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

~ April 2013~


So, in our world of volunteer administration there are days when you cannot make up what happens.  I go home, attempt to explain to my husband what goes on in my little world of volunteerism only to have him look at me and say “That’s great, honey.”

Great?  Are you kidding me?  You have no idea what goes on in our office…which is a recruiting office, counseling center, fire department, events central station, day camp, and much more.  We wear so many hats that it’s hard to believe what goes on in our office.

Here are some examples:

  • We start hearing a cat’s meow in our office that is already packed with volunteers signing in their hours and collecting their meal tickets.  We start looking around underneath our desks and folders only to realize it’s one of our volunteer’s ringtones on her cell phone.
  • A hospital calls at 8 am explaining their situation…a volunteer, or two, or three, or four are needed in 30 minutes to get out a 1,000 piece mailing….by 12 noon.  Your reply?  “I’m sorry. We are not a temp agency with volunteers.
  • Volunteers come in demanding to be assigned to the Director’s office just to “see what goes on in this place.”
  • Departments think you are “Julie” from the Love Boat because you run organized events.  Because, “the volunteer department is only about FUN.”
  • Parents start pounding down your door in June right when school is out for the summer. You tell them that the deadline was April 1st to have their son or daughter be considered for the program. You think that this application is for a high school student. Later on, you find out that this son or daughter is 22-years old.  After asking the parent why sweet Johnny or Jane couldn’t call our office himself or herself, parent states they are too busy.  THEN HOW CAN HE/SHE VOLUNTEER IF THEY ARE TOO BUSY? 

We laugh. We cry.  But believe me when I tell you that what administrators of volunteers go through is no joke.  There are days that spin absolutely out of control and you accomplished what seems like nothing.  Perhaps you didn’t…for yourself.  But you did listen, provide an ear to a volunteer in need.  You helped departments put out problems when they weren’t your own because that is what you do.

pop up jokester

When someone tells you that overseeing a volunteer department regardless of the number of volunteers is easy, tell them about your typical day.  But there is no typical day.  Just like there are no two snowflakes alike, there are no two days alike in the world of volunteer administration.

What we do needs to be taken seriously even though we may not always have serious moments.  Humor is most needed to survive the day.  What we do in our jobs?  It’s no laughing matter when it comes to 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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