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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 2008~


Training One-to-One

         There are many times when a volunteer is trained one-on-one, rather than in a group.  Preparing for training is different when there is only one student.  Here are some tips to help prepare for this type of training. 

Preparing to Teach

Things to Do:

1.       Find out about the learner and how much they know.
2.       Adjust your training to the learner.
3.       Ask questions, to find out how much the learner already knows.
4.        Be sure you know the key training points. Have a written outline of key content points.
5.       Arrange the training points in sequence.
6.       Be patient.
7.       Keep it simple.  Too much information can handicap the learner.
8.       Make sure you have all the necessary equipment or materials.

Common Errors in Teaching One-on-One

1.       Using technical language or jargon unfamiliar to the learner.
2.       Presenting information out of sequence.
3.       Providing information that is unnecessary to the skill to be learned.
4.       Having defective equipment or outdated supplies or resources.
5.       Giving no encouragement or reassurance to the learner.
6.        No recognition that the learner has any previous knowledge or experience.
7.       Using baffling terms.

Want to learn more about e-learning?  Visit the Tech Tips page to learn the best types of e-learning techniques to maximize retention.

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Challenging Training Class?  What Should I Do?

Some causes of training challenges:

  • Dominant participant
  • Maintaining the interest of learners who have different levels of expertise.
  • Poorly organized training plan and activitiesSome solutions:
Some solutions:
  • Address behavior, not the person
    • Mentally separate individuals from his/her behaviors
    • Ask that questions be limited to topics directly related to the session
    • Confront a behavior privately.
  • Have a flexible training design
    • If participants want to address a problem and it is not “on-topic” ask them to record on the “Parking Lot.” A Parking Lot is a sheet of easel paper where questions can be posted.  Provide small post-its and pencils for people to record questions.  Leave 15 minutes at the end of the training session to address those questions.
    •  If an issue is pressing, rearrange the training plan to address the emergent issue.
    • Practice good facilitation in moving people away from side conversations and back onto the topic of training.
  • Channel energies of domineering participants
    • Create learning activities with rotating roles —e.g., facilitator, recorder, reporter
    • In early discussion establish ground rules for discussion. Be prepared to invoke the ground rules if a difficult situation arises
    • Issue all participants 10 poker chips at the beginning of the training.  Every time a person talks they must turn in a chip.  When the chips are used up they can no longer contribute.
  • Be positive.
    • Avoid obsessing about badly behaving participants.  Ignoring people can sometimes control behavior.
    • Never ignore issues or situations that are diminishing the learning environment for the majority of participants.  Respond quickly and move on.
    • Most learners are hoping for your success and their own learning.  The attitude of the trainer can influence that.
    • All participants — especially those not involved in the situation — will react not only to the situation itself but also to how you respond. Stay focused on the training topic and expectations established by all members.
    • Monitor your own training style, be attentive to the needs of diverse learners, and keep a positive attitude!
    • Using diverse training activities can derail bad behavior.
      • Keep lecture and PowerPoint presentations to a minimum.  Adults prefer interactive learning.
      • Be attentive to learning levels.  Divide people into group discussions by level of knowledge.
      • Have something for auditory learners, visual learners, and kinesthetic learners.

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Professional Development

Ideas, theories, information, and training for those who manage the work of volunteers

Mapping My Professional History

         Some professions require practitioners in the field to maintain a steady diet of professional development activities, i.e., attorney, physician, and accountant.  There is no such blanket requirement for those who manage volunteers.  This leaves to the manager or coordinator of volunteers the personal responsibility to advocate for the money and time to enhance his/her skills.  One way to make a case for professional development is to know your professional history.  Here is a simple mapping tool that can be used for your own records, but also as a means to show administrators your efforts at self-improvement toward making the engagement of volunteers more efficient and effective.


Professional Development Activities


Within the Last Five Years

This Year


List formal schooling or certificate programs related directly to volunteer management.





List non-credit training or in-service activities in which you have participated that relate directly to volunteer management.





List membership in professional or academic associations related to volunteer management





List practitioner related books, magazines, newsletters related to volunteer management that you read.  Indicate how often you read them.





List the academic or research publications on volunteer management you read.  Indicate how often.





List here other professional development activities not mentioned previously.





See Events page for listing of several training opportunities -from Philadephia to Olympia, WA

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Job Opportunity

Volunteer Services Coordinator

Providence Hospice & Home Care of Snohomish County

We are seeking a full-time Volunteer Services Coordinator who will be responsible for the planning and implementation of volunteer services within the facility/agency.  This includes recruitment, screening, orientation, training, ongoing coordination, supervision, retention, and recognition.  The Volunteer Coordinator serves as a consultant to other team members regarding volunteer issues and may oversee volunteers working for programs such as the Lifeline Program, or Caregiver Support Group.  The function of the position actively incorporates the Mission and Vision of Providence Health System. The Core Values of RESPECT, COMPASSION, JUSTICE, EXCELLENCE AND STEWARDSHIP are reflected within all working relationships by demonstrating teamwork, dedication and service excellence.  Education & Experience:  Bachelors' degree in management, health, social sciences, or related field.  Qualified candidate will have experience in volunteering, coordinating volunteers and leading groups, preferably in a healthcare setting.  Licensure: Must have a valid Washington State driver's license along with access to an insured, reliable vehicle is required, or an alternate ability to travel to sites as required.  To apply, visit www.providence.org/careers, search requisition #39537.  Contact jill.rogerson-black@providence.org for questions.  Providence is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


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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