READ Graffiti in Gert Town

Effective orientation

Orientation answers the basic questions: who? where? when? and what?

Click here for a sample checklist of orientation topics.  While different agencies need to cover different sorts of information during volunteer orientations, the most important goal is to educate your service learners about your agency and be sure they have all the information they need to start volunteering successfully.  Don't assume any prior knowledge.

  • Give some background and big-picture context for your agency: mission, history, purpose, goals.
  • Explain your agency's dress code to service learners before their first shift.  If your agency has other conduct/behavioral expectations (eg, privacy/confidentiality, use of cell phones, etc.), explain these as well.  Students cannot be held accountable for adhering to policies which aren't clearly communicated to them.  Also explain why these policies are important.
  • Provide each service learner with a specific "report to" location.  This should include an address and, if necessary, a floor, suite or room number and other necessary instructions (for example, ringing an entry buzzer).
  • Make sure students have full names and contact information for any supervisors and staff they'll need to contact.  Make sure they know the name of the person to whom they should report for their first shift.
  • Make sure students know where to find things they'll need at the service site (restrooms, water fountain, storage room, supply closet, refrigerator, etc).
  • Notify other staff at the agency when students are coming so students are welcomed and greeted with enthusiasm, especially for their first shift.  
  • Clearly identify the expectations you have for service learners.
  • Understand that an initial one-time volunteer orientation almost never provides all needed information.  Work with colleagues and other agency staff to find additional opportunities early in the volunteer relationship to orient students to topics you can't cover in an initial orientation.