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Training Volunteers 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 2009~

Organizing the Content of Training

Getting ready to provide training is a multi-step process that begins with a purpose statement. Immediately following that is the organizations of the content of what is taught. This critical step can be overlooked by someone who has taught the content for years or done it for years. No matter the years of experience it is a dangerous step to skip.

Even the most experienced trainer can forget a key point or element, leave out a step because there is a short cut, or organize it in a less then linear process. This makes learning how to do the task difficult at best for the learner, if not downright impossible.

It is critical to write down all the key points to be covered and make sure it is a step-by-step process, with “bite-sized” chunks for learning. If you are teaching someone how to operate something or engage in a psychomotor skill, it is easy to list the steps. The challenge is when the topic or content is more philosophical or theoretical. An example might be teaching volunteers the importance of confidentiality in and around their work for the organization.

Everyone has his/her own definition of confidentiality, so the first content area would be defining confidentiality the way the organization does. In a content outline it might look like this:

Confidentiality Training
Content Outline

I. Definition of Confidentiality

A. Printed confidentiality statement by organization
B. Laws or policies on which the statement is based
C. Examples to illustrate each part of the confidentiality statement

Your outline would actually have the statements and direct references to laws or policies, but this would be the first part of the training to ensure that everyone has the same definition and there is clarity for the trainee on where the rules come from that guide confidentiality in practice. Your content outline would continue with ensuing steps to teach the concept of confidentiality.

It is important to note that when training on subjects that are less tangible, the content outline becomes increasingly important. It keeps the training focused from the beginning. Here is a brief outline to suggest ways you can organize your content for more effective training sessions.

In Order to Organize the Content

    1. Develop steps/process to accomplish/learn the content.
    2. Outline content.
    3. Organize in sequence for instruction.
    4. Write a brief summary of key points in your content outline
    5. Wurman's “hat racks” of content-Saul Wurman (1989) suggests five options for organizing content
      • By category-Example-in the “thrift” store we sell records by categories---oldies (pre-1970); Punk/Heavy metal, classical, comedy, etc.
      • Chronologically-Example-For a volunteer who comes to open our thrift store we outline what needs to be done by the time of day, exact time or morning, afternoon, etc.
      • Location-Example-the thrift store has a layout for durable items in one area of the store and less durable in another
      • Alphabetical or numerical list-Example--learning phone codes to quickly get a client or customer to their desired person is the topic of the training session
      • A continuum-Example-confidentiality is not a tidy topic. Students need to know what is seriously none of anyone's business and what falls into “grey” areas. That should be in a content outline, not just the trainer's head.

The Purpose of the Content Outline

1. Helps organize the Training Plan.
2. Clarifies sequence for instructor and thus the learner.
3. Ensures the small steps are not missed.
4. Can point the way to the selection of appropriate training devices and techniques.
5. Identifies when there is too much “content” for the time allotted.

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Professional Development

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

Managing a Non-Profit’s Board

Walla Walla Community College

This workshop helps those serving on boards or in executive leadership
positions assess current practices in selection of members, training
on roles and responsibilities, legal and financial responsibilities, and
building a strong committee structure.

Thursday and Friday, Oct 8-9, 2009 9:30 am-3:30 pm
Conf. Center 185A Nancy Macduff
For registration information contact: Nancy Kress at nancy.kress@wwcc.edu or call 509.527.4561

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Portland State University Training for Managers of Volunteer Programs

Institute for Nonprofit Management

Department of Extended Studies

Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program

Winter Semester Classes 2010

Recruiting Volunteers


Training Volunteers

Portland State University’s Volunteer Engagement and Leadership certificate program offers classes all semesters throughout the year. Recruiting volunteers is the first class in a series of six courses and covers the organization of the recruitment effort. It includes the impact of societal changes on volunteering, practical strategies for organizing recruiting include conducting needs assessments, strategic planning, and position descriptions. There is also information on the basics of marketing in the volunteer arena, advertising and promotions, screening and the utilization of volunteer recruiting teams.

The second class in the series is training volunteers. It moves the student from understanding the concepts of how adults learn to organizing content, writing learning objectives, and writing a training plan. Both classes will be offered during winter semester, beginning in January 2010.

Class is fully online

For registration assistance phone (503)725-4822 or Toll Free: (800) 547-8887 ask for ext. 4822

Online contact: http://www.extended.pdx.edu/degrcomp/programs/v_engagement.php


Portland State University’s Institute for Nonprofit Management and the Department of Extended Studies have partnered to offer an educational series designed to build your volunteer program to standards of excellence and provide professional development for you.

Volunteers are engaged in programs and projects around the world in new and exciting ways.  Recruiting and organizing them is art and science. This new program teaches you cutting edge strategies to engage volunteers.

The Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program (VELP) offers two formats to educate professionals and others on how to successfully engage and lead volunteers.  Formats provide hands-on practical exercises and experiences for learners at all levels to enhance their work with volunteers.

Learning Option 1 - Online course in Volunteer Engagement and Leadership-Students from around the world engage in first class instructions from seasoned veterans in the organization of a volunteer program.  Topics include recruiting, screening, planning, marketing, supervision, evaluation, and recognition, to name a few.  This is an asynchronous class. For more information visit the PSU Web site.

Learning Option 2 - Online learning is not for everyone, so the Institute for Nonprofit Management provides the same content as the online course, but in a face-to-face format.  Visit the INPM Web site for more detailed information on the open enrollment Institute or one tailored to a single group. http://www.extended.pdx.edu/degrcomp/programs/v_engagement_training.php

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Ohio Directors Hold Annual Conference In October

"If Disney Ran Your Hospital. . .some things you would do differently" is the theme for the Ohio Society of Directors of Volunteer Services in hospitals. Dates are October 15 & 16, 2009 at Cherry Valley Lodge in Newark, Ohio. For more information contact Margaret Galla

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Where: Hospice of Michigan,400 Mack, Detroit 48201
Cost:  $50.00 (includes lunch)

Whether you involve people in community service, civic engagement, social service or volunteer programs, this full-day workshop will present exciting recruitment, job design, management and retention strategies to involve these resources. Learn successful techniques to deal with the needs of both volunteers and organizations in today’s economy.

Nancy Macduff is an internationally recognized trainer and author. In addition to publishing books with practical techniques to deal with recruitment and retention, she offers online classes through Portland State University (Oregon) and a training newsletter (Volunteer Today.com). She will present concepts and guide interactive exercises to develop useful and creative strategies to effectively engage today’s volunteers in programs of nonprofit, governmental and for-profit organizations. The workshop provides the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of your volunteer program and make plans to enhance and improve it.

Online registration available at:http://www.esc-detroit.org

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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 300 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.

Interested in assessing your volunteer recruiting strategies?

Use a self-directed evaluation tool

Get help with one of the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series.

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