How to Design a Chapter Volunteer Learning Journey That Empowers Your Members and Association

Here’s a scenario we could live without: chapter volunteer leaders not finding anyone to step up and take over. Members say they don’t have the time or energy to volunteer. The members who do get involved don’t want to spare time for volunteer and leadership training. Without training, how will they be prepared to lead?

In this post, we describe a better scenario—a sustainable, mutually beneficial volunteer management model developed by Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE, of Mariner Management, and Kristine Metter, MS, CAE, of Crystal Lake Partners. This model aligns volunteer training with a member’s motivations and aspirations. As members move along the volunteer pathway, they develop the skills and knowledge that prepares them for the next level of volunteering or volunteer leadership.

The earlier posts in this series described the volunteer pathway and the motivations that propel members along that pathway from new volunteer to strategic volunteer leader. We also introduced the volunteer competencies matrix and the two types of training and development to offer during the volunteer learning journey.

You don’t need to tackle the entire volunteer learning journey in one go. Build a competencies matrix for a few volunteer roles, identify the training and development needed for those roles, and build out your program from there.

Now, here’s a scenario we can live with…one that helps you design the learning journey for your volunteers.



Volunteer scenarios help you visualize what happens when a prospective volunteer comes with a particular set of experiences and motivations. Working with the volunteer competencies matrix, you think about different roles for the volunteer and the training and development they need for those roles. The scenarios also help you discover areas where you need to develop additional training content.

For example, in this scenario, the volunteer:

  • Is a mid-career professional with no management experience.
  • Has participated in a few ad hoc volunteering opportunities and is now leading a chapter project.
  • Is in line to become a chapter vice-chair and then chair.
  • Would like to eventually serve on the national board.

Thinking through the scenario, you decide a volunteer like this would need training modules in:

  • Chapter rules and operations
  • Chapter vice chair and chair responsibilities
  • The relationship between the chapter and national/HQ
  • Budgeting and reading financial statements

A volunteer like this would also need leadership development modules in:

  • National/global strategic planning
  • Meeting facilitation
  • Consensus building
  • Leadership

Like the rest of this project, build out the competencies matrix and volunteer scenarios for a few roles to start—that will give you plenty to work with.



In the volunteer competencies matrix, you identified the skills and knowledge required for each volunteer role, and existing training for those competencies. The content gaps in your volunteer learning programs are now obvious. Your next step is to prioritize the content you need to find or develop. The competencies matrix is a handy visualization for making a business case for additional resources to develop these volunteer training and development programs.



Volunteer and leadership training can’t only be offered once or twice a year. The volunteer learning journey depends upon access to year-round training and development in formats that fit busy lives.

You want to eventually offer both in-person and virtual training programs. Some members will jump at the chance to meet their peers from across the country in person. Others will appreciate the opportunity to learn from the comfort of their home or office since they can’t or won’t travel to in-person events because of budget, schedule, or other challenges. Having online educational programs doesn’t leave anyone out.

Provide microlearning programs whenever possible. Microlearning fits into a busy lifestyle because it delivers small chunks of educational content that take 5 to 12 minutes each to consume. Each chunk is focused on a narrow topic and a single learning outcome.

Delivery methods for training and development programs vary:

  • Live instructor-led training: workshops and sessions at an annual conference and leadership training conference—like this leadership summit from CREW Network; online volunteer training and leadership development programs and courses—like NIGP’s Chapter Academy.
  • Live webinars focused on specific topics with interactive exercises and breakout rooms—like ATD’s chapter webinars.
  • Self-study options: on-demand webinars, videos (animated or taped), asynchronous (on-demand) online courses—like this leadership course from the Ontario Real Estate Association.
  • Collaborative or peer-to-peer learning: virtual lunch-and-learns or in-person roundtables; chapter leader and aspiring leader learning circles or peer advisory groups.
  • Resource hub: articles, white papers, tip sheets, check lists, playbook, and other resources on the website, LMS, or member portal—like HLAA’s Chapter Leader Resources and CAMFT’s Chapter Playbook.

You can deliver online education via Zoom or another videoconferencing platform. A learning management system (LMS) is an ideal learning hub because it can host all types of media—and many LMS integrate with Zoom too. With an LMS, you can:

  • Host all resources in one place so volunteers can easily access what they need.
  • Track volunteer progress through courses and programs.
  • Offer self-assessments so volunteers can identify which topics need their attention.
  • Insert quizzes throughout or at the end of programs.
  • Automate notifications to keep volunteers accountable.
  • Provide discussion forums for courses and programs.
  • Award digital badges when volunteers complete programs.

Digital badges are visual proof of the mastery of specific competencies. They can be displayed on a volunteer’s LinkedIn profile or website. Badge metadata provides information about the awarding program and competencies learned. Digital badges are a tangible benefit of volunteering: they provide recognition of the volunteer’s value to their employer, clients, and association.

In our next post, we’ll describe how to start a member out on their volunteer learning journey and how to determine if your association is ready to design a volunteer learning journey for your members.

Learn more about the components of the volunteer learning model in the toolkit put together by Peggy and Kristine. You can also watch the recording from our webinar, Let’s Reboot Volunteer Training.

About the author

Sarah has a soft-spot for component relations professionals (CRPs), creating amazing experiences, and having a good laugh. She focuses her time at Billhighway on building and delivering chapter-focused resources, creating unique experiences for CRPs through webinars, events and the one-of-a-kind Component Exchange (CEX). Sarah is passionate about exploring new ideas and trying new things. What we really want to say is Sarah is a component bad@$$ who is sure to put a smile on your face.