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LOCAL GOVERNMENT VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS

This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the local level, including information for cities, counties, boards, commissions, and districts.

~ June 2007 ~ Topics

The Value of Volunteer Reflections



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If you manage volunteers in a city or county governmental organization or agency, there is a workshop sponsored by National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government on Sunday, July 15, 2007 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For more information, click here.

The Value of Volunteer Reflections

The theme for this year's annual Volunteer Recognition Celebration for the City of Plano gave me insight into the feelings of many volunteers as they relate to volunteering. The theme "Reflections" was dedicated to three exceptional volunteers who passed away in 2006. Each of their lives was a reflection of humanitarian endeavors, balancing personal and community service. So as part of our Volunteer Recognition Event and National Volunteer Week, we asked our volunteers to share reflections of their service with us. The Encarta Dictionary defines reflection as "a careful thought, especially the process of reconsidering previous actions, events or decisions; an idea or thought, especially one produced by careful consideration of something."

The theme was carried throughout the evening, starting with specially-designed reflecting rocks on the invitation and an enclosure card that read, "Please help us capture your wonderful stories and experiences so we can record the history of our valuable volunteers - YOU!" We asked the volunteers to reflect on their service and write about these reflections, and they were encouraged to post them on our "Reflection Wall" which was posted at the event. The speaker, a nationally renowned storyteller, used the theme as well.

A Template for Self-Reflection on Volunteering

In order to continue the theme of self-reflection during the coming year, here are some questions you can ask your volunteers either in a newsletter, an email, or an evaluation form. The process should help you as the volunteer manager, as well as your organization, and the volunteer.

    1. Why did you pick this organization/assignment?
    2. What are your volunteer goals?
    3. Explain what you do as a volunteer and how it makes you feel.
    4. Describe what you are achieving as a volunteer.
    5. Tell us how satisfied you are with this experience and how it can be improved.
    6. What does volunteering mean to you?
    7. What have you learned from volunteering?
    8. Is volunteerism a lifelong commitment? If yes or no, why?

Reflecting on one's service could be part of a volunteer's daily activities or just a one time thing. But when they share it with us, the volunteer managers, we have some valuable insight into why they are volunteering with our agency. Just read a few of the responses and you will see:

A Homework Center Teen Tutor says working with kids is a "BLAST" and that she is finally putting her three years of Spanish to good use. "The experience helped me decide on a career. Now I am sure I want to be a teacher, because I LOVE kids."

A volunteer that helped me develop and maintain an Emergency Preparedness database, says he loves contributing his skills to such a worthy community cause. "Volunteering gives me all the reassurance I need that our community will be there for those most desperately in need, if and when the time comes."

One elderly volunteer explains that, "Volunteering means giving back, even when you are not wealthy. When you have your health, then your time can equal money." This person does everything from helping seniors fill out paperwork, to counseling mothers about problems at home and counseling teen girls about hygiene and how to be a lady. Ms. Eleanor gets a THRILL out of helping people; she especially finds it rewarding when she hears there are positive results.

A retiree, who says his role is instructing seniors on how to use the computer, says this is now a new way of life for them. "Volunteering is a big part of my life; it has been for some time." From his church to the American Cancer Society, to the Senior Center, "Using my life experiences and skills to teach others keeps me volunteering. I can't imagine my life without volunteering."

What are the benefits of reflection to the volunteer? Research shows we learn from doing, but we learn more from thinking about what we do. Reflection can give us a sense of renewal, provide meaning to the experience and help create a sense of accomplishment. Their reflections will also provide us managers with a history of our volunteers, their feelings, and their experiences with our organization. The Northwest Service Academy in Portland Oregon says reflections help integrate service into the rest of one's life - developing a "spirit" of service and civic-mindedness.


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Short description of this series: "Organizations are successful at achieving their mission when volunteers and staff are a team. Evaluate the elements of the relationships in your organization and outline the strategies to make things better."

Purchase this package by clicking on either of the following links, which will redirect you to a secure shopping site. Evaluation Only $25.00 and Evaluation & Consultation Package - Best Deal! $99.95 (Resource List not available on this package.)


The author of the Local Government Volunteer Programs page is Robin Popik. Robin has been the Volunteer Resources Supervisor for the City of Plano for over 17 years. Under her direction, the Volunteer Resources Group now has grown to encompass 3 programs. The original program VIP has grown to approx. 5000 volunteers per year, with an average of 1000 individuals a month, with a value of over $1.2 million a year. The program has been recognized as a model and has won numerous awards including the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Volunteer Administration, the Civic and Leadership group award and the Texas Governors Leadership Award. Robin is President of Collin County VOAD (Volunteer Organization Active in Disater) and is the Citizen Corp Council representative for Plano. She has been a trainer and has written articles on many topics related to Volunteer Management. She is the past president the National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government, and member of ARNOVA, an international membership organization dedicated to fostering through research an understanding of the nonprofit sector, philanthropy and volunteerism. She has a Masters in Management from the University of Texas at Dallas and a certification in Volunteer Management from the University of Colorado, and in the past few years, has taking numerous courses in Emergency Volunteer Management including FEMA courses: 1) Emergency Operation Center; 2) Incident Command Systems; 3) Donations Management; 4) Volunteer Management in Disaster; 5) CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Program, 6) Public Information Officer course (4/04) and Integrated Emergency Management Course at EMI (8/04), NIMS 700, 100, and 200 and American Red Cross Shelter Management.

ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT VOLUNTEER MANAGERS SEEKS MEMBERS

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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