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~ April 2002 ~ Topics
  • The "New" Volunteer Today Bookstore
  • Three Training Tips
  • Introduction Mixer
  • Crossword Puzzles

Special Announcements from the Publisher

Volunteer Today Bookstore

After months of scanning, testing, arguing, and meetings, Volunteer Today announces a new secure order page for print resources for those who work with volunteers. The Volunteer Today Bookstore is redesigned, with photos of books, descriptions, ordering information, and simple "Amazon-like" click menus to order books and kits online. You can order using VISA, MasterCard, or American Express online and we will ship within three working days-faster if you wish.

As publisher and editor of Volunteer Today, I selected an experienced Internet company to host this site. We wanted to insure the highest level of safety for you to purchase materials designed to build strong volunteer programs. You can order materials at

Kudos for this effort goes to our intrepid Web Designer, Laura Bunt. She was assisted by Ruben Bybee from Blue Mountain Internet (host of several national secure sites and programs), Sara Strickland, the dedicated scanner operator, and the writers of Volunteer Today who viewed and commented on early versions of the site. Laura managed to complete a thesis and orals for her master's degree in technology and ride herd on all of us who contributed to the construction of the new Volunteer Today Bookstore site. We are mighty proud of how it looks, and better yet, how it works. It is new and we welcome your comments. We also want to know if you have problems. Send e-mail to

So, if you are looking for information on creating volunteer policies, Linda Graf has just the book for you; want to know more about boards, Jeanne Bradner has resources, interested in tips on working with volunteers who have chronic mental illnesses, John Weaver is the author of a book on this topic, or how about some insight on dealing with episodic or short-term volunteers, we have a book for you. You can also purchase kits authored by Nan Hawthorne that provides outlines for training on volunteer issues.

Even if you have a well-stocked library, stop by the Volunteer Today Bookstore to see a wonderful site! And keep in mind we are always adding resources and books to this site. We'll keep you up-dated from time to time.

Nancy Macduff
Publisher and Editor

Three Training Tips

 Tip 1: When teaching a procedure break it into steps. Think of writing out a recipe. List the ingredients. Then write out the steps in an outline format. Break everything down into distinct stages. Trainees should have a copy of all the steps before you explain them individually.
 Tip 2: When presenting a lecture use "peripherals" to enhance learning. Provide the audience or class with an outline of the lecture, leaving spaces for them to take notes. Use overheads or slides to illustrate the points being made. Give the audience an outline with key pieces of information missing. They can "fill in the blanks" as you present the information. All these things aid retention of the information. The use of colorful peripherals in training can enhance retention in long-term memory by as much as 35%
 Tip 3: Do not avoid the challenges. State the hurdles a volunteer or staff member might face in a task or job. Brainstorm solutions to the challenges. Then give a short quiz on the challenges and potential solutions.

Introduction Mixer

Icebreakers can sometimes get one or two people well acquainted, but rarely most of the people in the group. Here is an effective icebreaker that is also an excellent mixer. More people in the group will know each other.

  1. Provide each person with a nametag-plastic ones work best for this exercise. Give them a marking pen to record their name. Ask the participants to find someone they do not know and introduce themselves to each other. Allow about 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes for this activity.
  2. Next, have the participant's trade name tags. They find a new person they do not know and have to answer questions about the person whose nametag they are wearing. You can repeat this for several rounds until most people in the group have met at least half the group.
  3. The final activity is to retrieve their nametag. You can debrief by asking people their reaction to the exercise. It is also helpful to have each person give his or her name.

Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are an effective way to summarize the material covered in a training session. The best way to design them is to make a list of key phrases or words that are used during the training. Then create short definitions for the words. If you have a computer program that makes puzzles, all you have to do is put in the words and definitions and the computer maps out the puzzle for you. There are some of these programs available online. It is also possible to do this manually.

The crossword puzzle is then distributed to individuals in the training. However, not everyone likes a crossword puzzle (too bad, it is very good for your brain's agility!). Here are a couple variations to the traditional crossword.

  • Create the crossword only put on easel paper. Make multiple copies. Professional copy centers, like Kinko's, can usually do this for you. Then you can assign groups to complete the puzzle and have prizes for the group that finishes first.
  • Teams can do the puzzle. Partnering with someone and being able to discuss the words and definitions is more effective for some learners.
  • Simplify the puzzle by picking the most important key word and put it in the center of the puzzle. The letters appear in the boxes. Then put in squares horizontally to hold words that summarize other points made during training.
  • No matter how you do this, the purpose is to help learner's review the key concepts covered in training and reflect on what they have learned.


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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