Volunteer Management

Training users after implementing donor management software

Training donors, volunteers and staff on new donor management software systems does not have to be a daunting task. Because many donors and volunteers are remote or contribute to a nonprofit’s cause electronically, focusing on clear communication and a teambuilding mentality is the key to success.

Whether a nonprofit needs to teach employees to use a new software system or train volunteers to work a fundraising event, tackle it from the perspective of a teambuilding exercise. Groups that work together to learn a new skill will bond more closely than those gathering information on their own. The Daily Muse advised that when possible, face-to-face discussions or training seminars should be held, as opposed to a conference call or a powerpoint presentation.

Avoid information overload
Beth Kanter suggested whittling down the facts and basic principles so digesting new information is easier. If an abundance of knowledge is crammed into one training session, people may leave retaining only a small portion of it, because there is too much to really focus on each area. A detailed outline with the most important practices, tips or figures present should be used whenever possible.

Offer backup
It is helpful, however, to offer an in-depth manual to all volunteers and staff. Whether it’s a printed booklet or a digital file they can access as needed, team members will feel more confident performing their duties with a reference guide for any portion of the training they need to revisit. For employees learning a new software or operational system, the entire guidebook and listing of functions should be available. Volunteers should also have some sort of instructional book that lets them know what to do if they need assistance and provides expectations they should be meeting as they work for the nonprofit. When it comes to donors, this sort of backup support will likely come from the team members and volunteers giving their time and energy to the cause. However, in addition to this service, a help page or FAQ on the organization’s website will make things easier for all parties.

Ask for feedback
Training does not have to be a completely one-sided presentation. Getting feedback from participants is a great way to improve the experience and effectiveness of the information being shared. Simply standing in front of a group and speaking does not engage groups in a meaningful way. Ask them to participate actively and share their ideas, thoughts and insights.

Test equipment
Before beginning any training program or writing out step-by-step instructions, test the equipment and the process. Often when leaders go through the procedures themselves, they notice places where it’s easy for users to get caught up or struggle. Knowing in advance how to smooth out these tricky moments will improve the training overall. If a virtual meeting is being held with audio and video involved, be sure the connections have been tested before the session is to begin. Double-check that all parties have the right tools to join the conversation. When working with employees on new systems, it’s imperative that they are given time throughout the training process to explore and experiment with the new technology. Interaction is the best way to learn a concept or system.

Talk less, listen more
When it comes to donors and encouraging them to give using online or social media platforms, A Small Change recommended remembering to step back and letting them voice their opinions during the process. Hold meetings with donors that give frequently and generously to find out what drives them and where the nonprofit can improve.

Be constantly available
For an organization with a presence primarily located online, providing constituents, volunteers and staff with support services is critical to the success and profitability of the nonprofit.

When implementing donor management software, approach the training process with these ideas in mind to ensure a painless installation.