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

~October 2013~


In September, we resumed our new volunteer orientation sessions.  We do not conduct interviews or orientation during the summer months. This is NOT because we are taking vacations to the islands, but because we use these 8 weeks to strategize for the upcoming fiscal year.

So, I sat there listening to one of our orientation presenters.  I began to wonder if how we are doing orientation is working.  I then asked the same question about our interview process, placements, etc.  There are different philosophies for what we do and why for our new volunteer orientation.

We hold orientation every second Tuesday morning.  But to accommodate those who work full time or have a hectic schedule, we offer late afternoon/early evening and weekend orientations as needed.  I read often by my colleagues that orientation is offered online, via CD, etc.  We continue our face-to-face group setting to allow that interaction…together…as a team.  New volunteers feel the energy and we have subject matter experts who, as part of their presentation, say “THANK YOU” a million times over to our new class of volunteers.

The volunteers “hear” what we are saying as well as get a visual from their new volunteer colleagues.  We can also share success stories, what to do when, and drive home the mission of the organization.  But do what works best for you.
Our philosophy for interviews occurs the same way. Unless we absolutely have to, we’ll do a phone interview.  But seeing the individual first gives you that sense of whether or not they’re in this volunteer commitment for real.  We also have big sign says orientationschedules for interviews as well.  This helps our department structure meetings, events, and activities throughout the year.  Our bread and butter is our volunteers so we want to make sure we’re allocating the time we need to spend with them and get to know them. This fiscal year, we are implementing a motivational analysis thanks to attending a professional development networking event and we are borrowing this idea to give to each new volunteer candidate. 

For our programs, we also analyze what should be collapsed.  This is much better than saying “our program didn’t work.”  Only you can decide this.
At the end of the day, we always ask:

  • What can we do better?
  • What worked well?
  • What can we collapse?

Don’t doubt your processes and procedures.  They work because you put a lot of time, energy, and research into your plan.  You can, however, re-evaluate what is working and if it’s working to meet the mission of your department and your organization.

It’s never a bad thing to ask these questions.  Asking the questions help you strive for an even better volunteer department and programs.

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*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 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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