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Volunteer Training and Professional Development

The Training page for Volunteer Today has historically focused on tips for trainers. Each issue will now 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.

~ November 2007 ~ Topics

Challenges With Too Much Information
Do You Really Want That Feedback?

Challenges With Too Much Information

Are our organizations failing because of technology, rather than being helped by technology? Arnold Brown suggests that the increasing capacity of technology and the complexity of systems have created an environment where the procedures and structure are more important than the results. As a side note he refers to the uses to which humans are putting their brains and the effect of that.

He references Blink and The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, who maintains that instinctive judgments are better than those made with loads and loads of new information. Here are some of his remarks.

  • Some research shows that thinking too hard about simple actions slows down the learning process and the circuits that do the processing.
  • Brain research on Buddhist monks shows that how you think, not what you think, can improve brain activity. In fact meditation can change brain circuitry.
  • The stress of taking exams hinders flexible thinking and impairs student's ability to solve complex problems.

Food for thought as we train adults.

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Do You Really Want That Feedback?

Feedback on your work, a training session, or written document comes in the form of constructive criticism. Professionals learn to ask for criticism-the constructive variety-in order to grow and stay fresh in the field of endeavor. Here are some tips to improve your hearing and benefiting from the feedback.

  • Choose the persons giving feedback carefully. Do not ask a chronic "negativist" to provide feedback. Those with hidden agendas, or limited vision are not people that can help, either. You need to avoid those who would never criticize for fear of hurting your feelings. Honest, clear, helpful, and with expertise necessary to comment in the first place.
  • Ask more than one person. If you hear from only one person, you have opinions, but with little validity. Somewhere between 3 - 6 people providing feedback is ideal. Number of individuals needed depends on the complexity of that being reviewed.
  • Set the parameters for the critics. To help the persons giving feedback, tell them what you want. If all you are seeking is grammar checking on a written document, say that. "Tell me what you think" is not sufficient information to guide the person in giving you useful feedback.
  • Assess whether you really want feedback. Criticism is hard to take, no matter how kindly offered. You must accept it gracefully, remembering the person is doing what you requested and the output will be better for it. It is the mark of a professional.

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 electronically. Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book
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Volunteer Management Certificate Program

Earn a professional development certificate in volunteer administration online--standard and advanced certificates are available. Sign up any time, do assignments at your own pace, and work on projects directly related to the work you do. For more information on the Washington State University Volunteer Management Certificate Program go to: http://capps.wsu.edu/certificates/vmcp/default.asp.

Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA)

Volunteer Today encourages mangers of volunteers to enhance their skills and effectiveness on the job through a variety of educational opportunities. Experienced managers of volunteers can highlight that skill achievement by seeking the Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) endorsement. The Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA) advances the profession and practice of volunteer resource management by certifying individuals who demonstrate knowledge and competence in the leadership of volunteers. Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) is an international credential awarded to practitioners with at least 3 years of experience who successfully complete an exam and written portfolio process. Originally developed by the Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA) several decades ago, the credentialing program is now sponsored by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration. For detailed information visit their Web site at: http://www.cvacert.org.


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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