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The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer manager's training level.


~ March 2005 ~ Topics

Reading: An Essential of Professional Development

Professionals are people who stay current in their field and keep up with the latest trends. Would you see a doctor if you knew he/she did not read the latest in medical research or trends? The management of volunteers is a profession. There is a professional association for managers of volunteers, the Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA), there are international gatherings of managers of volunteers, and even a set of ethics. There are also six academic journals that provide information on the activity of researchers in this field. Sound like a profession to you? Then what are you doing for your own professional development?

There are a variety of options open to you: join AVA, attend a local training session to enhance your skills, and read. Yup! Read.

No doubt you have a staggering stack of paper, magazines, journals, and other things that you keep piling in the corner of your work area that you "intend" to read. But, the demands of the day have a way of intruding on the plan for professional development. Here are some tips to help make that reading easier.

  • Make an appointment with yourself. Write it on the calendar with a bogus name. Then disappear for one hour with some of the material you want to read. A nearby library, in a tucked away conference or interview room at your work place, your car, or a place where you will not be disturbed.
  • Get a colored file folder. Stash material from your "reading" stack in the folder. Keep it handy to grab for snatches of time when you are just sitting - like waiting for everyone to arrive at the beginning of a meeting. Be sure to put sticky-notes into the folder, in case there is something you wish to save or refer to another person.
  • Look for "quiet" times in your week. Sitting in the waiting room at the dentist office, waiting for a child who is at a game or piano lesson, commuting time if you are riding with others or on the train. Haul the folder along and read.
  • Learn to scan. Teach yourself the skill of scanning. Run quickly over summaries or bullet points in the material. Scan the conclusions. This will tell you if the material is worthy of a deeper read.

Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, by Stan Smith. Details for Training Techniques Book

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Word Plays

Some quick tips on using English effectively in your written communication:

  • Clarify your writing by avoiding noun strings. Lining up nouns one after another in a sentence can be awkward. Example: "This report explains our volunteer growth stimulation activities." Much better to say, "This report explains our project to stimulate growth in volunteer activities."
  • Write introductions last. Best to write the body of an article or report. Then go back and write the introduction. This insures the fit between the content and the lead it. It can also break "writer’s block."
  • Invoke the 24-hour rule. Got a nasty email? Avoid a knee jerk response. There are a couple of choices. (1) Rip off an answer that you have no intention of sending. Then carefully discard it. (2) Write a reasoned response, but do not send it for a minimum for 24 hours. Then reread it and make sure it says what you mean.
  • Prepositions. Prepositions. Prepositions. The big mistake with prepositions is over use or under use.
    • Avoid overused prepositions—off of, in back of, inside of, at about. "Volunteers need to arrive at about 4:00 p.m." Change to: "Volunteers need to arrive at 4:00 p.m."
    • Do not leave out necessary prepositions. "The woman was oblivious and not distracted by the view from the bridge." Better change: "The woman was oblivious to and not distracted by the view from the bridge."
    • Remember that rule about no prepositions at the end of the sentence? The rule has changed. If the preposition falls naturally at the end of a sentence leave it there. "I do not remember what the fuss was about."

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Final Exam As Review

"Final exam" strikes fear and dread in the hearts of everyone but the home schooled, and even they have to face the SATs! Here is a way to review a training session that can "bump" those early fears out of the room.

Here are the steps and a variation.

1. Distribute a blank sheet of lined paper. Tell them it is time for the final exam.
2. Ask everyone to write down, in order, the many activities that have happened during the training.
3. When they are done, create a list on easel paper of the major events of the training. Adjust it with hints if they have forgotten one of the training activities.
4. Then ask people to reminisce about each of the things on the list, especially those that were funny or provided insight.
5. The session should end with a review of key points and things people are taking away.


You can vary this activity by providing the list of training activities. Then have people use the list to do steps 4 and 5. This shortens the time needed for the review.


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 http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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