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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.

~ October 2009 ~


Brainstorming is one of the most ubiquitous teaching and training techniques used. It is seemingly everywhere under every circumstance. It is often done poorly and hence many trainees dread the words, "Now, let's get in groups to brainstorm ideas." This valuable training tool can be effective when used in the right context and where everyone "follows the brainstorming rules." Here is a brief review to remind you what it is and how to use it to great effect.


    Brainstorming is a training and problem solving method to generate creative thinking as one phase of the problem-solving process. It is a way to get everyone involved in generating ideas in quantity. Brainstorming is a period of time when ideas are allowed to flow freely on a particular issue. During that process all evaluation and criticism are suspended and ideas are not judged upon their merits.


  • To increase participnat involvement
  • To reduce dependency upon authority figures in the group.
  • To provide a maximum output of ideas in a short period of time.
  • To give visibility to individual ideas.
  • To make the sessions more fun, interesting and stimulating.
  • To develop a more informal atmosphere.
  • To give quieter, less self-assured group members a safe, comfortable atmosphere in which to participate.
  • To initiate creative interaction within the group.


The process can be used with almost any size group. Large groups often find it best to sub-divide into groups of five to ten. It is important that the small groups have a diversity in members and opinions so a variety of viewpoints are interacting.  Chart paper should be used to record ideas.


All participants should be aware of and follow the ground rules to insure the success of the brainstorming session.

  1. Criticism or evaluation of an idea is not allowed. Each idea is presented with no discussion.
  2. No idea is too wild or far out to be suggested. The wilder and more fantastic the idea, the more chance there is for developing creative approaches to the problem.
  3. Quantity is very important and all ideas should be recorded without any screening.
  4. Everyone should be free to build onto ideas and to make interesting combinations from the various suggestions.
  5. Each person should be limited to one idea at a time to make sure that less dominating individuals get their ideas heard.
  6. The brainstorming period should have a definite time limit and be focused on one topic or problem.

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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.

ThF, Oct. 8-9 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 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…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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