Harriet H. Naylor

photo of harriet

Harriet H. Naylor, always known familiarly as "Hat," was one of the true pioneers in the development of Volunteer Program Management as an acknowledged field in the United States.

She was consistently focused on: why volunteers are vital to a democracy; what is necessary to create an infrastructure that enables volunteers to do their best work; and how critical it is to strengthen the emerging profession of Volunteer Administration and Engagement. And she was saying these things before anyone else.

Trained both as a social worker and then as an adult educator, Naylor worked tirelessly to persuade both of these academic disciplines to recognize the importance of the effective leadership of volunteers. It was Naylor who coined the word "volunteerism" in a booklet she wrote in 1969; she wanted to differentiate it from "voluntarism" and "'voluntary." In the early 1970s, she was a key staff member of the National Center for Voluntary Action, from which the Points of Light Foundation eventually evolved more than 20 years later. And in 1973, she published Volunteers Today: Finding, Training and Working With Them, the first real book written about Volunteer Program Management. 

In the mid-1970s, Naylor was hired by what was then "HEW" (the former United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare) to become the first-ever national Director of its Office of Volunteer Development. Naylor's national visibility gave her a platform that she used ceaselessly to advocate both for volunteers and for those who coordinated their efforts. One of her most tangible accomplishments was to fight for recognition of our field as an occupation with its own career ladder. Before 1977, the U.S. Labor Department's influential Dictionary of Occupational Titles did not include any mention of Volunteer Program Management as a distinct type of work. The absence of this title made it difficult, if not impossible, for federal and state government agencies to create paid positions for this function. Moreover, many private industries followed the Labor Department's guidelines. So Naylor tackled the U.S. federal bureaucracy and made a difference. In the summer of 1977 issue, the Intergovernmental Personnel Notes announced the following:

 Professionals Manage Volunteer Services
The latest edition of the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles has included a new career ladder and occupation: Supervisor, Coordinator, and Director of Volunteer Services. The Dictionary classifies the new positions as "professional, technical and managerial.

Offering Naylor's name and contact information for "readers seeking information on ways to upgrade positions in volunteer services," the article further said:

Recent surveys have shown that, for many of these positions, salaries are low and turnover is consequently high. However, it is in the interest of State and local governments to hire and retain skilled volunteer personnel administrators to encourage participation and program enrichment services.

To honor Naylor's strong support of the profession, the national Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA) created the Harriet Naylor Distinguished Member Service Award. From 1981 to 2004, this award was presented annually to an active AVA member who made an outstanding contributions to strengthen both the association and the field of Volunteer Resources Management.

Though many teased Naylor about being the “grandmother” of our field, there was a great deal of truth in that title because she was one of the first to give volunteer administration the status of a profession. She is frequently referenced as a pioneer, teacher, advocate, mentor and “gentle giant" of the field. Said her colleagues: 

  • “Hat was never too busy to take time for a young volunteer coordinator. Her spirit will live on in the hearts, minds and careers of the many volunteer administrators she inspired and encouraged.”  
  • “With her unflagging commitment to the importance of voluntary action research, she embodied the very highest aspirations of the scholar and practitioner.”
  • “For those of us who worked in the Association of Volunteer Bureaus, she was always a gadfly – in a nice way, but a powerful way.  She chose to work and make an impact in the most difficult of settings.”
  • “Her passion, wisdom, wit and personal leadership has truly moved mountains.”

(Bio Sources:  AVA documents, ENGAGE 2000 article)

What Others Say

"Hat was one of the rare few who reminds us clearly and eloquently that we are more than technical adepts; along with that, we are the custodians of values in a free society which are always precious."  - Ivan Scheier

"Hat understood how isolated we can all be and reached out to share her vision of the collective numbers of us working to strengthen volunteerism."  - Susan J. Ellis