How to train adult literacy volunteers

Volunteers: the heart of your organization. They help complete countless duties that help it run more efficiently – tasks like fundraising, administration, marketing, and of course, teaching. Volunteers also often play a big part in spreading the word about your non-profit.

Attracting suitable volunteers can be challenging, and keeping them can be even harder. An effective volunteer training program can help your organization not only improve volunteer retention but also ensure that new volunteers have the necessary skills to perform their duties properly.

We’ve outlined three simple steps to take to train your adult literacy volunteers.

Step #1: Plan a volunteer training program

In order to effectively train volunteers, you need a formal volunteer training program. Creating a successful program starts with proper planning and thoughtful consideration. There are three main aspects to consider:

Your Budget: Training programs come with costs, so establish a budget for expenses such as staffing, room rental (or virtual online software), refreshments and printing services. For organizations with tight volunteer training budgets, try to repurpose materials and go paperless if possible.

Your Content: At the end of your training, volunteers should have the proper skills to carry out organizational tasks and meet objectives. Plan your content to cover information such as your organization’s mission and background of your cause; role expectations, responsibilities, and tasks; relevant tools, equipment, and procedures; and safety measures.

Your Method of Delivery: Your training program should address the various types of learning that reflect your volunteers: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Keep your teaching method interesting and engaging so that volunteers have a better chance of retaining important information.

Step #2: Develop your training materials

Once you have an overview of your volunteer training program, it’s time to create your training materials.

To create a great volunteer training manual, consider including a welcome letter, information about your organization, such as its mission and service offerings, a directory listing of important phone numbers and contacts, and frequently asked questions.

Throughout the process, staff trainers should refer to the manual so that volunteers become familiar with its content. Upload a PDF version online for easy sharing and reference in future.

Step #3: Execute your volunteer training program

You only have one opportunity to make a good impression, so develop an environment where volunteers feel welcome immediately. In your introduction, outline the value that volunteers contribute to your organization and the available growth opportunities to them. Be transparent about your expectations up front and set attainable, measurable training objectives.

When training is complete, be sure to thank your volunteers for taking more time out of their busy lives and celebrate their training accomplishments. Gather feedback to help improve future training programs and boost volunteer satisfaction.


Planning, developing and executing a volunteer training program doesn’t have to be complicated. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to think about what a new volunteer might be wondering, then make an experience that would make you feel welcome and excited to start the role.

To access additional free resources for your adult literacy organization, check out our programs and initiatives.