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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the federal level, including information for parks, justice, Internal Revenue Service, and more.

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~ March 2004 ~ Topics

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The Statistical Endeavor

I remember when I was in College some of my fellow classmates were required to take a class called Statistics. Most of them always complained about how boring the material was and they could not wait to complete the course. Based on my classmates’ negative reactions, I felt fortunate my degree did not require such a class. Now, as a Federal employee, I wonder if I should have taken statistics because I have the responsibility to participate in statistical record keeping.

As a Volunteer Manager, I am required to collect statistics regarding the volunteer program. We keep track of each volunteer’s contributed hours, and time dedicated to various departments like interpretation, resource management, maintenance, or administration. These statistics are not just for our site. They are submitted annually to the National Park Service volunteer headquarters in Washington, D.C.

It is challenging to keep up on recording all this data. When I first started working as a Park Ranger at the field level, these records did not seem so important. They were just a bunch of numbers required by management. Once I became the manager of a volunteer program, I realized why this information was so important. They are directly linked to recognition, funding, planning, validation, and success. They are the numerical proof of dedication, support, need, and accomplishment.

Without the data, it would be difficult to recall how much effort volunteers give to the parks. We can see the results with improved trails, more guided tours, extended open hours, and restored historic furniture. Work is accomplished that the staff alone could not finish. Yet, the numbers are the record, the proof. When I started at my current park, there were norecords for individual volunteers and I had no idea how long, nor how much, each person contributed. I had no way to provide appropriate recognition. I started from scratch and I now have a better way to assess our needs, provide appropriate support, and prove everyone’s success.

Even though I was never a student in statistics, I certainly have learned the value in the statistical endeavor.

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Mapping Your Program

The only thing that is constant is change. A stagnate volunteer program is a dead program. I know because I have taken on the duties of a Volunteer Manager in programs that had not changed in years. It is important to keep up with current trends, keep the program fresh, and keep assessing needs.

One way to do this is to map your volunteer program. You may know this as a 5-year plan, or a 10-year plan, or even just an annual plan. If you know where you want to take the program, create a map directing you to your goal. Break it down into smaller components, so it does not appear as a monumental task. Interview volunteers and staff who work with volunteers to see what they need.

The National Park Service encourages its Volunteer Managers to create such a map. It gives a boost to the program, brings each site’s efforts up to date, and provides an opportunity to improve services. If you do not know where to go next, consult your map.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: "Megatrends in Volunteerism," by Sue Vineyard.Megatrends in Volunteerism Book Image

Margaret Styles has been an Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service since 1997. She is currently working at Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in Danville, California and Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial in Concord, California. She manages the public programming, public relations and volunteer program, as well as guiding visitors through both sites. Previous employment includes Yellowstone, Death Valley, Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Presidio of San Francisco, New England Aquarium, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and San Francisco Recreation & Parks.
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