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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: mba@bmi.net

~ March 2012 ~


Administrators of volunteer programs are expected to train incoming volunteers.  Is that always a good idea?  The answer is “It depends.”  If an organization is small and the manager of volunteers is familiar with all aspects of organizational operations, it is possible he/she could do the training.  Because everyone in the organization is cross-trained to everyone else’s job.  But, in our complex organizational structures of the 21st century that is rarely possible.

The manager of volunteers should not, however, be expected to train all volunteers on their tasks. It is not likely that the myriad facets of the many volunteer assignment can be known by one person.  Not all people are good trainers regardless of their title or length of time working in the organization.sign to train volunteers

So what’s a manager to do?  The manager of volunteers should do an orientation for all volunteers.  In the case of episodic volunteers this can be done by more experienced volunteers.  [See more on a Volunteer Training Team].  Orientation is not job training.  It is a welcome to the organization, much as you might greet someone new to your home who is staying all night. Example, tour of facility, bathrooms, parking, mission or organization, organizational chart, clientele, etc.  It is also the time to present policies and procedures and the Volunteer Handbook. 

If you want a volunteer training team select people as trainers who have enthusiasm, patience and enjoy working with new people. An established volunteer can be a very good trainer, who is knowledgeable about a specific area of organizational operations.

Short "train-the-trainer" meetings are conducted by the volunteer manager or other appropriate staff person.  These sessions for volunteer trainers and paid staff are to impart knowledge about training and specifically about training adults.  This adds to trainer confidence.  Be sure to make it interactive.  Keep in mind that creating a Volunteer Training Team is a promotion for volunteers, providing more responsibility.  And for paid staff it allows for personal development and future potential promotions within the organization.  You are also broadening support for the volunteer program.

Be sure to have a set of Volunteer Training Team guidelines for everyone serving as a trainer.  You can also have a job description for volunteers.  For paid staff you will need permission from administrators for this to be part of paid staff duties, included in job descriptions.  This needs to be in place before recruiting people from the staff. Not only does the staff person need time for periodic training-the-trainer sessions, but also time to train new volunteers to his/her job.

Recognition is key.  Volunteers need to be recognized among their peers, through email newsletter, or the print media.  Paid staff should have letters of thanks for personnel files and to their supervisor.  Recognition at staff meetings for staff participating as trainers is also important.

Once a year the Volunteer Training Team should gather to evaluate the training work of the previous year and make recommendations to improve it.  Be sure to include the orientation, as well as the “job” training for volunteers.


Get a tip on some aspect of volunteer administration daily on Twitter.

You do not need a twitter account. Just visit the site on the Web. Paste this address into your browser and you can pick up new ideas. Book mark the page for ease of revisiting.


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Professional Development

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

Online Training for Directors of Volunteer Programs

blue dot Recruiting Volunteers

blue dot Managing Volunteers


Spring classes on volunteer administration at Portland State University provide practical information on recruiting and management.  Sharpen the recruiting effort, enhance your leadership skills, and learn more only some of the topics covered in these classes.  Study for a certificate in Volunteer Administration. Two classes last only four weeks.

Recruitment of Volunteers April 2 – May 25

Recruitment of Volunteer (8 weeks)sengages students in a marketing approach to the recruitment of volunteers.  Interactive activities involve students in practical discussions of the different styles of volunteering—traditional and episodic; building a recruiting plan, advertising and promotion for volunteers, and the organization of a volunteer recruiting team. Assignments in all classes are interactive and designed to build skills directly applicable to a manager of volunteers program.  Assignments can be used immediately in existing volunteer programs. 

Leadership and Communication April 2 – April 27

Leadership and Communication in Volunteer Programs (4 weeks) is devoted to placing the administrator of volunteer programs as a leader in his/her organization. Students explore personal listening styles, different roles of leaders, and conflict resolution. Student assignments include personal assessments, evaluation of current leadership roles, and exploration of how to resolve conflicts.

Supervision and Management April 30 – May 25

Supervision and Management of Volunteers (4 weeks) begins with and an exploration of motivation and how it influences human behavior. Students explore the theories of Maslow, McClelland, and Herzberg discussing how they apply in the volunteer setting. There are practical exercises related to the delegation of responsibilities to volunteers. Students analyze risk management in volunteer programs. The importance of data and record keeping to successful programs is included in the class.
Assignments in all classes are interactive and designed to build skills directly applicable to an administrator of volunteers program.  Assignments can be used immediately in existing volunteer programs. 

For more information on the program visit:



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Portland State University Training for Administrators 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 five courses and covers the organization and administration of volunteer program. Other classes include: Recruiting, Training, Leadership, Supervision and Communication, and Evaluation and Recognition.

Class is fully online

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

x 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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Interested in quick tips on recruiting, coaching, communication, record keeping for your volunteer program.  Follow Volunteer Today publisher and editor, Nancy Macduff on Twitter.  She is posting quick ideas each workday on Twitter about the administration of volunteers.  Check out this new quick resource on Twitter at NLMacduff.  It is the VERY abbreviated form of Volunteer Today.

Nancy is seeking tips, hints, ideas, comments on things related to the management and administration of volunteers.  You can leave a Tweet on the Twitter site or email Nancy at mba@bmi.net.  The tip cannot be longer than 140 spaces or characters. 

REMEMBER: Followers on Twitter can set their profile on privacy to avoid getting unwanted Tweets.  Also, you must pick up Tweets, they do not pop up like your email.  Make it a bookmark on your computer.  Yes, you can Twitter from your computer,  you do not need a smart phone!

If you have not used this social media form of communication and would like to learn how to use it for future communication with volunteers, this is a good way to practice.  Tell the people in your organization and your colleagues in the community about this new site, exclusively for those who coordinate the work of volunteers.

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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.

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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The Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE) is a national organization that supports and advocates for professionals in the field of volunteer management.  Membership is diverse cross section of professionals who are managers, directors, trainers, and consultants committed to the engagement of volunteers.

You can learn more about AL!VE at their Web site.  http://www.volunteeralive.org There is information on the board of directors, resources, newsletter, and committees.  It is now possible to join the organization online as it moves forward in its development. 

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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/. Thanks to Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list

book cover

Available through the Volunteer Today Bookstore

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