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

~October 2008 ~

Non-Traditional Volunteer Department

Well, no matter how much I planned over the summer preparing for the gates to open right after Labor Day, the month of September still ‘ate’ me.  I made sure I had plenty of forms, recruitment packets, orientation packets, and interview assessments ready to go for the next six months.  What I did not anticipate were the meetings, retreats, and additional assignments that I was “recruited” for..  I learned how to say “no” without saying “no” which is a huge step for me.  I am finally enjoying the ‘organized chaos’ for the Fall months because at the end of the day, week, or month the work will still get done.  Deadlines will always be there, but we want to make sure that the attention we are giving our volunteers is always there.

One interesting revelation happened to me during this chaos.  I met with our new nurse executive and while letting her know how the volunteer department can be there for the nurses with the different programs we are running, her eyes just got wider and wider.  All I kept thinking was “Am I not saying the right things?” Then, she came out and said, “So, you are like a non-traditional volunteer department, right?” 

I had not heard this before – a “non-traditional volunteer program?”  She mentioned that she had not heard the words “shredding or filing” and was impressed to hear that volunteers are serving as hospitality/messengers, assisting patients during meal times, baking cookies for our residents, and working with departments on special projects.  She was right.  Rarely will our volunteers file or shred due to the advancement of technology which allows volunteers to do other things.  But hearing how my department is “non-traditional” was a very positive.   I never dreamed that this term would be coined by a non-volunteer director.  It was inspiring and motivating that someone would be supportive of the role of volunteers who is in such a high management position. 

There are many volunteer departments who are advancing the assignments and roles of volunteers.  Kudos to all of you for everything you are doing with volunteers and for your clients.  Keep your management in the loop with what you are doing and keep pushing your department forward. 

Enjoy the business of this time of year.  May wonderful energy and inspiration come your way to do works of greatness.



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.


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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