6 Steps to Help Your Volunteers Develop Professionally

Jeanne Douffet

Loyal and motivated volunteers are the driving force behind the development of your association project.

The third reason that drives volunteers to stay in an association is professional development assistance. That is the need we will help you meet today.

Let’s start by exploring and understanding why this is needed.

Why is the acquisition of skills motivating for volunteers?

Indeed, you may be somewhat sceptical of this observation and this is normal: your volunteers will rarely tell you that they are joining your association to develop professionally.

In fact, 47% of workers systematically cite their volunteer experiences on their CV! Association experiences can be highlighted on professional networks.

Detailing the skills acquired and used (e.g. cash management) during a volunteer action or an association mission can be a major asset in an online CV!

Now that the stage is set, how can we respond to this thirst for skills?

#1 Identify key skills for volunteers

What skills do volunteers need? Here are some key skills that volunteers can reuse in their professional lives:


Association engagement is in fact a collective dimension. It is an ideal opportunity to develop one’s ability to work as a team: leading a debate, finding consensus, motivating a team, etc.


Acting within an association also allows you to rub shoulders with many different profiles. Nothing better to develop one’s understanding of others, one’s sense of empathy and one’s ability to adapt easily to different situations and people.


Volunteering does not have certain constraints often present in the professional world such as strong hierarchical relationships. Creativity, initiative and innovation can therefore be more easily expressed within an association. Having an original approach to a problem and finding an innovative solution makes it possible to stand out in many situations, and are all useful assets in a professional or personal setting.

Project management

To carry out a project in all its aspects (creation, financing, management) is a sought-after skill. The ability to manage a project is paramount in the associative world.

#2 Mastering the key concepts of good training

As an association leader, you will be brought to accompany your volunteers on their journey within your association. However, you may not be in control of the fundamentals in terms of learning and skills development. Here are some key concepts and tips for good training.

  • Training is a subtle mix between theoretical knowledge acquisition and action. Choose back and forth between these two types of learning.
  • You learn when you think about what you have done. Feedback and feedback is essential to learn and acquire new skills. That’s the key to learning!
  • Finally, you learn better in a group than on your own. A learning community allows you to have more perspective but above all to exchange!

#3 Offer initial training but don’t forget the continuing education

Many associations tend to invest a lot of time and resources in training a new volunteer. This is very commendable and certainly indispensable.

But continuing education is at least as important.

Volunteers need to be helped to develop their skills and diversify.


Don’t hesitate to give them feedback on what’s right and what can be improved. Give them responsibilities where they perform.


Make regular points (at least once a year) to find out what your volunteers want to train. You can also offer them new responsibilities. According to Research and Solidarity, 17% of volunteers want to have more responsibilities in associations. You can also simply offer a trial with an experienced person in a new position. Anyway, a volunteer who falls into the routine is a volunteer lost in the medium term!

#4 Validate your volunteers’ achievements

Volunteers usually already have skills (communication, management, accounting, etc.). Their associative action is an opportunity to improve or even become a true specialist in an area of expertise.

So help your volunteers in this direction!

Find out what they’ve learned. And offer them associative missions adapted accordingly.

#5 Promoting intra-member training

Multiply opportunities for volunteer interactions to share skills and build skills.

If several people are interested in the basics of accounting, why not propose to your treasurer to organize a 2-hour training on the basis of accounting?

In addition to retaining your volunteers by bringing them new skills, this will have two other benefits:

  • Collaboration between your volunteers will be improved. Volunteers will be less grating to the idea of scrupulously writing down all the information on a cheque (issuer, bank, number) because they will have grasped the interest for the treasurer.
  • The treasurer will feel valued while his role can sometimes be ungrateful.

Advice #6 and conclusion: you are not their HR!

Volunteers want your association to help them progress professionally. That’s not why you have to play HR!

Don’t repeat what you see in business:

  • Propose rather than order.
  • Be rigorous but non-formal.

Don’t forget that volunteers also invest in your association to help for free, find meaning and sometimes escape from their professional lives!

How do you support your volunteers in their professional development? Share your tips and experiences by leaving a comment below!

If you want to develop your association network, we recommend some digital tools to help you!

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