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Volunteer Training and Professional Development

The Training page for Volunteer Today has historically focused on tips for trainers. Occasionally there were articles about training for the manager of volunteers. With this issue the focus is shifting. Each issue will have information on some aspect of professional development for managers of volunteers and some articles on how to be a better trainer of volunteers. The author of this page, Nancy Macduff, is open to ideas and suggestions from readers on what might be useful information in the area of professional development. You can email her at: editor@volunteertoday.com.

~ February 2007 ~ Topics

Certificate Programs
Adult Learning and Motivation

Certificate Programs

The field of Volunteer Administration has any number of "certificate" programs for those wishing to learn more about managing volunteers. This article begins a series on Certificate Programs with a solid history and solid foundation of knowledge based on what is know in the research community about managing volunteers. A new certificate program will be featured each month. If you know of a program please provide information on the program to the writer of this page, Nancy Macduff at: editor@volunteertoday.com.

CVA (Certified in Volunteer Administration)

The grandmother of all certificate programs for managers of volunteers is the CVA (Certified in Volunteer Administration) started by those who founded the Association of Volunteer Administration. Over the years the program has been up-dated and honed to reflect the changes in volunteerism.
With the demise of the Association of Volunteer Administration in 2006 a nonprofit group was formed to continue the certification work. It seems that several other professions have a freestanding organization (read nonprofit) that "certifies" professionals in the field. It is largely because most professions have more than one professional associations and this leaves the certification process outside the "political" winds of differing associations.

No organization was prepared to step into the breech and take on the CVA as AVA came to an end, but a commitment to certification was important to enough to some people that it was rescued and revitalized with a new home. The program is the same as that developed under the aegis of AVA, with the same quality of standards to be certified.

  1. Core Content:
    • Professional Principles-including ethical practices, pluralism, professional development, and advocacy.
    • Leadership-types and models, decision making.
    • Organizational Management—models, tools, accountability.
    • Planning-includes risk management.
    • Human Resource Management –volunteers, supervision, reporting.
  2. Process:
    • Philosophy statement (written).
    • Management Narrative (written).
    • Peer review of philosophy statement and narrative.
    • Written exam-based on references.
  3. Who Can Participate:
    • Need the equivalent of three years experience as full time manager of volunteers. Can be salaried or unsalaried.
    • Current position must be at least 30% volunteer administration.
    • Two letters of professional recommendations.
  4. Fees:
    • January 2007 $235 US (Cost for texts $75).
    • Recertification required every five years.

For more information, visit the website at: http://www.cvacert.org.

We now have downloadable books available in PDF format. Check out our online bookstore for Handling Problem Volunteers by Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard now available electonically. Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book

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Adult Learning and Motivation

Various adult educators have written about what happens when adults are in a learning situation—formal or informal. Those theories relate to how well people participate, retain the information, and later use what was learned. Here are the theories of two noted adult educators.

Stephen Brookfield suggests that some adults see themselves as "imposters." The individual feels incompetent, especially if he/she sees other students as more confident and capable. This is especially true for the adult who is in a new learning environment. The trainer can take steps to reduce the feelings of inadequacy.

    • Regularly affirm the student's sense of self-worth.
    • Acknowledge that you—the trainer—have felt the same way at times.
    • Create exercises and activities where students are able to communicate their misgivings to other students. This helps the person realize he/she is not alone in their feelings.

Raymond Wlodkowski suggests a three-part process for teacher and learner. What is occurring at the beginning, middle and end of training that motivates the learner?

    1. Beginning—
      • Check on attitudes-Establish a positive environment toward the learning experience.
      • Check on needs-Determine needs in advance of training and then double check with activity to list needs at beginning of class. Determine what learners already know.
    2. During –
      • Stimulation—what exercises and activities will stimulate adults to learn in a continuous fashion
      • Emotion—Check the emotional or affective climate of the learning experience. Keep it positive.
    3. At the end—
      • Competence—the learner needs an experience at the end that affirms his/her feelings of competence
      • Reinforcement—What activity will reinforce the learning for the student?

Using these standards a trainer can examine a training course to determine if the best motivational climate exists for the individual.


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://tltc.shu.edu/npo/. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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