Volunteering – continuous training, supervision

One of the most difficult tasks of volunteer management in cultural institutions is to organise volunteering. After recruiting, selecting, and providing initial training for volunteers, the institution might think that continuous and long-term cooperation with volunteers who are highly committed and motivated to the work of the organisation will be easier. However, the best thing to do here is to ensure that volunteers who have been involved so far continue to be connected and committed to the institution in order to reach the institution’s and their own goals through motivated and regular participation. The volunteer programmes of many organisations fail at this point.

One of the main solutions for maintaining motivation in the long run is the continuous training of volunteers, which not only strengthens the connection to the institution and its field of activity, but also the fulfils the interests of the institution and the volunteer in terms of continuous development.

The institution is constantly developing its human resources. It does not engage in layman type, intermittent and unpredictable volunteering, but relies on professional, qualified, regular and reliable volunteering. The volunteer develops their professional and personal competences, they improve their knowledge and skills. Their attitude towards the institution, its field of activity and its community, its cultural sector and, more generally, their involvement within the community improve. Promoting and maintaining public participation in public education and public collection institutions is therefore not an easy process, but in the long run the institution and the volunteer do benefit from it.

What is continuous training?

The purpose of continuous training and assimilation of outcomes may be different for the institution and the volunteer, but it represents a common interest: both are evolving.

What are the main goals and benefits of continuous training?

  • the institutional goals to be reliably fulfilled and undertaken by the volunteer services provided by the institution
  • updating the (specialist) knowledge necessary for the task
  • acquiring and assessing the (specialist) knowledge required for the task
  • awareness and conscious use of knowledge and skills acquired and acquirable during the course of the task
  • the declared responsibility of the volunteers for the professional performance of the activity through their participation, as well as the declared responsibility of the organisation towards the volunteers
  • systematisation of knowledge and experiences gained during previous activities
  • self-monitoring and correcting option
  • venting the emotions accumulated, experiencing the supportive strength of the team, and finding common solutions
  • the evolution of the identity of the ever-changing team; getting to know team members
  • experiencing lifelong learning
  • a deeper understanding of how the organisation works and thereby maintaining loyalty.

Continuous training in cultural and public collection institutions: the training programme of the institution (if any) should involve volunteers in order to raise or maintain their high level of theoretical knowledge, professional skills and values.

Continuous training for volunteers: ensures that the volunteer is able to participate in increasingly advanced levels of training after completing a training phase. This is also a form of lifelong learning, as the role of volunteering should be emphasised not only for the common good but also for its self-development effects on the individual. Adults, through their volunteering activities, gain a wealth of experience and knowledge that becomes part of their learning process from the point of view of the lifelong learning paradigm.

Features and methods of continuous training

The development of volunteers in their daily work is often unconscious. Non-formal and informal aspects are emphasised during training sessions. As an aid, we can easily differentiate between different forms of learning/training, taking into account Werquin’s criteria70. The characteristics of learning broken down as formal, non-formal or informal in nature are summarised in the table below.

  Is learning carried out in an organised manner? Are there well-defined learning objectives? Is learning intended? What is the duration of learning? Does learning result in qualification?
Formal Yes Yes Yes Usually long and full time Almost always yes
Non-formal Yes or no Yes or no Yes or no Usually short or part time Usually not
Informal No No No Not known No

The diverse trainings of a museum can be found in Annex 8. However, as in the previous chapter on introductory training, here we also summarise, without aiming at an exhaustive list, the possible training elements.

General training elements:


  • Lecture or workshop on the deeper layers of cultural institutions (e.g.: on how some classes work)
  • General information training or quiz – repeated with periodically updated content
  • Guided tour of the organisation – again, because some volunteers who are loosely involved in the life of the organisation and attend the institution very rarely may lose some of their knowledge and their memories of the otherwise important parts of the organisation may fade, the updating of these is especially important
  • (Guided) guides
  • Team building, teamwork development training, as part of this self-awareness
  • Fire and health and safety training – with the same regular repetition as paid employees

Professional training elements:


  • Training (with updated communication, self-awareness and cultural management content, according to current needs)
  • Communication, lecture and guiding techniques (in the context of further training)
  • Project management training
  • Description of systematization techniques (in library)
  • Professional workshops by area
  • Knowledge refresher quizzes relating to the seasonal changes in the services of the organisation (related to exhibitions, new publications), meetings, guided tours

Tip: coordinators organise regular training sessions for the info desk volunteers participating in the Museum of Fine Arts Volunteer Programme. During the annual communication training and general training, the coordinators, in addition to taking their own experience into account, seek to identify the needs of the team through the mentors and to shape the training day accordingly. It is important to make the programme attractive enough to convince volunteers to dedicate an additional day of their time to perform volunteer activities at the organisation. This has therefore previously included role-playing (from difficult, problematic cases), instructive (important and almost amusing formulation and analysis of inappropriate volunteer conduct) and treasure hunting games for the discovery of the collection, and many other training elements. For volunteers who have been involved in the program for a long time, the Coordinators are particularly challenged by the continuous renewal and up-to-date training, but also by the duality of the institutional need to create common levels of understanding and skills.


This article based on the following document: This article based on the following document: Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version