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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.

~ January - February 2008 ~

Creative Thinking

Sometimes groups need to practice creative thinking to generate new ideas for old programs, surmount obstacles, solve problems, or settle disputes.  The “Bricks” exercise is a quick way to loosen up people’s thinking and encourage them to be creative.  Here are directions for this training exercise.

Purpose:  To provide learners with the opportunity to practice creative problem solving.

Group Size:  Need enough people for three to five groups of four to seven participants


  • A copy of the “Bricks” task sheet
  • Easels, paper, tape, and markers

Exercise Steps

  • Arrange participants in small groups.
  • Give each person the handout “Bricks”
  • Give each group a sheet of easel paper, markers, and tape to post their conclusions
  • Each group has 15 minutes to solve the problem outlined on bricks
  • When each group is done, have them post easel paper on which they have recorded answers.
  • Group reports are given
  • Debriefing questions are asked.

Bricks Task Sheet

Your group has been stranded without provisions on a deserted island.  In your search for supplies you and the others locate a little food and two thousand bricks.  In discussing the situation, the group has determined that rescue will not occur for at least two weeks and the food is insufficient to support everyone for that period.  It seems that the task of immediate importance is to generate creative ways of using the bricks to increase the chances of survival.


Trainer Debriefing Questions:

  • What method did your group use to generate ideas?  What was helpful about this method?  What was not helpful?
  • What was your group’s approach to creative?
  • Did everyone participate equally?  If not, why and how could you have engaged them more effectively?
  • What effect did members’ level of participation have on the overall group?
  • How can you apply what you have learned to __________________(name the real situation)?



New Vitality for Volunteer Programs:  New Models, New People, New Strategies  

New Vitality for Volunteer Programs:  New Models, New People, New Strategies  
Workshop:  Friday, March 7, 2008
9:30 – 4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by  The Nonprofit Center of South Puget Sound
Tacoma, WA

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.  For registration information contact http://www.npcenter.org/


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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