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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS

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

~ March 2008 ~


When is Enough Enough?

There are days when we wouldn’t trade what we do as directors of volunteers for the world.  Then, there are the days when we wish to work for a company - surrendering our responsibility, our creativity, and our supervisory requirements – in order to stay sane. 

I have had the days where volunteers finally understood their importance within the organization.  They were taking on roles in new programs, and stopped asking what reward was in it for them.  It is an ongoing challenge as we interact with volunteers who want more than the simplicity of just lending a helping hand.

But, perhaps volunteers don’t understand their role.  What education do we need to provide to them other than believing in the intrinsic rewards of helping others?  Yes, we provide meal tickets and recognition ceremonies.  But, they want more.

There is an art to managing volunteers.  We all know this.  However, there is a challenge for biting our tongue when we are attacked, publicly, in front of a group of volunteers.  When do we have to put our foot down to the verbal attacks of volunteers saying that they don’t know how we got this job and they don’t understand what we do?  Because we work for the government, there is a sensitivity knowing their tax dollars are paying my salary. 

Most recently, I conducted a quarterly meeting comprised of volunteers.  I focused on the positive – a new program that was implemented, new departments educated about the roles of volunteers, and the amount of monetary and gift-in-kind donations processed in one month. Without warrant, I was verbally attacked for a scenario that fell under another department.  I repeated that I would be happy to discuss the situation after the meeting to be considerate of everyone’s time.  For fifteen minutes, there were circles drawn and a resolution not met with this volunteer.

I can handle the questions and the suggestions.  I draw the line with verbal attacks when volunteers and the community feel they can abuse us when they don’t understand our role and what our purpose is within the organization. They could care less that we took in over $33,000 in one month to help our veterans or how a program is assisting the needs of nursing home residents during meal time.  It has come down to this:  it is only about their organization and how they are affected. 

We need to not only educate the community about the role of a volunteer department, but now our volunteers.  I am criticized for being on the phone or the computer too much.  What volunteers don’t see is who I am talking to about a donation or the e-mail follow-up for a new program.  They also don’t see me walking around, talking to staff about the role of volunteers, or just talking to volunteers.  They also don’t see me working overtime to ensure our patient’s needs are being met.   

Knowledge is power.  It is time we start using it to defend the good that we do.


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.)


The author of the Federal Government Volunteer Programs page is melissa.heinlein@va.gov, MA, MS, CAVS. Melissa is the Chief of Voluntary Service at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, (215) 823-5868. Before venturing to the nonprofit sector, Melissa Heinlein spent time working for financial, IT, and pharmaceutical companies. With her business and marketing background, she took those skills and worked for Junior Achievement and structured a formal volunteer program at Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy before going into healthcare at Abington Memorial Hospital as the Assistant Director of Volunteer Resources. Her latest adventure is Chief, Voluntary Service at Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Melissa is past president and current board member of the Delaware Valley of Association for Volunteer Administration and current member-at-large for PSDVS, Eastern Chapter. She serves as an advisor for a grassroots organization “Spark the Wave” to encourage youth volunteerism. She holds a MA in Communications from West Chester University, MS in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College, and is a certified administrator of volunteer services through ASDVS. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Development at Marywood University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, writing, sports, and exploring the outdoors. She prides herself when she talks about interacting with volunteers 5-99 years old – horses and dogs included.

ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT VOLUNTEER MANAGERS SEEKS MEMBERS

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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