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Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Certified Volunteer Administrator (CVA)

Engaging, mobilizing, and facilitating volunteerism; that’s your role as a volunteer leader - but should you also consider becoming Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA)?

No matter whether you’re a relatively new volunteer leader or you’ve been coordinating for years, the CVA is a strong seal of excellence in your professional portfolio. It can even improve future career opportunities and the likelihood of promotions within your organization.

But, what goes into getting this credential? Is it really worth your time? In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about becoming a Certified Volunteer Administrator.

Article Contents: 

What is a Certificate in Volunteer Administration (CVA)?

The CVA, or Certified in Volunteer Administration, is the only internationally-recognized professional certification in the field of volunteer leadership and management. 

Unlike other certificates one might receive by participating in a course, this certification is competency-based. This means that only individuals who meet specific standards through testing and peer review can receive certification. By obtaining a CVA, you hold proof of commitment and expertise in the field of volunteer management.

The certification is administered by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA) and is intended for people who have a strong background in volunteer leadership. The certification is awarded to those who show competency in structuring tasks, processing ideas, and problem solving related to volunteer engagement.

Once you receive your CVA, you’ll join the CCVA registry

What are the 7 Competencies of Volunteer Administration?

Volunteer leaders, as well as volunteers, come from diverse communities, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences. Agreed upon best-practices and core competencies are key in removing ambiguity from the role of a volunteer administrator. 

To standardize these best practices, the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA) has outlined the following 7 Competencies of Volunteer Administration: 

  1. Plan for Strategic Volunteer Engagement
  2. Advocate for Volunteer Involvement
  3. Attract and Onboard Volunteers
  4. Prepare and Train Volunteers
  5. Document Volunteer Involvement
  6. Manage Volunteer Performance and Impact
  7. Acknowledge, Celebrate, and Sustain Volunteer Involvement

Is it Worth Getting Certified in Volunteer Administration?

While many volunteer management roles do not require a CVA in the job listing or job description, it can be favorable for potential candidates to have on their resume.

So, if it’s not a requirement, why put in the time and effort to become Certified in Volunteer Administration?

World wide organizations like Habitat for Humanity and United Way Worldwide support the CVA. While the CVA is not a requirement on most United Way job listings related to volunteer administration, the website’s blog did tout the benefits of the CVA program. 

Our honest conclusion: The CVA is really designed for current volunteer administrators, directors, and leaders looking to grow professionally.

If you’ve recently been promoted to Director of Volunteer Services or seeking out that Development Officer title, a CVA may give you the leg up you need. It can help prove to your supervisor that you’re serious about your role and ready to take on more leadership responsibilities. Some organizations may even sponsor the CVA credential. 

What are the benefits of the Being Certified in Volunteer Administration?

If you’re wondering whether the CVA is worth the fee, or you want to make the case for your organization to cover the costs, these are some of the benefits of a CVA certification:

  • Bolsters Personal and Organizational Credibility 
  • Demonstrates Commitment to Volunteer Leadership
  • Strengthens Organization's Image 
  • Validates Skills and Knowledge
  • Supports Professional Development

How to Get Certified in Volunteer Administration

The CVA is a professional certification program geared towards education and training of skills that build competency in volunteer management and coordination.


Eligibility to apply for the CVA Credential is based off of a points system.

CVA Registration Requirements: 

  • Minimum of 3 years full-time (or equivalent part-time) experience related to volunteer administration or resources management
  • Minimum 30% of the candidate’s current position is related to volunteer administration
  • Documentation of training and experience in the field
  • One letter of professional recommendation from a supervisor or colleague verifying the candidate’s eligibility to apply


Two examination periods are offered by the CCVA.  The deadline to register for the spring examination is March 1, and the deadline for the fall examination is September 1 of that calendar year.

The examination fee is $400 USD. Discounts are offered to those from the following organizations: AL!VE, American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Better Impact, Engage, Habitat for Humanity International, NAVPLG, Volunteer Canada, Volunteer Match, VolunteerPro, VMPC, and United Way Worldwide.

Preparing for the Exam

The exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions. The questions will test both knowledge and skills application within the field of volunteer resource management. The exam will be administered virtually, and you take it from the comfort of your office or home.

The CCVA offers a free Self-Assessment tool for all interested candidates. Candidates may use  the self-assessment tool in order to evaluate their level of knowledge and experience within each of the 7 core-competency areas. Candidates can use this to identify knowledge gaps and to build a study plan that will help them achieve success.

The CCVA recommends using the following resources to prepare for the exam:

  • Volunteer Administration: Professional Practice (any edition)
  • Ellis, Susan. From the Top Down. (1996) and e-Volunteerism – The Electronic Journal of the Volunteer Community Both are available from:
  • Professional Ethics in Volunteer Administration
  • Free and online at

How to Maintain Your CVA Certification

The world of volunteer administration is constantly evolving and CVA professionals are expected to stay up-to-date on best practices in their field. Therefore, recertification is required every 5 years in order to demonstrate ongoing professional development and commitment to the field of volunteer leadership. 

There are two criteria volunteer leaders must meet in order to be eligible for recertification:

  • A new personal philosophy statement that communicates your updated perspectives on volunteerism and the volunteer administration field as a whole
  • 35 logged Professional Development Units (PDUs). These are earned these through participation in professional development opportunities

What qualifies as a Professional Development Unit? 

One PDU is equal to one “contact hour” of continuing education that lasts 50-60 minutes. Volunteer leaders must log 35 PDUs to gain recertification within a 5 year window.

The following are examples of acceptable activities that qualify as Professional Development Units: 

  • Volunteer Leadership
    • Five PDUs may be earned for volunteer leadership activities. These include serving on a board of directors, being a committee chair related to volunteer management, coaching or mentoring junior volunteer leadership professionals, or leading a community initiative related to volunteerism.
    • A total of 30 PDUs may be earned within this category for recertification.
  • Teaching or Lecturing
    • Two PDUs may be awarded for each speaking/teaching presentation that  is on a volunteer-related topic and lasts 50-60 minutes.
    • A maximum of 30 PDUs may be earned in this category during the recertification cycle.
  • Publishing Content
    • Two PDUs are awarded for each published page on a topic related to volunteer management. 
    • A maximum of 30 PDU credits can be earned in this category during the 5 year recertification cycle.
  • Post-graduate Degree
    • A post-graduate degree is equal to 35 PDUs during the five year recertification cycle
  • CVA Leadership
    • Two PDUs are awarded for each year of voluntary service on a CVA Committee.
  • Volunteer Management Narrative
    • Ten PDUs may be earned within this category during the recertification cycle
  • Workshops or Seminars
    • A maximum of 30 PDUs can be earned in this category.
  • Examination
    • You can earn 20 PDUs by passing the CVA examination during the five year recertification cycle.
  • Post-secondary Education 
    • A maximum of 10 PDUs can be earned annually for each college or university level course in volunteer resources management.

It is the responsibility of the volunteer leader to document PDU activity. Records of this activity might include conference registration forms, certificates of completion, course registration and completion, etc.

Pro Tip: Volunteer Management Insider webinars qualify as a PDU. These free webinars also offer a free downloadable certificate of attendance that you can keep for your records! Review our most recent volunteer leadership webinars or sign up for a future information session.  

In summation, the CVA is the only internationally-recognized professional credential for volunteer administrators. Volunteer leaders who seek this accreditation are among the most dedicated to their field, and it’s a clear indication of a person who is invested in the development of themselves, their organization, and their community.

For more information on getting Certified in Volunteer Administration, please visit the CCVA website.

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