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

~ January 2012~


I often wonder if I’m burning out in my job or if it’s the frustration of not being able to get done what I want to get done in the volunteer administration world.  I found on my bookshelf a book given to me several years ago Good to Great by Jim Collins.

The title alone makes me ponder what I’m doing in the volunteer department.  Are we just doing good work?  Or doing GREAT work?  What constitutes goodness or greatness?  This brings me to the importance of effectiveness and evaluation.  How do we know we are effective?  Who sets the benchmarks to know the volunteer department is being effective?

We measure the traditional elements (and I’ve mentioned this before) such as total number of volunteers, total number of hours, and total dollars saved the organization in one fiscal year.  We often hear “we have a good volunteer department” but what does this mean?  Is” good” average? Mediocre? 

What do you do to communicate to fellow staff, leadership, volunteers, and constituents about the work you do and the work the volunteers do?  In December alone, my specialist and I processed over $25,000 in donations…again just in December.  With just two staff in the office, this is a great feat.

We received a donation of six (6) iPod touches and our occupational therapy department is finding a million and one ways to use these devices for our patients.  “You have no idea how great these will be to help someone with a traumatic brain injury.”  We don’t often hear the other side of the work we do.  We didn’t purchase the donation; we just connected the right people who we knew needed it.  We also assisted a family who did not have means to afford a Christmas.  We were able to provide gifts and a nice dinner for a family of six.  Good or great?

We often hear that “if it’s not measured, it does not exist.”  But how do you measure someone walking into your office giving you a hug and a “thank you” because you made Christmas happen for their small children?  How do you measure the flowers and proclamations from Congressional leaders for a patient’s 100th birthday?  Good or great?

Perhaps it is about perception with what the volunteer department is (constantly) doing.  But there needs to be a mix of goodness and greatness to make things happen and keep us grounded.

*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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