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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


This page is devoted to the management of volunteer
programs at the local level, including information for citites,
counties, boards, commissions, and districts.

~ January 2004 ~ Topics

State Government Page
Federal Government Page
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Definition of a Volunteer

By Mary Lynn Perry
City-wide Volunteer Program, Sacramento, California

The definition of a volunteer may seem simple, but when we got all our departmental coordinators together to discuss this, it turned out to be a lot more complex. We started with this definition, “A volunteer is defined as a non-salaried individual who offers services to a city department or affiliated non-profit agency.” We then expanded it by looking at the terms of service as a way to define different groups of volunteers and then created the list below. As you read our list, you might see many of the types of volunteers who support your agency. Managing a volunteer program has become very complex with an assortment of individuals and groups supporting the overall effort. Each type requires a different approach and all have value to the overall team.

Terms of Service
• On-going – this volunteer is helping on a regular, scheduled basis and may continue providing service over many months or years.
• Short-term – this volunteer may assist with a special event or project and/or may be on-call. Service hours and length of service will vary. Often the volunteer will assist for 25 hours or less within a calendar year.
Special Categories of Volunteers
• Youth – an individual who is under 18. Parental consent is required for the youth to participate. In practice, volunteer opportunities start at age 12 and may require a parent or guardian to volunteer with the youth.
• Student Intern – an individual attending high school or college who receives academic credit for their volunteer service, but is not paid by the City.
• Corporate Volunteers – often provide assistance for short-term activities and may want to create an opportunity for team building.
• Employees of the City and its non-profit affiliates – employees volunteer for activities outside their regular job classification and their volunteer service is separate from any paid work responsibility.
• Work Experience – an individual interested in gaining or increasing experience in a particular field. May be referred through a local school or work study program or Job Corps or adult re-entry program such as AARP. May receive pay from the referring agency, but not from the City.
• National Service – an individual from a federal program such as Americorps, Foster Grandparents, VISTA, RSVP or other service corps and may receive a stipend or paid expenses through that program, but is not paid by the City.
• Court Referral – an individual who has been referred by a local agency and has been sentenced by a court to provide volunteer service in the community.
• Community Service – an individual, club, troop, or group as part of an assignment or program needs to complete volunteer service, often a short-term project.
• Service-learning – a term used by educators to highlight that community involvement by students should be combined with an educational component. Often there is a “reflective” process and service and learning are balanced.
• Advisory Boards and Committees – community members provide policy direction, and help provide resources and services to programs.

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Check out the Volunteer Program Evaluation Program Series on Volunteer and Staff Relations.

Short description of this series: "Organizations are successful at achieving their mission when volunteers and staff are a team. Evaluate the elements of the relationships in your organization and outline the strategies to make things better."

Purchase this package by clicking on either of the following links, which will redirect you to a secure shopping site. Evaluation Only $25.00 and Evaluation & Consultation Package - Best Deal! $99.95 (Resource List not available on this package.)

Volunteer Today's guest writer for the January 2004 Local Government Programs page is Mary Lynn Perry. She is the Volunteer coordinator for the City of Sacramento, California and has an extensive background working with volunteers and student interns. This includes serving as volunteer coordinator for the Museum of African Art, as education specialist with the Smithsonian Institution coordinating student interns throughout the museum complex, as executive director of Business Volunteers for the Arts in Sacramento and most recently as Volunteer Services Manager for Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. She holds a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and an M.A. in art history from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange. NAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities. Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership. An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project. For more information contact Robin Popik, who is a Volunteer Resource Supervisor. She can be reached by phone at 972-941-7114. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.

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