Friday, October 26, 2007

Three days in San Francisco

I just returned from three productive days in San Francisco. I've been invited to participate in a regional advisory committee for the National Park Service's volunteer program, along with volunteer managers from Olympic, North Cascades, Fort Vancouver, Nez Perce, Golden Gate, and Lake Mead. What a great group of people to share ideas with! There's so much creativity in the Park Service's volunteer program right now, and we're all learning from one another.

But, we weren't in San Francisco just for the brainstorming opportunities. We had some very real issues to resolve, including budget, training, strategic priorities, and the volunteer program's role in the National Park Service's "Centennial Initiative." Here are some highlights from our meeting:

The proposed FY2008 budget includes base funding increases to support 44 VIP program manager positions service-wide—12 of them in the Pacific West Region. A few parks will receive $96,000; most will receive $48,000. Parks may use the money in any way they feel best supports their program—by funding a new position, by increasing the stature of an existing position, or by a combination of strategies.

The Status of the FY08 budget is still uncertain, with Continuing Resolutions possible through next spring. New VIP positions cannot be implemented until the budget is passed, though parks are being encouraged to be ready to advertise positions as soon as this happens. Any funding for positions that aren’t filled will be expected to be used to support volunteer programs in other ways, or will “lapse” back to the regional or national volunteer program (not to the park).

Beginning in either FY08 or FY09, both regional and park budgets will be based primarily on volunteer numbers reported by the parks. We will be initiating discussion about achieving greater consistency among parks in the ways volunteer hours are tracked—and in which hours are considered to be “volunteer” hours.

Basic volunteer program training will be offered at Golden Gate in March, which will include a “train the trainers” element for members of the VIP Advisory Committee. Similar training has been proposed for Mount Rainier in the spring, possibly May. Advanced volunteer program training will be offered next fall, possibly at Fort Vancouver in November in association with the National Interpreter’s Workshop in Portland. Basic orientation to the NPS volunteer program will be added to (or expanded in) NPS Fundamentals and other leadership classes.

Issues and Expectations
At a meeting with Regional Director Jon Jarvis, he said that “the key to the Centennial Initiative is early and visible success.” The expectation is that the increased funding we expect in the FY08 budget will lead to visible increases in staff and services, and increased volunteer opportunities and participation. “Rebuilding the NPS” (through the Centennial Initiative), he said, “will require redefining our role as a Service—more toward facilitating work by partners and cooperators, and serving, ourselves, in roles as leaders, coordinators, facilitators, and evaluators.” We are encouraged to “think outside the box,” including developing new partnerships; exploring new technologies; pursuing new recruitment options; and coordinating strategies at the Network level (i.e. in cooperation with Olympic, North Cascades, and other Columbia Cascade parks).

No comments: