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

~ July 2012~


interview alien at desk
It was early Monday morning during my commute to work.  It was 5:40am and the sun was already peeking over the trees.  My commute consists of driving 20 miles to the train station, hopping on the train, then jumping on a trolley or bus to get to work.  I was getting closer to my favorite place to get my first cup of coffee of the week before my train ride.  Flipping through the radio stations to keep my mind of that very much needed sip of French vanilla java, I ended up listening to two DJs interview a comedian.  The comedian was complaining about people telling him how to do his job as it was a hobby.  He said “People ask me ‘Do you still do that comedy-thing?’” 
And then I felt this wave of relief!

The comedian proceeded to say with passion “It’s MY job! MY career! MY profession!  So don’t ask me if it’s a comedy-thing. Or make recommendations on how to do my job.  I don’t tell you have to do your job. I don’t tell a brain surgeon how to operate. I don’t tell an astronaut how to fly to the moon.”

I never thought I could relate to a comedian.  Although there have been times when I could write a script for someone because I can’t make up half the events that occur in my world of volunteer administration.

How exactly true.
How many times does your boss, your co-worker, your volunteer, or even a volunteer candidate tell you how to do your job?  As if managing, leading, and motivating any unpaid workforce is easy?!?! 

Walk a day in our shoes.
I don’t tell my boss or anyone else for that matter how to do their job just as much as someone shouldn’t tell me how to do mine.For example: As the high school kids were getting out of school, parents (mainly mothers) start calling on behalf of their son/daughter.  We make it very clear that the child is to call our department.  I don’t talk to mothers.

I left messages for a student at home and requested that he contact me directly, not his mother.  The mother continued to call.  She continued to rant and rave.  She continued to tell me how to do my job. When her son came in for his interview, he was nothing like his mother.  He was respectful, articulate, and even wore a nice shirt and tie.  After our interview, I told him that if I hear from his mother at all, I will deduct one hour for every time I hear from her.  His mouth dropped.

Unfortunately, before he came in for his interview, the mother decided she should call our leadership and complain that her son wasn’t interviewed.  But she neglected to tell them that he canceled twice!  Leadership got very upset with the volunteer department as they only heard one side of the story.  Why didn’t they ask me what was going on? 

I will admit that I didn’t grow up to be an administrator of volunteers.  But I did grow up wanting to help people.  I have been in the field for 14 years.  So why would anyone tell me how to operate a volunteer department.

Again…MY job.  MY career.  MY profession.

*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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