Professional Development Update

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GRAVA’s Peer to Peer Mentoring Program (formerly known as the Buddy Program) works to match members in pairs or small groups for regular problem solving sessions.  Peers meet for a calendar year on a monthly basis, to discuss topics relevant to their needs.  Please email Brynn Markham, our Professional Development Chair, with the following information:  Name; Organization; Topics of Interest.  We ask that both current participants wishing to continue and those looking to join a group for the first time please email us, as participation over the summer months tends to wane.  As fall approaches, we hope to reignite and add members to existing groups, as well as start new groups where the need presents itself.  Kindly submit your information by September 30th, so we can begin to group members together accordingly.


Scholarship Application Deadline is October 31st

GRAVA’s current scholarship cycle closes on October 31st.  The next cycle will not open until January 1st.  If you’ve been interested in participating in any professional development related to your role in Volunteer Management and would like to apply for assistance with the costs of doing so, this is your chance.

Click HERE for more information and/or to apply.

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September Program Recap


At our September meeting, we learned from Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC).

He challenged us to be intentionally inclusive by (1) examining your own lens, (2) asking and encouraging tough questions, and (3) acknowledging the role of institutional bias. Jonathan began by asking participants to share the meaning of their name and how they respond when their name is mispronounced. We learned that our names are an important entry point into beginning to understand each other. Jonathan explained that many feel pressure to downplay parts of their identify to fit into the mainstream, and he warned us that the problem with stereotypes is not that they’re not true, but that they are incomplete. He encouraged us to watch an excellent TED talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The danger of a single story, to continue learning.

Jonathan challenged us to ask tough questions and to recognize that it’s hard to be intentionally inclusive because there’s so much that we don’t know, that we don’t know. There may be institutional practices that we do not realize are pushing some people up and some people down. He suggested an audit of your organization’s practices, looking at language, physical environment, traditions and policies. There is a comprehensive Toolkit for Serving Diverse Communities available from the U.S. Administration on Aging as a PDF here.   Jonathan invited us to proudly display “This is an inclusive place” decals provided by VCIC and include #inclusiveplace in our social media posts. Visit for additional resources, and view the slides from Jonathan’s inspiring and thought-provoking presentation!

Thank you to Kathy Morton and Westminster Canterbury for hosting us in their beautiful facility.


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NOTICE: September 22 member mixer has been postponed

Please note that the September 22 “Become a Member in September” mixer has been postponed. We are searching for a new time later in the fall that accommodates more members – looking forward to connecting then!

In the meantime, be sure to register for our October 6 Roundtable building on our discussion of diversity and inclusion with Jonathan Zur.

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President’s Message for September 2016

prex-message“Where You Lead” by Carole King is a favorite of mine.  She states, “Where you lead, I will follow” and how true is that when it comes to volunteer administration?!  We need to make sure we are leaders in the field of volunteerism.  We want our volunteers to be motivated to “follow our lead” and to inspire others to do the same.

When does someone stop becoming a manager and start becoming a leader? This topic is a highly contentious debate in the field.  Leaders and managers are complementary but they have different processes. Typically, though, their functions overlap.  Managers are about stability and leaders are about change. Leaders inspire people to think about what’s possible.  Those who inspire us to “lead and we will follow” set vision, influence us, interpret information, create commitment to goals and are people oriented.

Leadership and professional development go hand in hand and it is my honor to be on this journey with you all.  I hope to see you at the GRAVA Social and if not there, at the October Roundtable,

Melissa M. Gilmore, M Ed., CVA
GRAVA President

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GRAVA Scholarship Awarded to Joanna Brown


GRAVA is pleased to announce that Joanna Brown, Volunteer & Special Events Coordinator for the Salvation Army, was awarded a scholarship to fund coursework at the Nonprofit Learning Point to help her prepare for CVA Certification.  Here is what Joanna had to say about her scholarship award:

“Thank you to GRAVA for the scholarship to attend the Supporting and Sustaining Volunteer Involvement [class] on August 10th.  I am excited to officially begin my journey to achieving a CVA.  

This seminar was engaging and incredibly helpful!  I appreciated the focus on giving Volunteer Managers practical tools that can be easily implemented in our current positions.  The conversations throughout the day were relevant and encouraging.  

One of the morning exercises we were asked to individually do was a SWOT [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats] analysis of our own volunteer program.   In the afternoon, we gathered in groups of three to share one of the weaknesses or threats we identified in the SWOT analysis with our peers.  This was especially helpful, as the suggestions were positive and practical.  The input from my peers helped me to think outside of the box to tackle some issues in a creative, non-threatening way.

Another exercise in which we participated was to evaluate how well we are doing in seven key components of volunteer retention.  When I took the time to honestly evaluate where we are as an agency, it was easy to see what areas need to be improved upon and in which areas to congratulate staff for doing a good job.  To follow up with that assessment we were given a Retention Plan Worksheet to help us put everything on paper so we can take small, manageable steps to make improvement.  

Last, but definitely not least, I was so energized by the meeting, I took a leap of faith.  I wrote an email to my Divisional Headquarters and asked them to consider having a Volunteer Coordinator training tract at our 2017 Territorial Community Relations and Development Conference (15 states and Washington DC).  It would be awesome if they included some of the core competencies!    

Thank you again for facilitating this opportunity.  GRAVA has been invaluable to my professional development.”

Congratulations, Joanna!  We are excited to see you already putting what you have learned into action.  We wish you well as you work to pursue your CVA.

Do you have professional growth goals within Volunteer Management that you wish to pursue and would like to apply for a scholarship to do so?  GRAVA’s third and final scholarship application cycle for 2016 is now open.  You have until October 31st to submit your application for consideration.  Find out more about GRAVA’s scholarship opportunities HERE.


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Use your momentum!

I know many of you are still feeling energized from that amazing conference—I know I am. Keep those creative thoughts going and push your professional development! Take advantage of a GRAVA member scholarship and read a new book, take a class, or go for your Certification in Volunteer Administration. Still need a little inspiration? Read the lovely note below from a recent scholarship recipient.

Almost ten years ago, I joined GRAVA as the newest of “newbies”, not even knowing the most basic of volunte
er management basics. GRAVA has been with me literally every step of the way on my journey toward professional competence in the field of professional volunteer engagement, especially during the period in which I served on the board (2009-2015).

One of the biggest highlights of my journey along that path was receiving my CVA in 2011, and GRAVA helped to make that possible with a professional development scholarship. Being a member and board member of GRAVA has made it easy for me to fulfill my responsibilities as a CVA by providing me with continued access to the expertise of my peers and allowing me to keep striving toward excellence through continuous learning and growth. I feel I have come a very long way since those “deer in the headlights” days.

June 2016 was the deadline for my CVA recertification and GRAVA once again supported my efforts with a professional development scholarship.  Thanks to GRAVA and to CVA, my understanding of “excellence” continues to evolve and my capacity as a leader and collaborator continues to improve. Without these two professional support networks, I would not be who and bridge-1082117_960_720what I am today. It is truly a joy and privilege to get up every day and do work that I love, and I am just as thankful to be a part of this community as the day I joined.

Alison Jones-Nassar, CVA

Wow right? I don’t know about you all but I am going to take some time and think about what I need to do next to push my professional development!

Athena Huss, CVA
Outgoing Professional Development Chair

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Aliens, lions, and creative thinking.

I found myself walking to work today remembering how we planned to move extraterrestrials, elephants, and ants around our city! What a fun and productive day of development we shared yesterday. I hope everyone enjoyed the experience and pushed their minds to think a bit farther out of the box.

Four takeaways from the conference

  1. Innovation doesn’t have to be success or failure, it doesn’t have to be a big idea. Small ideas, incremental changes can be innovative.
  2. Start with questioning, not brainstorming. Brainstorming can narrow the discussion—it is better to have unanswered questions than to focus on one thing without considering more.
  3. Come up with many limitless ideas before focusing on any one thought.
  4. When you get stuck, re-frame! Drop a variable or think of the situation from a different perspective. Really different.
  5. When in doubt, imagine your problem from a childlike perspective.


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