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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.

~ November 2005 ~ Topics

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Partnerships: the Key to Success in Volunteer Management

For many years, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has led the way in the National Park Service in the scale and scope of its Volunteers-In-Parks Program. Numbers tell part of the story: Last year, Golden Gate recorded over 350,000 volunteer hours contributed by more than 11,000 individuals working in natural and cultural resource management, interpretation, education, administration and maintenance. The park has established a number of new corporate and community volunteer partnerships, resulting in both needed work and laying the foundation for long term support. The park expanded the youth volunteer opportunities, and further developed the concept of “service-learning.” Volunteer relationships with several organizations – most notably SCA and Americorps – helped enhance the diversity of people in the park with whom visitors interact. A number of park volunteers over the years graduated seamlessly into temporary paid positions in the park.

Golden Gate’s leadership extends beyond high number of volunteers and hours. The park continued to provide advice, training and direct consultation to other parks in the Pacific West Region and throughout the NPS in how to create and sustain a successful volunteer program. When parks seek a model of successful volunteerism, Golden Gate is they place they look first.

Highlighted below are some of the many notable successes of Golden Gate’s VIP Program:

Parks as Classrooms Volunteers

The park’s successful educational outreach (20,000 students reached through NPS curriculum-based education programs) would be tremendously diminished without the efforts of a dedicated cadre of education interns and volunteers who visit classrooms throughout the San Francisco region, and also provide programs onsite. Through the efforts of park education interns, the park partnered with the low-income Ravenswood School District (East Palo Alto) to bring every 8th grader in the district to the park to participate in Legacy! Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio of San Francisco. These students were inspired by the history of African Americans who served in the military and were among the first to patrol the western national parks. Additionally, these students, and many others as well, participated in Here’s the Dirt! -- A program where they joined park staff in the propagation of native plants. These educational programs are all facilitated by volunteers from the NPS Division of Natural Resources, the Division of Interpretation, and our park partner, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

SCA- Urban Diversity Interns

Golden Gate was the original flagship national park site for the Student Conservation Association’s award-winning Diversity Intern Program. For the 14th consecutive year, the park partnered with SCA in the Diversity Intern Program, the new name for the CCDP program. Four ethnically-diverse interns spent 12 weeks in the park presenting interpretive and educational programs and generally inspiring park visitors at Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, Presidio and Fort Point. To show our commitment to the future of these young interns, the park provided extensive interpretive skills training and challenged them to submit products for certification under the NPS Interpretive Development Program. Over the years, several permanent park interpreters were recruited directly from the ranks of SCA interns, greatly enhancing the diversity of park staff.

Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL) Volunteer Efforts

Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL) is a program that provides high school students internship opportunities to serve their communities and hone their leadership skills, and develop a lasting connection with the NPS. I-YEL interns commit to a minimum of one year of service within their communities and the park. I-YEL interns constitute the staff for a number of programs at the park’s Crissy Field Center that are designed to draw a relationship between park resources and the concerns of diverse local communities in the San Francisco region. The design of the I-YEL experience is rich in training opportunities, including public speaking and presentation skills. The program includes career guidance, the development of personal goals, and a strong dose of esprit de corps. I-YEL interns arrive at the program with unproven promise; they depart as proven leaders. This program is a powerful example of how strategic volunteerism can arm young people with critical life skills and instill an abiding interest in the mission of the NPS.

In the words of Sam Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant and recent I-YEL intern, “I want to let other communities know that youth today are helping out their environment. I want to reach other youth so that they can have a chance to be a leader and a role model in their own community and school.”

What makes Golden Gate’s Volunteers in Parks so effective is the focus and resources the park provides to the program, along with the park’s overall partnership culture.

The VIP program is under the overall management of a Volunteer Program Manager in the park’s Division of Interpretation and Education. The Volunteer Program Manager oversees volunteer recruitment and placement, and also coordinates a 21-member park wide VIP committee, with representatives from nearly all park functions. The committee also includes staff support from our primary partner, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (formerly the Golden Gate National Parks Association). Each committee member is responsible for hiring, training, evaluation, and recognition of the volunteers who work at their site.

A majority of the weekly volunteers and full-time volunteers receive annual training in the specifics of their park work assignment, and receive training in CPR and first aid as a requirement of fulfilling their volunteer commitment. The park volunteer committee members, along with many other staff members, act as a well-oiled machine in keeping park volunteers trained, safe, and feeling acknowledged for their contributions.

The sheer size of the park’s VIP Program creates many challenges. With the number of volunteers in the park, assuring effective VIP coordination and adequate supervision can sometimes be difficult. Finding housing for the large number of interns who work in the park each year is also a challenge, and can be a limiting factor in expanding our program. We feel we have been very successful in maintaining forward momentum in our VIP Program by creatively addressing all of these challenges. The growth in our program testifies to our success.

The success of the Golden Gate Volunteers-In-Parks Program is due in large part to the 25-year partnership with the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy. The Parks Conservancy has fully embraced the value of volunteerism, and has structured their organization to complement and support the park’s VIP Program.

In partnership with the Parks Conservancy, we have established productive volunteer partnerships with dozens of organizations. We are a major player in volunteerism in the highly civic-minded San Francisco region. A few of our partners in volunteerism include the following corporations and organizations. Most of them have contributed more than 4,000 of volunteer time to the park.

Bay Area Volunteer Centers
The Gap Corporation
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Cedars of Marin
The Sierra Club
Boy Scouts
Girl Scouts
Campfire Boys and Girls
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Dipsea Runners
Surf Riders Foundation
Telephone Pioneers of America
California Coastal Commission
Coastal Conservancy
NOAA- Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
City College of San Francisco
Aim High
Community Impact
Hands on San Francisco
Project Yes
Youth In Action
Congregation Rodel Shalom
National Youth Leadership Forum
Oceana High School
Levi-Strauss Corporation
National Park Foundation

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

This month's article was submitted by Nancy Bernard. She can be contacted by email at: nancy_bernard@nps.gov.
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