Volunteering – introductory training

Very few organisations in the public sector have a culture of monitoring employee integration, professional and personal competence. However, this is also an investment in human capital. That is why it is important that the volunteer take part in introductory training.


Introductory training serves several purposes:


  • provide a comprehensive view of the organisation’s activities;
  • clarifies and describes the activities within the scope of their tasks and their boundaries;
  • if the task requires special knowledge in addition to general knowledge, then it is absolutely necessary to develop targeted knowledge and skills (this requirement must be communicated to the interested parties during the recruitment or selection process);
  • provides basic knowledge of the organisational structure and organisational units relevant to the activities of the organisation;
  • provides fire and occupational safety and health training for safe work;
  • a place for paid and unpaid staff to get to know each other and get in touch with colleagues in the field, volunteers and anyone they can contact in the course of their work;
  • all of this brings the volunteers into closer contact with the organisation and is able to support the organisation more intelligently, more credibly and with commitment in their later activities.

The content, length, methods and timing of the training (initial or subsequent training) are determined by the volunteer programme manager or the coordinator (and the mentor).

What content and methods should training be implemented?

First and foremost, you need to clarify what knowledge, education, and work experience the volunteers have, and in what areas need these foundations theoretical and practical improvement.

The methods can be assigned to our goals and content:
If you only consider knowledge transfer important, then training can be limited to defining, detailing, presenting and summarising knowledge.
If the aim is to ensure the suitability of volunteers for a given activity, and to improve and develop the personality traits essential to the activity, a more complex training and further training procedure may be applied, whereby the goal-oriented content and certain competencies are prepared. An essential element of complexity is that it is not only cognition that is realised in the process, but also applicable knowledge.

Tip: the Museum of Fine Arts’ Volunteer Programme puts a strong emphasis on introducing volunteers to the organisation and activities. Two introductory training courses are briefly described below:

Hands On! training: volunteers’ training was adapted from the British Museum and the Manchester Museum Hands On programmes, but in consultation with the Egyptian colleagues of the SZM (Museum of Fine Arts) after half a year of planning (see Scheduling). The training was followed by a restoration lecture and discussion, a 6-occasion Egyptian educational briefing, followed by a security tour and local knowledge at the museum, and a museum pedagogical session.  This line was then closed by the exams. The examination took place in front of a committee of several members in a role-playing manner with the original subjects, simulating sharp situations.

Information desk: the approximately the two-month introductory training is followed by a continuous training regime as described in the manual, with volunteers giving feedback to the coordinators. Continuous training is a multi-pillar activity, which  developed organically through experienced difficulties and adaptation of foreign patterns. The following figures presenting selection and introductory training also show the organic interdependence of these two processes.

The following is a summary of possible ways of general and professional training, preparation and development.


General training elements:


  • Introduction to the system of cultural institutions (library, museum, public education, other institutions, community scene specific)
  • General information training or quiz
  • Round tour, guided tour in the organisation
  • (Guided) tours
  • Team building, teamwork, development training, self-awareness as part of this
  • Fire and health and safety training

Professional training elements:


  • Communication training
  • Cultural management training
  • Presentation, guiding technique
  • Project management training
  • Description of systematisation techniques (in library)
  • Area workshops, trainings

What can we improve during training?

Volunteers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes can develop during participation in various training modules. Generally speaking, they develop their communication skills, improve their self-knowledge and become more motivated. Knowledge of the basics of the volunteers’ tasks and the ability to apply them in practice and willingness to cooperate develop. Knowledge of the principles of social responsibility, civic participation and community work is embodied. Competencies to be acquired during introductory training: knowledge, abilities, skills, attitudes:


  • communication model theory, advanced communication skills;
  • deeper self-knowledge, clarification of volunteering motivations, ability to self-reflect on volunteering;
  • knowledge of the principles of programme design, the ability of project-based thinking[1];
  • ability to apply the basics of guided tours in practice;
  • basic knowledge of the cultural institution system, willingness to cooperate with this institutional system;
  • knowledge of the principles of volunteer participation, implementation of community actions, skills.

Whom do we trust with the implementation of the training?

It is most obvious and most cost-effective to provide training internally: with the coordinator, mentor or staff. Internal training can only be achieved if the staff of the host organisation is well prepared, trained for the transfer of knowledge or only for the purpose of frontal knowledge transfer.

Recruiting external experts is more convenient and significantly more costly for the organisation, but more complex forms of training are essential. Recruiting outside help can be more effective than skill development and a change of attitude. There are many trainers with experience in volunteer management training in the country. Whenever possible, use them to help train our volunteers using their experience in order to complete our volunteer programme.

Examination of volunteers

It is up to the institution to decide whether or not the volunteer has to take an exam after the initial training. We recommend that the institution make the achievement of its training objective conditional upon assessment, e.g. after passing the knowledge, writing a test, completing a questionnaire or quiz, or after 3-4 guided tours in a museum field, conducting a solo guided tour. It is important to inform the volunteer beforehand about the process and outcome of the preparation, training and volunteering for quality volunteering.

At this point, it is worth thinking about what is good for an exam that is not necessarily required for an activity or getting a paper (although these can be offered by volunteer training). There is more to it than just checking knowledge, the need for an appropriate level of knowledge on the part of the organisation, which is as homogeneous (or at least above a certain level) as a team.


The exam serves the following purposes:

  • can be an inspiration for the intensity and depth of learning
  • provides feedback on the student’s knowledge (passed / failed and other categories)
  • gives the experience of being compared with others
  • initiation experience – one can become a team member also formally
  • confirmation that the knowledge of the others is ‘appropriate’ and that is why I become part of a high-quality team.


[1] Katolikus Karitász – Caritas Hungarica: Felhívás – Karitász önkéntesek általános alapképzése Budapesten. Budapest, Katolikus Karitász – Caritas Hungarica. http://karitasz.hu/felhivasok/felhivas-karitasz-onkentesek-altalanosalapkepzese-budapesten (utoljára megtekintve: 2018.06.25.)


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