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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.

~ January - February 2008 ~

To Live By Rules Or Not

While I was researching international volunteerism for one of my PhD courses, I came across an article entitled “Rules for Dreamers” by Dr. Ivan Scheier in Susan Ellis’s priceless library at Energize, Inc.  Knee deep in articles from AVA, ASDVS, e-volunteerism about volunteerism across the globe, this article just popped out in The Journal of Volunteer Administration.  On a cold, dreary day, there was nothing more that brightened my day than to be inspired by Dr. Scheier’s words.

There are rules for everything as federal employees.  Rules for using standard forms, policies requesting time off, guidelines for entering work orders.  Rules, rules, rules.  It seems like all we do is follow some standard operating procedure all while being managers or directors of volunteers. 

I’ve learned as a not-so-new rookie in the federal government to ask forgiveness, not permission; to ask strategic questions rather than yes/no questions; to do what is right because it is the right thing to do versus doing what is right because of…the rules.  I came from the corporate, private sector and converted to the other side.  My pace doesn’t match with the government’s pace, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dream for how things should be, could be, and will be for the betterment of my constituents and volunteers.

So, as the New Year begins, I re-read Dr. Scheier’s article again and extract excerpts to share with you to inspire you to make your own rules for your world of federal volunteerism for 2008. 

  • Try not to lock yourself in.
  • Make plenty of mistakes, but try not to repeat.
  • Cultivate a certain modest tolerance of poverty but don’t glory in it.
  • Cherish the precious few who share your dreams, or at least seem to understand it.
  • Try laughing now and then.
  • Hang out with optimists rather than disaster-oriented thinkers.
  • When you get the blues, look backward; looking ahead only reminds you of how long the dream is taking to come true.
  • Don’t calibrate your visions on the applause meter.
  • Keep as sane as you can, but don’t overdo it.

Best wishes to you for a successful, productive, and inspiring year.

Scheier, Ivan (1992).  Rules for Dreamers.  The Journal of Volunteer Administration,
Winter 1991-1992, 19-21.

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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