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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.

~ September 2009 ~




Managers of volunteer programs frequently provide training where the volunteer needs to be tested in an empirical manner on their knowledge—processing of a credit card, using a cash register, health and safety regulations, and the list goes on.  Odds are the “trainer” was not educated to be a teacher and has little experience with designing tests.  Here are some suggestions on test development when using multiple-choice questions.

  1. Each item should test one central idea or item.
  2. Each item needs to be a “stand-alone” item, not dependent on any other item.
  3. Write item with these characteristics:  clear, simple, brief, and correct.
  4. Eliminate adverbs and adjectives.  Keep to essential words only.  Spot an ly word and consider a revision.
  5. Avoid textbook sounding words.  Keep it simple.
  6. Avoid positioning the correct answers in a pattern.  Go for randomization.
  7. Do not give clues to the correct response by response length, grammar, repetition of key words or explicitness of response.
  8. Do not make the possible responses so similar that they seem to overlap.
  9. There should be only one clear and correct response.
  10. Avoid negatively stated items.  It confuses the volunteer.
  11. Incorrect answers should be plausible and attractive to volunteers who do not know the right answer.
  12. Incorrect answers need to be clearly incorrect or inadequate.
  13. Incorrect answers can represent common misconception, logical alternatives, frequent mistakes or other plausible but incorrect information.

Example of multiple-choice question: 

Which of the following is a flavor made from beans?
         1. Strawberry
         2. Cherry
         3. Vanilla
         4. Mint

Answer is 3. 

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Professional Development

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

Portland State University Training for Managers of Volunteer Programs

Institute for Nonprofit Management

Department of Extended Studies

Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program


Portland State University’s Volunteer Engagement and Leadership certificate program begins at the end of this month.  The first class in a series of six courses covers the organization of the recruitment effort. The course covers 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.

Class begins September 28 and ends November 20, 2009

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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