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

~ August 2012~


Oftentimes, we try to put ourselves in the position of our volunteers.  What would it be like to have their assignment?  What is their life like outside of volunteering?  How are the volunteers treated by paid staff?  One of my volunteers was evicted from his home, but he never missed a volunteer shift.  And most of my volunteers are getting older…we hear it often that we see them “age in place” and only administrators of volunteers understand this phrase.   But we can’t forget about those who work with us day in and day out – our staff.   Whether you have a .4 support  staff, a full-time specialist, or a part-time secretary, we have to also walk a day in her shoes.

We could not live without our support staff, our specialist, our secretary, etc.  They are the glue that holds the office together.  When a volunteer may be lingering in your office a bit too long, they know exactly how to politely remove the volunteer from your office.  Such as, coming in with her notepad and saying “You have that conference call at 2:30 pm. I just wanted to remind you.”  When they are not in the office, we feel their absence.
Have you ever walked a day in their shoes?  I did.

For a day, my specialist and I switched offices.  I sat our front – fielded the phone calls, handled the traffic, wrote out meal tickets when the machine was on the fritz, took care of new volunteers….all while trying to get my own work done.  It was extremely challenging.  I could not get done a quarter of what I had wanted for the day and I started to get frustrated as the day when on. 
That afternoon, we came up with some ideas which could help stream line our processes even more.    This was three months ago.high heel shoe

And I continue to sit out front in the mornings for 2-3 hours…not just to help my specialist, but to also maintain the connection with the volunteers.  I listen to their suggestions, their conversations, and give my specialist a bit of a respite.  Plus, we brainstorm a lot more!  We constantly turn around to each other and say “what if we did this for our volunteer luncheon ….” or “what do you think about…..?”  I always offer my office up so she can have some quiet time to complete projects.  We provide a more unified front when we are faced with tough situations or have to make challenging decisions. 

Take time to not only walk in your volunteers’ shoes, but your staff’s.  You will not only learn more about your staff, but yourself as a supervisor and administrator of 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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