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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.

~February 2009~

Are You Mentoring?

Succession planning for the next wave of volunteer administrators

In the Federal government, we continuously hear about succession planning.  Many people are retiring or approaching retirement.  Where does their knowledge go?  What happens to new employees following in our footsteps?  While some of us many be years away from retiring, it is not too late to start planning and preparing for those to come into volunteer administration.  We want success to continue for the good work that we are already doing.

So, this brings me to the opportunity of mentoring and coaching others.  Can you name someone you admire?  Someone who guided you in your career? Coached you through a challenging situation?  Praised you for a job well done?   We have all been there needing guidance and wanting to be heard.  For new volunteer administrators coming in to the field, your experience, expertise, and passion can guide others.

A mentor says “I’m here for you.  I will help you be whoever you wish to be.”  Do you belong to a local, state, or national professional organization?   Do you have a mentor program in your organization?  Mentorship can be local or across state lines.  With the unlimited resources of technology (Internet, conference call, Skype), mentoring can happen anytime, anywhere. 

Think back to when you first entered the field.  What were some of your burning questions other than “Will I survive in this job?”  You probably had questions about budgets, outreach, junior volunteer programs, recordkeeping, policy and procedures, reports, databases, recruitment strategies, templates for letters, orientation, risk management, disaster plans, recognition, retention, applications, and the list continues on. 

Do not doubt your capability to being a mentor.  Trust all that you have learned over the years and the knowledge you can pass on to another to be just as successful in the field.  One model to consider for mentorship is the GROW model introduced by Sir John Whitmore.  GROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and What next?  Each step works through a mentee’s situation – personal or professional with the mentor asking provocative “ah ha” questions.  The model helps a mentee clarify what he wants to achieve and then prepare the steps to accomplish it. 

You are probably already mentoring your volunteers – perhaps coaching college students in the right volunteer assignment to give back to your organization while giving them the experience they need for a future job.  You are probably already helping newly retired individuals find the great volunteer assignment created just for them. 

Pass on the great knowledge and wisdom you have gained about volunteers and help the next generation of volunteer administrators be just as successful.



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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