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

~ June 2010 ~


There is nothing more exciting than having a city pull together for a cause.  As I write this month’s article, Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love - is anxiously awaiting the Stanley Cup finals to start and rally the Philadelphia Flyers to bring home Lord Stanley as they face the Chicago Blackhawks. 

While being a huge hockey fan, I notice true fans of the Philadelphia Flyers proudly showing their team spirit and those who jump on the bandwagon because it just feels good to cheer for something, someone.  There are mad rushes to almost every sports store for Philadelphia Flyers apparel.  The city buses display “GO FLYERS” and I can’t help but wonder –  wouldn’t it be great if one day it could say “WAY TO GO, VOLUNTEERS!?”
In the midst of paper trails and e-mail jail, not to mention being elbow deep in processing volunteer applications and senior graduation project requests, I wish someone would cheer for the administrator of volunteers as we do for our professional sports teams.  While our beloved Flyers earn what they deserve – the recognition and the enthusiastic city standing behind them – our volunteers contribute to the bottom line and save money to all nonprofit organizations.  And when we work in the federal government, saving tax payers dollars makes us want to count every penny. 
As I muster up all my energy and hope for the Flyers to do well during this series, I am also inspired to rally my volunteers for this summer season.  We are gearing up to welcome back our high school students who volunteered last summer as well as motivate the new high school students who are here for the first time.  Our college students will mentor the high school students who will be entering their senior year this fall.  And all the volunteers will be an asset to paid staff – as they always are in our federal agency.  GO VOLUNTEERS!
In order to see the benefits of the work we do in our department, benchmarking is very important.  Are you measuring the work volunteers do in your agency?  How are you measuring the work quantitatively?  If you are not measuring the work of your volunteers, why not?  It is nice to tell the stories of volunteers and the work they do, but how to you quantify and translate the work of your volunteer workforce? 

I sent out an e-mail to colleagues and requested some “help” for benchmarking.  After I received a flood of responses, I realized that what I am doing is something comparable to the field. 

Some things to consider in your dashboard/benchmarking matrix:

-*Number of applications mailed per year
-*Number of interviews scheduled by month
-*Number of volunteers attending orientation by month
-*Number of volunteer placed by month
-*Number of volunteer hours (active)
-*Number of volunteers on leave of absence
-*Number of inactive volunteers
-*Number of volunteer assignments
-*Number of paid staff supervisors
-*Number of paid staff attending training (how to work with volunteers)

At any given time, I know where the voluntary service department is with numbers – hours, applications mailed and received, number of volunteers placed in new assignments, etc.  This information is tracked on an excel spreadsheet with simple formulas to keep track of current numbers.  In addition, if you are required to submit an annual report, it is best to update it once a month in order to not be overwhelmed with statistics , visits, and programs at the end of the year.  Staying on top of your monthly reports allows you to give a report to leadership at any time when requested.   At the very least, it is okay to “volunteer” what you are doing just to keep your department visible.  Don’t be afraid to ask to be placed on the agenda every now and then.  Again, just to be visible. 
One day we may see the “WAY TO GO, VOLUNTEERS!” and “KEEP ON MOVIN’ AND GROOVIN’ ADMINISTRATOR OF VOLUNTEERS.”  Perhaps unlikely, but hopeful. 
We see cities rally for sports teams.  Maybe one day we will see them rally for volunteers. 


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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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