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

~ December 2011~


The fiscal year just closed out and I hope all of you had a great year.  Over the years, I find that volunteers have more and more questions during National Volunteer Week about their hours and who and who does not receive a pin or a certificate.  There are so many questions and unfortunately, many complaints.  So, we asked ourselves (again), “why wait until six or seven months after the fiscal year ends to hold an awards ceremony?”

(Note:  We know we all think about this very thing.  My department just needed to slow down a bit over the summer to finally put our plan into place.)

So, over the summer, we officially decided that it would be best to combine our holiday tea with an awards program.  I think I poured out buckets of sweat the night before not knowing how it would go.  I didn’t sleep.  However, I was comforted in the fact that the number of complaints decreased by about 99.9 percent.  (Smile.)

As it was drawing closer to the kick off of our holiday tea/awards ceremony, the room was barely filling up.  Now, we know our volunteers are at least 45 minutes early for any event in the fear that they will miss out on something. 

The event started at 10am.  By 10:10am, the room was packed with volunteers, paid staff, and (wait for it) leadership!  By 10:30am, we announced all of our award recipients.  By 11:05am, the event was over.  Not one complaint.  No food left over.  Endless hugs and smiles.  A huge sigh of relief.

We did the following: (feel free to creatively borrow):

color boxAnnounced the event in the Summer and Fall newsletter
color boxAnnounced the event during our September in-service
color boxMailed out invitations early November (note: our event was November 30)
color boxWe never turn anyone away who does not RSVP…everyone is welcome.
color boxOur theme was simple: winter wonderful – snowflakes, snowmen, snowflake tablecloths, napkins, cups
color boxWe purchased snowmen ornaments (they were more like plush toys)
color boxAward pins were attached to the snowmen (they looked adorable)

Since we had our event the week after Thanksgiving, it was a great way to welcome the holiday season.  Volunteers and paid staff left the event happy and volunteers ended up recruiting potential volunteers in the hallways!  Our office was packed after the event with volunteer requests. 

The lesson learned is to take risks regardless of how you think the volunteers will react.  Because at the end of the day, it is about them and how you make them feel.  Our next event will be during National Volunteer Week.  We’re already brainstorming themes. 

wrapped giftHappy Holidays to you and your volunteers!!!!

*The author of the Federal Government Volunteer Programs page is melissa.heinlein@va.gov, MA, MS, CAVS. Melissa Heinlein-Storti is the Chief, 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 member of the Delaware Valley of Association for Volunteer Administration.  She is a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Directors of Volunteers in Healthcare, Inc. and held positions as education chair (state and local), vice-president (state), and member-at-large).  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 AHVRP. She is currently a doctoral candidate with her PhD in Human Development at Marywood University. She also contributed to the first textbook on volunteer administration.  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.

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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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