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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.

~September 2008 ~

Get Started Right Each Fall

During the summer months of July and August, I do not take in new volunteers. The office is still open, but we do not process new volunteer candidates.  Some think I’m crazy, but I use this time to re-organize, re-energize, and re-vamp processes and systems. What worked well throughout the year?  What didn’t work well?  What could be done better? 

Here are some things I do which have been very successful.  I cannot take all the credit for using the summer months to organize.  My former boss and mentor, Joan Cardellino (now working for the California Hospital Association) had an amazing system that I adapted to my own needs.  I just simply adapted and expanded to my program.  (Thanks, Joan.)

Applications and Interviews

  • Review and print application packet – make any updates, changes.
  • Create volunteer application packets; have ready to go for mailings, recruitment events, etc. I make sure 500 applications are ready to go all the time.
  • Interview schedule – Do you have a set schedule?  We interview volunteers the first Tuesday and Thursday of each month.  Do you drop what you are doing to interview potential volunteer walks in the door each time?  Exceptions are made, but the majority of volunteer candidates come on Tuesday and Thursday.  Scheduling interview dates in advance allows you more time to focus on fundraising, program development, recruitment, etc. Plus, these days are communicated in our application packet so the volunteer knows upfront what to expect.


  • Update packets over the summer with new information, mission, contacts, etc.
  • Confirm presenters, if necessary.
  • Estimate the number of volunteers you will bring in throughout the year – these are the number of packets you should keep on hand at all times.  For me, we have 250 orientation guidebooks and all the necessary paperwork ready to go.
  • Orientation is scheduled for the second Tuesday of each month (September through June), with occasional evening and Saturday orientations available.  Again, planning orientation in advance allows you to structure your month.

After Orientation

  • Print out volunteer checklist (this helps our office keep track of where the new volunteer is along the process) – print out more than orientation packets, because volunteers will “screen” themselves after the interview and not attend orientation.
  • The third and fourth weeks of the month are spent placing the new volunteers who came in for their interview and orientation.


  • Do you have meetings the same time every month?  Put them on your calendar now for the entire year. 
  • Do you know when you take vacation?
  • You know when the federal holidays are so mark the calendar now and communicate these dates to your volunteers.
  • I try not to schedule meetings on Mondays and Fridays. I use Mondays to organize for the week and Fridays is always a report and donation day.


  • If you have a program like Microsoft Outlook, use it to your advantage:
    • Mark all your dates for meetings, events, days off
    • Instead of having post-its surrounding your monitor, take them and put them on your task (to do) list in Outlook.
    • If you don’t like having a stack of business cards tied with a rubber band, you can enter information on your Outlook contact list and have access to it immediately.


  • I do my reports the 15th of each month.
  • All volunteer hours, donations, etc. are entered. 
  • Templates are set-up for the reports that are needed for the year.


  • If you have volunteer assignments listed on sites such as volunteermatch.com, make sure you review the assignment and all contact information.
  • Do not wait until postings expire.

Assignment Guides

  • Review assignment guides; make sure paid staff supervisors review their department volunteer assignment guide.
  • Make sure assignment guides are in each volunteer file.
  • How often are your assignment guides updated? 

Master Volunteer Schedule

  • Review master volunteer schedule – where are volunteers not being assigned? Where are the needs?
  • Do you have a master volunteer schedule?  How do you know where to place volunteers?

This does seem like a long to-do list, but I am giving you the abridged version.  Yes, meetings, conferences, etc. will surface.  But the more planning you do, the more time will be spent on your volunteers, customer service, program management/development, and your professional development. 

Best of luck for another successful year (as a Federal agency, our fiscal year starts October 1).

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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