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

~ July 2011~


Do you feel that this title should be on the front page of a newspaper?  As our fiscal year is quickly coming to an end, we are all embracing what is to come for FY 2012.  What have you been doing to make ends meet? What strategic planning tactics are you engaging in with hopes that you will be prepared to answer staff’s questions regarding the ethical use of volunteers?  Will you be able to say “no” to staff who demand to use volunteers since there is a hiring freeze?

This summer, many of you are probably working with many high school students for your summer youth program.  Some of my colleagues – in the non-federal/government world – can take 70, 85, even 100 students over the summer. 

Why may this not be such a good idea?  It may prove beneficial to limit the number of high school students coming in for the summer.
 1) you are not running a summer camp/babysitting service and
 2) taking dedicated students instead of every staff’s child.
 Make it competitive.  If not this year, then next year.

With this said about youth volunteers, also focus your efforts on planning for the upcoming fiscal year.  I know I have said this before, but I do not take in new volunteers July and August.  One reason is simply because of the high school students.  But the other reasons are because we deserve a break and we have to plan for the upcoming year.check list

Here are a few things you may want to implement to save yourself time during the fiscal year.  Remember, if you can’t get it done over the summer, you may not have a chance to do what you want to do until June or July of next year.

  1. Applications – how many applications did you mail this year?  Try printing over the summer and having them ready to go.  Update your forms, recruitment brochure, etc.
  2. Orientation packets – how many volunteers did you have attend orientation during the year?  Update your orientation packet, have others review it, and assemble everything for the year.  Don’t forget to include sign-in sheets, etc. 
  3. Assignment guides (position descriptions) – the number of your assignment guides depends on your organization.  When was the last time they were reviewed by you and paid staff for the specific department?
  4. Referral cards – if a volunteer candidate does not match your organization’s mission and vision, do you have referral cards printed and ready to go with a letter stating “thank you, but no thank you?”
  5. Paid staff training – schedule training now for twice a year at minimum. Fall and spring are usual good times.  Review your training materials for paid staff.  Make sure your training is also one which can be done 1-1 or in a group.
  6. Clean up your volunteer files.  Start to look at your annual reports and narratives if you have to do them.  When was the last time you looked through your volunteer files to ensure consistency?  My department conducts a quick sweep in December and then a more thorough review over the summer.
  7. Set up templates for tracking applications, interviews, orientation, trainings, etc.
  8. Clean out storage closets (we know we all have them).  Are there items that you can give away to volunteers?
  9. Uniforms – if your volunteers wear uniforms, do you need to order over the summer to plan for the year?
  10. Schedule your in-services, trainings, orientations now.  Communicate in your newsletters.
  11. Clean out your e-mail, organize your folders on your computer, etc.

And the list can go on and on.
I share this information with you because the requests you may receive for volunteers for departments in your organization will come like a rapid fire.  Planning now will be able to allow you to react without thinking of what else needs to get done.

You will still feel the crunch, but planning will allow you to be even more effective.  Planning will also allow you to spend more time with paid staff.  You will need to educate them on how to utilize volunteers.  With the anticipated budget for FY 2012, you will get more requests than you ever imagined.  You have an opportunity once again to show the importance of volunteers and your role as an administration of 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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