In my experience working for a nonprofit, being prepared for change is essential. Being part of a small office, my co-workers and I were able to adapt to drastic changes by being flexible in our roles. That flexibility required competence in various operations of the organization. When I joined my current workplace, I was the administrative assistant to the director of after-school and summer programs for local youth. After a few months, I found myself spending less and less of time entering data, so that I could provide direct service, coordinate fundraisers and network with community partners. I began supervising participants in community service programs, recruiting volunteers to assist at events, and connecting with professionals who would share their expertise with students. These new responsibilities required me to practice something I had never done before professionally: manage volunteers.
I began to seek resources to broaden my knowledge of volunteer administration, so I could learn the skills to become a more effective manager and create the foundations for a successful volunteer program that would increase the capacity, sustainability and value of my organization’s programs. Eventually I found an opportunity to earn a professional certification in volunteer administration. The Certification in Volunteer Administration (CVA) is a competency-based program, which requires me to demonstrate skills in five core competencies: ethics, organizational management, human resource management, accountability, and leadership and advocacy.1 The course work consists of an exam and three writing assignments. The end product is a portfolio containing a statement of my own philosophy regarding volunteerism, an ethics case study and a management narrative. I knew these assignments would be helpful tools for problem solving and reflection. I also felt that the credentialing process would lend integrity to my role as a volunteer manager. By becoming professionally certified, I would be meeting standards set by experts in the field of volunteer administration.
I am now halfway through the credentialing process; I passed the exam and am working on my portfolio. I find this stage of the process to be beneficial not just for myself, but for my organization’s volunteer program as a whole. I have been consulting my program’s director for her feedback regarding my ethics case study and management narrative. As we reviewed potential topics for both, we discussed difficult issues we faced in the past that could be avoided in the future with the new policies in place. As I compose my case study and narrative, I am formulating solutions for those problems.
The portfolio requires me to systematically evaluate my management practices and volunteer program by:
• reviewing planning and implementation
• reflecting on results and consequences
• examining the rationale for my actions
• determining organizational and personal strengths and weaknesses
The CVA textbook “Volunteer Administration: Professional Practice” provides a toolkit of best practices to help guide my evaluations. This process reminds me that the improvement of our volunteer program is never ending. The environment for non profits is forever changing due to shifts in technology, population, demographics, legislation and funding. Consequently, the CVA credential requires renewal every five years and a commitment to ongoing professional development. Preparedness for change may be one of the greatest advantages I gain from the CVA program.
By Joelle Albury
1 “CVA Certification Process.” Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration, 2012. Web. 16 August 2013. http://cvacert.org/certification.htm.