunity to meet other food co-op volunteers
  • Build the training into a bigger event, such as a food co-ops conference
  • Offer to pay for basic expenses such as travel or childcare, and to provide useful services at the session such as a creche
  • Makes sure that a nice lunch is provided!

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