Reference Manual 7 - Chapter 8: Program Audit, Monitoring, and Evaluation

Note: This page contains Chapter 8 of Reference Manual 7 that accompanies Director's Order 7, Volunteers-In-Parks. Users of RM-7 are strongly encouraged to check this page for updates before utilizing previously viewed, printed, or downloaded materials.

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Parks and programs are encouraged to conduct regular volunteer evaluations and provide feedback on their performance. Volunteers should be provided an opportunity to give feedback on their experience, as well.

Assessing and Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs Using Surveys

The Information Collection Clearance Program (ICCP) seeks to ensure that all NPS information collection activities adhere to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), OMB directives, and other applicable legislation. The purpose of these acts is to ensure requirements placed on the public (individuals, private sector, and state/local/tribal governments) to use public lands or to conduct business with the federal government are justified and controlled. OMB regulations define “information” as “any statement or estimate of fact or opinion, regardless of form or format, whether in numerical, graphic, or narrative form, and whether oral or maintained on paper, electronic or other media” and include requests for information to be sent to the government, such as forms (e.g., backcountry use permits); written reports (e.g., performance reports); and surveys (e.g., social science surveys).

Whether the PRA applies to volunteers depends on the position type and what is stated in the volunteer service agreement (e.g., volunteers assisting with research and data collection, etc.). If planned assessment, evaluation, or research activities are written into the volunteer service agreement or are part of local policy, the PRA does not apply. One example would be citizen science volunteers operating under a signed volunteer service agreement specifying their research duties.

Program Audits

To ensure consistent quality, identify challenges and outline possible solutions, and highlight outstanding success, regional offices should provide regular volunteer program audits of parks and programs within their region using nationally approved and recommended methods. The findings of this audit process should be shared with the park or program staff as well as the national office.

Recognition and Awards

(see DO-7, § 16)

Volunteer recognition acknowledges accomplishments, reinforces efforts, and is a sign of appreciation. It can be as easy as a smile and the words “thank you.” Volunteer certificate templates and pins are available online. Award ceremonies are another way to recognize efforts. However accomplished, recognition is an important component of any volunteer program, and the NPS strongly encourages volunteer supervisors and managers to recognize and reward volunteers regularly. Use good judgment and provide proper justification to ensure an effective and successful volunteer recognition program.

The 1992 Departmental Appropriations Bill (PL 102-154, Section 115) provides permanent authority to use appropriated volunteer funds to buy non-monetary gifts and awards of nominal value for volunteers as tokens of appreciation. In a memo dated February 3, 1993, and updated by the 2009 memo IRS Audit and Volunteer in Parks Reimbursement Update, the NPS Associate Director for Budget and Administration clarified the definition of the word “nominal.” In most cases, non-monetary awards should be worth no more than $50. Monetary awards may not be given. Gift cards are considered monetary awards and may not be issued. Special circumstances may warrant gifts that are worth more than $50, at the discretion of the superintendent/manager.

Volunteers are not eligible for federal employee awards programs, such as STAR awards.

The George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service are the official NPS awards for volunteers. See additional information about this and other volunteer awards.

America the Beautiful Pass

As of January 1, 2007, a volunteer’s time can be counted toward a Volunteer Pass, which provides free entrance into federal fee areas for one year. Once a volunteer accumulates 250 hours with selected federal agencies, they may be awarded this annual pass at no cost to the park or program.

The 250 hours may be accumulated over multiple positions or over multiple years. Volunteers are responsible for tracking their own hours and should submit a request to the volunteer manager when they have accumulated sufficient hours. Contact park fee managers or regional volunteer managers for information about obtaining passes for qualifying volunteers.

See Interagency Volunteer Pass FAQs for more information.

Performance and Conduct Management

When a problem first appears, the volunteer supervisor immediately should bring it to the attention of the volunteer and the volunteer manager and work with the volunteer to find a solution. If problem-solving measures do not improve the situation and/or the volunteer cannot be reassigned to another project or task without the problem being repeated, they should be notified that their services will no longer be needed. See Termination of Volunteer Agreement for more information.

Last updated: November 27, 2019

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