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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.

~ July 2008 ~

Reflections on Learning in an Advanced Institute on Volunteer Management

As I write this, I am sitting in Atlanta’s airport, reflecting on my attendance and participation the Advanced Institute on Volunteer Management at the Points of Light conference – The Urgency of NOW.  I wanted to write something about the spirit and patriotism of volunteers for the July issue, but after attending this conference – thanks to Martin Cowling, Rick Lynch, Linda Graff, and Steve McCurley – it’s only appropriate to write about the spirit and patriotism of directors/managers/coordinators of volunteers as we celebrate our country’s birth.

Society often forgets that the United States was founded by volunteers and that someone had to lead them.  Volunteers carried so much weight throughout our history.  Now, discussions are occurring to call their dedication “pro-bono” work.  Those outside our field (I call them “the others”) look at directors/managers/coordinators of volunteers as the fluffy, nice, always-says-yes-go-to-person within one’s organization.  Should we continue on this path of niceness or get tough?

I am always inspired, motivated, intrigued, and left with more questions than answers after attending conferences. However, I left feeling that I can be nice, but resilient, tough, and in a leadership position to professionalize our profession. 

One of the tasks that left me feeling empowered was our support circles.   DVS’s chosen at random to form a circle of support throughout the conference.  I was honored to be in the presence of three amazing women who are leading their volunteer workforce with conviction, energy, and vision.  I also attended a government networking luncheon to learn more about what my colleagues are doing in the field.  County, state, and federal agencies were present and what a great resource for our own support circle.

We often times are so energized after a workshop or conference that we write our to-do list, but as soon as we enter our office and hit our desks, we just lose sight of why we attended the training to begin with.  I am motivated to create my own support circle of government agencies near the place in which I work.  There are networks for local government agencies and federal agencies, but we are kept separate.  Perhaps a support circle within our cities or towns can provide strength in numbers, networking opportunities, and referrals for each other’s agencies if a volunteer is not a right match for our own. 

We’ll never know the power we hold until we try.  Don’t lose sight of the training and life-long education you receive.  The work will ALWAYS be there waiting for us at our desks.   The opportunity for change will not.


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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