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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.

~January 2010~


One way to learn about group dynamics in a training session is to observe and analyze what is happening in the group.  All of us have spent our lives in groups of various sorts -- the family, team, work group, etc., but rarely have we taken the time to stop and observe what was going on in the group, or why members were behaving the way they were.  This is an essential skill for someone who is training.  Here are some simple tips on what to look for in a group to help better understand it. 

A. Content vs. Process

When we observe what the group is talking about, we are focusing on the content.  When we try to observe how the group is handling its communication, i.e., who talks how much or who talks to whom, we are focusing on group process.
Most topics emphasize the content - "what is good service,"  "how can I carry out a specific skill,"  "how can we make meetings more effective," and concern issues which are 'there and then' in the sense of being abstract, future, or past oriented and not involving us directly.  In focusing on group process, we are looking at what our group is doing in the 'here and now', how it is working is the sense of its present procedures and organization.
In fact, the content of the conversation is often the best clue as to what process issues may be on people's minds, when they find it difficult to confront the issue directly.  For example:



1.  Talking about problems of authority may mean . . .

. . . that there is a leadership struggle going on.

2.  Talking about how bad meetings
      are may mean. . .

. . . that members are dissatisfied with the performance of the group.

3.  Talking about staff who don't
         really help anybody may mean

. . . dissatisfaction with the group's leader.

B. Communication

One of the easiest aspects of group process to observe is the pattern of communication:

1.  Who talks?  For how long?  How often?
2.  Who do people look at when they talk?

a. single person; others, possible potential supporters
b.  Scanning the group
c.   No one

3.  Who talks after whom, or who interrupts whom?
4.  What style of communication is used (assertions, questions, tone of voice, gestures, etc.)?

The kinds of observations we make give us clues to other important things which may be going on in the group such as who leads whom or who influences whom.

Professional Development

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

Portland State University
Department of Extended Studies

Two courses that lead to certification in volunteer administration are being offered online beginning January 4, 2010.  The Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program’s first two courses, Volunteer Recruitment and Volunteer Training will be offered through an online program held in conjunction with the School of Public Administration’s Institute for Nonprofit Studies. 

The recruitment class tackles such issues as the rise of short term volunteering, the impact of age cohorts on volunteering patterns, creating a recruitment plan, utilizing market research for effect recruiting strategies, and engaging a volunteer recruitment team.  The training course takes the learner through the essential elements of designing consistent training program for volunteers.  Topics range from adult learning to content development to selecting the most effective teaching techniques.  Assignments are interactive and designed to build skills directly applicable to a manager of volunteers program.  Some assignments can be used immediately.

For more information on the program visit: http://distancedegree.pdx.edu//programs/v_engagement.php

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Classes at Walla Walla Community College

Nonprofit Board Legal and Financial Issues

Friday, February 5, , 8:30 am - 12:30 pm


Board members and staff need to know the “ins and outs” of managing the financial and legal health of a nonprofit organization.  Learn how to conduct a legal and financial assessment of tasks for board and staff.  Ask questions of a local attorney on specific areas of interest.


Managing Change for the Nonprofit Board

Friday,  February 19, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm


The nonprofit board copes with change each year.  Learn how to manage change without losing members or funders.  Discuss how change impacts individuals in the organization.  Go away with a strategy to organize smooth transitions.

For information contact: Nancy Kress at nancy.kress@wwcc.edu or call 509.527.4561

To register online:


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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


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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The International Journal of Volunteer Administration is a practitioner journal grounded in solid scholarship in the field of volunteerism, but with practical advice for those who manage volunteers.

The Journal is a refereed publication of the North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, USA. The IJOVA seeks to provide an exchange of ideas and a sharing of knowledge and insights about volunteerism and volunteer management and administration, both in North America and internationally.

Formerly published by the now-dissolved Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA), The Journal is a not-for-profit service of the Department and North Carolina State University that seeks to connect practitioners, academicians, and consultants in greater service to the global volunteer community and the professionals who lead it.

The IJOVA is governed by a six-member Editorial Board representing the three predominant genres of volunteer management professionals: (a) practicing managers of volunteers, (b) consultants, and (c) academicians focusing upon volunteer management and administration. Three Board members represent the United States while one member each represents Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

Subscriptions are a modest $40. for the electronic journal. For more information and to read six issues for free go to the IJOVA Web site.

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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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