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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

~ October 2013 ~


Much of what adults learn does not take place in the workplace or voluntary organizations, but as a solitary endeavor.  Here are some tidbits from the experts on adults as solitary learners.

  • Allen Tough defines solitary learning as projects, which are a series of episodes, adding up to at least seven hours.  The learning is motivated by the desire to gain and retain a knowledge or skill, or to produce some lasting change.
  • It is common for individuals to spend 700 hours a year at learning projects
  • About 70% of all learning projects are designed by the learner
  • There are factors which are predictors of how much time an adult will devote to solitary learning-
  1. Extent to which the individual’s parents read or learnedwoman reading
  2. Level of activity and achievement in the childhood home
  3. Number of years in school
  4. Satisfaction with attempts to learn
  5. Placement in family (first children tend to devote more time to learning)Adults As Self-LearnersAdults As Self-Learners

Why is this important information for the manager of volunteers?  As the technology allows and volunteers grow scarce, managers of volunteers need to explore ways to “train” volunteers online.  Solitary learning is already something people know how to do, and the effective manager of volunteers is wise to harness that skill and make learning easy, requiring no meeting attendance. 

Allen Tough, Intentional Changes:  A Fresh Approach to Helping People Change. Chicago, Follett, 1982



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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.



Professional Development

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

College of Urban and Public Affairs

Hatfield School

Public Administration

Volunteer Engagement and Leadership
8 credits
Certificate of Professional Development


The Division of Public Administration at Portland State University is dedicated to preparing individuals for ethical, competent and effective public service in a range of roles in policy, management and leadership. The department seeks to improve practice by facilitating learning through community engagement, promoting scholarship, and encouraging reflection as we develop and work with leaders representing diverse communities across all domains of public service.

The Volunteer Engagement and Leadership series of class engages students in learning the various elements of leading a professional quality volunteer program in agencies and nonprofits.  It uses the most current scholarship with time for reflection, interaction with other students, and opportunities for practical application.  Students who successfully complete the four classes receive a certificate of professional development.

Recruitment of Volunteers (11 weeks) engages 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.

Training of Volunteers (11 weeks) engages students in organizing training sessions for volunteers. Topics include: how adults learn, learning styles, building content, measureable learning objectives, selecting the best teaching techniques, and evaluation of learning. 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 Management in Volunteer Programs (11 weeks)
Effective leadership begins and ends with successful communication. Managing volunteers requires knowledge of one’s own communication and leadership style and that of others!   Information must be passed accurately in order to lead people. Students in this class study the components of communication required to effectively lead and manage the work of volunteers:  personal communication style, feedback, leadership, and building effective relationships.
Managing volunteers is based on an understanding of what motivates volunteers to serve and to stay. This class reviews four motivational theories and applies them in the volunteer setting. There is also opportunity to review conflict resolution strategies. Risk management is discussed in some depth.

Evaluation and Recognition for Volunteer Programs (11 weeks) tackles two functional areas for those who manage volunteers. Students tackle evaluation methods, types, and styles for programs and for individual volunteers. Motivational theories are connected to the effectiveness of different type of recognition, intrinsic and extrinsic.
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. 

For more information:  Contact Nancy Macduff at mba@bmi.net or 509-529-0244.

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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 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.

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