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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the federal government level.

~May 2009~

Tell Your Story

As my semester winds down for school, I always wonder if I’ve reached another cohort of students in my class who may grasp the smallest concept of what volunteer administrators do in the world.

From my professor, a non-volunteer manager, she thinks that placing the word “volunteer” before any other title – manager, coordinator, director – gives the impression that we are all volunteers (while some of us may very well be so).  “This may be why your profession is struggling and has been struggling,” she says.  And she’s right.  This semester I worked on a potential dissertation topic for the role of administrators of volunteers in healthcare.  We have administrators globally, but of many specialties.  Volunteers happen to be one of them.

From my classmates, well, they really “wowed” me.  On the last night of class, we gave round-robin presentations to celebrate our accomplishments from the semester.  We shared our struggles, our “a-ha” moments, our final conclusions.  I was truly blessed with a table of amazing women to share my story and for them to share theirs with me.  Probation officer, future biology teacher, billing and coding manager in a hospital, future elementary education teacher, and a consumer and life science teacher (what others would call “home economics) – all reaching out to the world to make a difference in the lives of others.  And I was no different.

After sharing my 3-5 minute story, they were left in awe.  “What do you mean you may oversee 350 volunteers with only two paid staff in your office?”  “How come you are not recognize by others for what you do?”  “Why don’t you have more staff?”  I was pleased, yet sad, to hear such comments because it is what we hear amongst each other all the time.  But the more we can educate and tell our stories, the more awareness is given to our field. 

I was my tables “prop” for the evening about what they learned the most about.  There was a round of applause from the entire class and I was motivated to continue on with my research…regardless if it ends up being my dissertation or not.

Continue on to tell your story – to the person who strikes up a conversation while on the treadmill at the gym; to the person behind you in the check-out line at the dollar store because you are buying items needed for the next big event and there is no one to do it but you. 

We know who we are and what we do.  We just need to let everyone else know.

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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