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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.

~ October 2007 ~ Topics

BET-A Recognition Tool
Using Appropriate Language
Volunteer Management Training Opportunities

BET-A Recognition Tool

Volunteers serve as supervisors of other volunteers at events, in episodic tasks, and for new comers. A recognition technique that is simple and easy to remember is desirable for those who oversee the work of others. Here is a quick exercise to teach those volunteer supervisors that recognition can be simple.

Time Needed: 10 - 15 minutes
Supplies: easel stand, paper, markers
Write on easel: B E T

B-best to identify what the volunteer is doing that contributes to the organization, project, event, etc.

E-explain why what the individual is doing is important

T-thank you or tangible expression of appreciation

Ask training group to form pairs. Ask them to recall the type of things for which a volunteer he/she might supervise would be praised. Each person practices the BET technique. Partner provides feedback on how well person stuck to the model. Allow 2 - 4 minutes per person.

Debriefing-When pairs have completed assignment ask these questions or others you might think of.

  • Someone give me an example of an especially good BET. Your partners example.
  • Why is BET a useful model when working with short service volunteers?

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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Using Appropriate Language

Trainers need to be especially sensitive to the language used in training sessions. Offend a learner by the use of a slur or racial sterotype, and you have lost them for the rest of the training. Here are some fast tips to serve as a reminder of the need for attention to language.

Avoid singling out a person in the session based on sex, race, ethnicity, or personal traits or characteristics (such as sexual orientation, age, or a disability). Create an environment that avoids promoting stereotypes based on unavoidable human characteristics.

The only time it is appropriate to single out an individual is at their request. "I am hard of hearing and read lips, could you ask people to look toward me when talking in the class." A legitimate request, while drawing attention to the learner, provides him/her the chance to get the most from group discussions. And reminders to folks during a long training are not inappropriate. Gently!

Try to use inclusive language for general cases. Specific examples might use him or her or refer to someone generically as Mrs. John Doe.

Avoid using words that imply victimization or create negative stereotypes. E.g., don't use descriptors such as "victim" or "sufferer" for someone with a disease, just identify the disease. Avoid using words such as "poor," "unfortunate," or "afflicted."

Don't say "courageous" when you can say "successful" or productive."

Degender, do not Regender it. (e.g., degender chairman to chair, don't regender it to chairwoman).

Replace occupational terms containing man and boy, if possible, with terms that include members of either gender. Journeyman electrician = licensed electrician.

Avoid occupational designations having derogatory -ette and -ess endings. Example-wait staff for servers in restaurant.

Be especially mindful of using gender-free terms in writing or talking about traditionally male or female activities.

Let language usage reflect the fact that both men and women are involved with sports and home life. Examples:

  • sportsmanship=fair play, team play, sporting attitude
  • crewmen =crew, crew members
  • housewife =homemaker, house spouse, parent, caregiver (or shopper, customer, etc.)
  • mothering=parenting

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Volunteer Management Training Opportunities
  • Earn a professional certificate at Washington State University in its Volunteer Management Institute for managers of volunteers in Spokane, WA, November 6-9, 2007. Designed to accommodate beginning managers, as well as those with more experience it is an in-depth look at the new forms of volunteering and how to manage the episodic and traditional volunteer. Enroll by October 9 for reduced fee. For more information visit the Web site http://www.emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer/.
  • New Vitality for Volunteer Programs: New Models, New People, New Strategies Sponsored by VolunteerMacon and Hands-On Macon. Workshop: Tuesday, November 13, 2007, 9:30 - 4:00 p.m. at 600 Means Street, Atlanta, GA. For registration email: dayn_volmacon@belsouth.net or phone VolunteerMacon and Hands-On Macon at 478-742-6677. Cost: $75. Some scholarships available. It is getting harder and harder to find volunteers. What is happening? Spend the day with nationally known author and trainer Nancy Macduff as she leads us in a lively exploration of the issues facing those who manage volunteers. Explore a new model of volunteering based on how people are asking to volunteer. Review the practical strategies for recruiting and managing traditional and non-traditional forms of volunteering. Go home with practical techniques to enhance your volunteer program.
  • Not able to attend a workshop in November? Professional Certificate in volunteer administration is available online. Sign up any time, do assignments at your own pace, and work on project 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.


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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