Volunteer training can be all fun and games

'Gamify' volunteer training

Do volunteers cringe when you bring up the subject of training—especially repeat or refresher training?

Let's face it, volunteer training can sometimes be a bit dry. Volunteers, often driven by their passion for a cause, come in with enthusiasm but long, text- or lecture-heavy training sessions can kill that enthusiasm fast. That's where “gamifying” volunteer training comes into play.

The power of “gamification”

Imagine this, instead of drudging through a lengthy manual or sitting half-asleep through a boring presentation, volunteers embark on a quest to acquire knowledge and skills. They earn points, unlock achievements and compete with peers, all while learning the ins and outs of their volunteer roles. That's the magic of gamification – turning training into an exciting journey. And it can be done for either in-person or remote training. So, how does gamifying volunteer training work? Here are some practical steps to get you started.

Define clear goals and objectives

Before diving into the world of gamification, it's crucial to define your training goals and objectives. What specific skills or knowledge do you want your volunteers to gain? Are there key messages or information they must absorb? Knowing your destination helps in designing the game's road map.

Create a compelling narrative

Every great game has a story, and your volunteer training should be no different. Craft a compelling narrative that immerses volunteers in a story related to your cause. Whether you're helping the environment, supporting underprivileged communities or promoting animal welfare, come up with a captivating adventure to add depth and relevancy to the training.

Develop a points and rewards system

Points and rewards are the heart of gamification. Assign points to various learning tasks and milestones. For instance, completing a module could earn volunteers 100 points. While successfully completing a quiz, could add 50 more. Accumulating points should lead to rewards like badges, certificates, or even tangible items like T-shirts or mugs.

Include interactive elements

Gamification thrives on interaction. Hey, it's not a game if you're not doing something. Incorporate quizzes, puzzles, and challenges into your training modules. These can range from simple multiple-choice questions to more complex scenarios that require problem-solving skills. The key is to keep volunteers engaged and thinking.

Foster healthy competition

Competition adds excitement to any game. Create leaderboards that showcase the top performers. This friendly rivalry can motivate volunteers to excel and encourage them to revisit training materials to improve their scores.

Offer immediate feedback

In the world of gaming, feedback is instantaneous. Ensure that volunteers receive immediate feedback on their performance. If they answer a question correctly, acknowledge it right away. If they make a mistake, provide guidance and encourage them to try again.

Allow for exploration and choice

Everyone loves flexibility. Games usually offer players the freedom to explore and make choices. In your training, consider giving volunteers options on how they progress through the content. They might choose between different modules or take on side quests that align with their interests.

Regularly add updates and challenges

Keep the training fresh and relevant by periodically adding new challenges and updates. This prevents volunteers from feeling like they've “completed” the game and encourages ongoing participation. It also makes sure that you're teaching the most up-to-date information.

Provide for social interaction

Many games today have a social component. If your training is online, create a virtual space where volunteers can interact, ask questions and share their experiences. This fosters a sense of community and helps them connect with peers.

Track progress and assess learning

Gamification, of course, isn't just about fun. It’s about learning. Ensure you can track volunteers’ progress and assess their comprehension. Use analytics to identify areas where volunteers may need additional support.

Seek feedback

As with any training program, it's essential to seek feedback from volunteers. Ask for their input on the gamified training experience. What did they enjoy? What could be improved? Their insights can help you refine and enhance the game and thus their learning.

Gamifying volunteer training can breathe new life into the learning process.

It transforms what could be a mundane experience into an exciting journey of discovery and skill building. By defining clear objectives, creating an engaging narrative, and incorporating elements of points, rewards, and competition, you can captivate volunteers, hearts, and minds. It also ensures that they remember what they learn.

Remember, the power of gamification lies in its ability to make training enjoyable while fostering a deeper connection to your cause.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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