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

~ July 2013~


How prepared are you when you leave the office for your own professional development?  When you are a staff of one, what do you? When you are a staff of two…is it any easier?
sign about worry
In June, I was traveling to Michigan for a conference to present two workshops.  No matter how many lists I wrote out, phone calls I made, emails I responded to…we are not in control of what can happen.
The office was quiet on this particular Monday—the day before my travel.  Mainly due to the crazy down pour of rain we had all day, the quiet was refreshing.  The phone rang maybe 5 times.  It was a glorious day until about 2:45pm – 45 minutes before I was to leave work.  An emergency presented itself that would leave the office unattended for three days until I returned. 

What do we do?  Panic.  Breathe. Put plan into action.  And what plan may that be?

Contact your supervisor.  There is nothing you can do. The trip is planned. You can’t back out. The volunteer meal ticket machine may go on the fritz, but the volunteers will survive.  A notice goes on the door and in the office, but you know no one will read it.  You should not panic because you can’t control what is out of your control.  I guess I am a bit of a control freak.  But your supervisor says “thanks for letting me know.”  And off you go.

Contact key volunteers.  Contact the volunteers who are assigned to your office.  Let them know what is going on.  Trust them.  They can answer the phones, take messages, and keep the office at bay.  This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate the trust you have in your volunteers.  It is an opportunity for them to shine in another much-needed-can’t-live-without-my-great-volunteers moment. 

Contact departments you trust.  I work closely with Public Affairs and Communications.  They had my back.  And told me to relax and breathe.  “All will be okay,” they stated over and over and over again. For a type A person, confirmation is key that all will be okay.

But I still worry.

I ended up texting my volunteer early in the morning the day of my travel because I also had new volunteer orientation scheduled and it was too late to contact everyone to reschedule the night before.  (Ugh.)  One of my amazing volunteers took the lead on orientation…heck….I’ve been wanting him to take the lead anyway.  Talk about pressure, but he was excited and texted me while I sat delayed in the airport waiting for my flight “Boss, all will be okay. Read a book.”

I printed out a list of ALL my volunteer phone numbers just in case I need them while I’m away.  I usually print out this list anyway once a month after orientation to capture the new volunteers.  But I did this earlier than expected.

I contacted my supervisor’s right hand go-to person and gave him my cell phone and personal e-mail address in case I could not log into my work email. I told him ONLY CONTACT ME IN AN EMERGENCY.  Perhaps I should have defined emergency when I talked to him.

But I still worry.

There are things out of my control. I watched the clock at the airport and I’ve been up now for 5 hours…since 2:30 am and I’m still not on my flight.  So, I sit and organize my planner, review my presentation, and people watch. 

But I still worry.


*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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