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

~ June 2012~


How many meetings do we go to in a given week?  Countless, I’m sure.  It seems like there are times when I walk into meetings, everyone seems to have their assigned seats.  The important people are at the table while the rest of us are sitting around them…it’s what I call the peanut gallery.

It then dawned on me….where do administrators of volunteers sit at the table? When the director or associate director of the organization mentions volunteer services, they poke their head up from the table to see if I’m there.  They wouldn’t have to do this if I were sitting at the table.

Depending on the meeting, I’m usually at the table.  There are times when I love it.  There are times, well . . . .  that I loathe it.  If I have something to contribute, I want to be at the table and command the attention and make significant contributions and suggestions.  Sitting at the table makes me want to shout “Hey, remember me? I’m the volunteer director who extended the budget by $1.3 million in fiscal year 2011.”  When I’m sitting on the sidelines, I feel like everyone else – head down, take notes act as if you are paying attention, and don’t make any eye contact.

But why?

Do you sit at the top of the table? End of the table?  Or somewhere in the middle?  I remember walking into meetings and was told there are “assigned seats.”  Really?  So, I was moved to the peanut gallery. 

Here are some things to consider:
1) What role are you taking at the meeting?table and chairs
2) Who are the other participants?
3) What influence do you want to have?

As an administrator of volunteers, I better have lots of influence when it comes to new initiatives, customer services, extending services.  If my role is to provide insight on volunteers supplementing projects and departments, I better be sitting at the table. 

Take a look next time when you heading into the boardroom.  Where are you sitting?  When you go to that next meeting, where are you? 

Take initiative. Make your presence known.  Contribute to the overall cause.  Do what you do….but at the table and not the peanut gallery.

*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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