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Volunteer Training 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 2009~



Implications for Helping Adults Learn and Change


Engage the learner in the learning processusing his/her entire body and brain
  • Use posters, pictures, charts, overheads, PowerPoint diagrams or pictures--be colorful
  • Ask the learners how the concepts relate to their own life and/or work
  • Present your content or concepts in logical and sequential ways--facilitating easy storage and retrieval
  • Design complex, multi-sensory, immersion environments for learning
  • Use a variety of training techniques:  lecture, reading, writing, video, and real-life experiences
  • Explain the importance of the content or concepts to the learner's real-world needs
  • Allow the learner to lead the training
  • Change the training activity every 20 - 25 minutes
  • Allow time for processing, or diffusion, at least every 90 minutes


Organize the training to make it easy for the learner to absorb the material

  • Tune into the body language of the people in the room
  • Monitor the environment for comfort:  temperature, noise level, seat comfort, bathroom breaks, food needs
  • Use humor, but very carefully!
  • Engage the group-discussions, partner or team projects, small problem solving groups
  • Alternate between the big picture and the small details
  • Include stress-releasing activities in the training plan
  • Give positive emotions a chance to be expressed:  congratulations, and acknowledgments
  • Training activities should involve as many of the senses as possible
  • Review the concepts from one section of the training to the next, do planned short reviews to demonstrate learner progress
  • Never forget the agenda--adults want to know where they are going
  • Color code related information on handouts
  • Use mnemonics: tricks to remember key concepts.  Music students remember lines and spaces on the treble clef with word play--Every Good Boy Does Fine (for the lines); FACE (for the spaces)
  • Use body motions and music to enhance memory

Acknowledge the role of emotions in learning

  • Use activities to increase rapport:  partner or team discussion, dialogues
  • Allow learning to emerge from multiple contexts
  • Realize that making changes (which is the letting go of old ways of working and thinking) can be difficult--even painful
  • Beginning with the trainer, set ground rules that emphasize respect for all learners
  • Share stories, or parables, illustrating the emotional nature of learning
  • Use music
  • Use simulations:  field trips, real-life projects, role playing
  • Post positive reinforcements around learning attained and work completed
  • Avoid embarrassing the learners, or putting them on the spot
  • Remember, trainers are co-learners
  • Use metaphors and analogies to create vivid and memorable images


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Professional Development

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

Volunteer Management Training in Eastern Washington

Recruiting and Managing Volunteers

Professional Development Certificate

            Walla Walla Community College, in Walla Walla, WA is offering a four-session professional development certificate in the management of volunteers.  It is designed for those who organize volunteers, paid and unpaid.  The course is held on Fridays.  January 9 and 23 and February 6 and 20.  9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.  Participation in all the sessions leads to a professional development certificate.  Classes can be taken separately.  For more information contact Nancy Kress at 509-527-4561 or nancy.kress@wwcc.edunancy.kress@wwcc.edu at the college.

Course description: Engaging and managing volunteers in the 21st century is not quite as simple as it used to be. Effective volunteer programs must use a coordinated effort to identify volunteers interested in offering their time and talents to an organization or a program.  The Recruiting and Managing Volunteers class offers a four day examination of the elements of recruiting and managing volunteers:  Elements of effective recruiting, strategies to plan training for a diverse a audience, techniques to effectively manage short and long term volunteers, methods to evaluate volunteers, and tips on meaningful recognition.  In an interactive classroom setting students learn from an internationally recognized teacher with ample opportunity to interact with colleagues.

Class One- Volunteerism in the 21st century and Recruitment of Volunteers

Class Two- Training

Class Three – Supervision and Management

Class Four- Evaluation and Recognition of Volunteers

Instructor Information

Instructor: Nancy Macduff, M.A.C.E
Faculty, Institute for Nonprofit Management

Portland State University
Author and Lecturer


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Portland State University Launches Training for Managers of Volunteer Programs


Institute for Nonprofit Management Launches Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Courses

Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program

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.
First classes begin January 5, 2009

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

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 200 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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