This post is part three in the series – the first two posts can be found at the links below.

Part one can be found here.

Part two can be found here.


Now that we have a basic introduction to the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador (CVA) program and how it fits into the bigger goals of the Department of Interior (DoI), let’s take another look at that number I threw out in my first two posts – one million volunteers. Which, again, comes from the DoI’s Youth Initiative.

If that seems like a pretty big number – well, that’s because it is a pretty big number.

To figure out what that goal really means though and what we need to do to get there, we first need to look at where we are now.

When Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the Youth Initiative, she declared that reaching one million volunteers would be “effectively tripling the numbers we have now.” This means that the DoI, as a whole, has around 330,000 volunteers. Give or take.

Okay. So we need to triple our volunteers across the board, and that is for the entire Department of Interior. That does not sound impossible. Lofty perhaps, but not impossible.

Given that the Interior needs to triple its volunteers, there are multiple ways to do this considering there is more than one agency involved. One way, and perhaps the simplest way, to look at it though – each agency must individually triple their respective volunteer base. If each agency is able do this, the DoI will be able to reach one million volunteers.

What does this mean then for the National Park Service specifically?

Of the 330,000 volunteers with the DoI, nearly 221,000 are volunteers with the National Park Service (NPS).

This means that the NPS needs to go from 221,000 volunteers to 663,000 volunteers – an increase of 442,000. Easy.

What then are the biggest hurdles between where we are and where we want to be?

Having heard from a number of local volunteer coordinators and volunteer managers, the number one reason that parks and publics lands are unable to accommodate more volunteers is the lack of staff to oversee them. What does this mean?

There is no shortage of volunteer work to be done and there is no shortage of people who wish to volunteer. The main hurdle is a lack of management staffing to oversee volunteers.

So what did the Department of Interior, National Park Service, and Student Conservation Association do?

They found 70 Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors and placed them in parks to help address that very issue.

While the day-to-day duties of the CVAs may vary, we all have an underlying commonality in our roles – to engage volunteers and get them excited about service opportunities throughout our parks. Having extra staff on hand specifically for the purpose of growing volunteer programs will allow parks to expand their outreach capabilities, to have a more involved presence in volunteer operations, and to boost their overall number of volunteers. Being there to provide additional support allows us to take charge of our own programs, bring in fresh ideas, and free up other staff to work on additional projects. All of this helps bring us closer to one million volunteers. Step by step, volunteer by volunteer.

Each of us helps being the NPS and DoI a little bit closer to that goal of one million volunteers. This in turn will help us reach our greater goals for the CVA program as a whole.

In order to reach those goals – we need to look again at the second and third objectives from my first post.

  1. Reach out to under-represented groups and focus on the mission of the Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion. This is to show people that parks are there for all to enjoy.
  2. Foster a culture of stewardship among a new generation of park-goers. We want people to be proud of their park and to take care of it for their own and future generations.

Both of these will be addressed in greater length in my next post.

Until next time.