Resources for Volunteer Management
Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Partners share the responsibility of the management of the Trail. The resources found here are intended for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) private partner organizations that manage volunteer talent to support the A.T., or for those involved in the management or maintenance of the A.T. and/or its surrounding resources.
At any singular location on the Trail, there are three partners working to ensure the A.T. is managed and maintained. The three partners, comprised of the ATC, the land manager, and an A.T. maintaining club collectively prioritize care and support through consistent communication and resource sharing. Learn more about how the Cooperative Management System works for the Appalachian Trail.
Volunteer Management and Field Leadership
Whether you call it volunteer coordination, engagement, or management, the practice and principles that the ATC and A.T. partners deploy to benefit the A.T. is a fundamental component of protecting the Trail for the next 100 years.
Organizations coordinating the work of volunteers are responsible for recruiting individuals under a volunteer service agreement; training and supervising volunteers; and evaluating the program and reporting on annual impact to the ATC. Successful volunteer engagement:
- Provides supplemental trainings to deepen investments in volunteers.
- Ensures volunteer retention.
- Supports regular change in leadership for the organization’s overall resilience.
This section includes resources, training, and answers to frequently asked questions about volunteer management in the A.T. Cooperative Management System.
Volunteer Management Resources for A.T. Partners
Volunteer Service Agreements and Volunteer Protections
Volunteers on the A.T. are enabled through Volunteer Service Agreements with the National Park Service (NPS) or the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Volunteers with A.T. Maintaining Clubs are responsible for most of the day-to-day work of keeping the Trail n addition to Trail maintenance, club volunteers build and repair shelters and other structures; monitor and protect the Trail corridor; monitor and manage rare plants and invasive species; develop management plans for their sections; and much more.
All volunteers should make sure they are listed on a volunteer roster, review dangers of specific tasks to reduce injury to r others, and track and report hours and accomplishments.
Consult the Volunteer Safety and Training Page for Volunteer Injury Packet Information.
Recruiting volunteers for positions with longevity differs from recruiting volunteers for introductory, or stand-alone volunteer events. The resources below are guides for crafting position descriptions and promoting volunteer activities to address the unique motivations, qualities, needs and circumstances distinct to individual volunteer roles and multi-person volunteer events.
The ATC’s Volunteer Relations staff can help you design position descriptions, frame event invitations, and promote A.T. volunteer opportunities. Email email@example.com for assistance.
Training and Onboarding Volunteers
Each new volunteer should receive an orientation to A.T. volunteerism that includes their rights and responsibilities, what it means to work under the volunteer service agreement of the club, the tasks assigned to them, and any safety briefing and training necessary for the role.
All volunteers on the A.T. have the right to:
- Be treated with respect.
- A workplace free of harassment, discrimination, or hostile conditions.
- Receive a suitable assignment.
- Receive training and support.
- Have qualified supervision.
- Safe working conditions.
- Have their time used effectively.
If a volunteer feels their rights as an A.T. volunteer have been violated, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All volunteers have the responsibility to:
- Make safety the highest priority.
- Act in a professional manner.
- Treat others with respect.
- Follow Trail policies and guidelines.
- Participate in and learn from training sessions and meetings.
- Do high-quality, professional work.
- Care for Trail resources.
- Seek and accept guidance and support.
Organizations coordinating A.T. volunteers must have a Code of Conduct. ATC provides Guidance for A.T. Partners on Best Practices for Establishing or Updating a Code of Conduct, which includes a template for easy adaptation.
Volunteer Recognition, Retention, and Leadership Development
A.T. Volunteers are recognized in a number of ways.
- Genuine gratitude from activity leaders.
- A.T. Volunteer Recognition Program: This program awards pins, patches, caps, and vests for hourly milestones.
- Volunteer Spotlight: The ATC illuminates volunteers who bring unique talent, commitment, and energy to their roles.
Volunteer Leadership Development
Volunteer Engagement Plans for A.T. partners should include the organization’s strategy for identifying interests and potential within their volunteers. Tactics might include annual evaluations from volunteers that ask for their input on improvements, or that ask about their interest in leading.
Since each individual is unique, cultivation of those volunteers into new roles will likely be specialized. This might mean taking a role once filled by a single individual and dividing the responsibilities to suit the interest/availability of people willing to take on new duties (within reason).
Volunteer Program Evaluation and Annual Reporting
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy offers a Volunteer Engagement Plan template document for partners upon their request. If you would like a copy of the template, please reach out to email@example.com.
A.T. partners managing volunteers are encouraged to evaluate volunteer experiences after each event, or annually for ongoing volunteers in order to make incremental enhancements to their program.
Annually, A.T. partners submit reports on volunteer hours and impact to the ATC.
Field Leadership Development
Field Leadership Resources
Activity leaders play a vital role by driving volunteer programs, providing ongoing support to volunteers, and serving as the main point of contact for volunteers.
Work trip leaders oversee safety protocols, set the stage for a great volunteer experience, and coordinate a great deal of accomplishments.
The ATC offers the following resources for volunteer coordinators and field leaders to promote safety, advance training, and lead activities following best practices for risk management.
Job Hazard Analysis Library: Ensure you and your team have the resources and tools necessary for the job and plan in advance to avoid injury.
Training: The ATC offers in-field and online trainings for A.T. volunteers. Visit www.appalachiantrail.org/waystovolunteer to find workshops, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your interest in leading volunteers.
Resources for Field Leaders
Request Field Leadership Hangtags for Tailgate Safety Briefing, Ongoing Work Day Safety, Leadership Checklist, and Tool Talk
Work Trip Roster
Emergency Response Plan
Recommended First Aid Kit Supply Lists
Essential tools for planning your next A.T. project from start to finish.
Work Trip Planning Resources
Sample Check-in/Checkout Planner
Qualities of Good Leadership
Ways that activity leaders can help people feel seen and recognized in their service include:
- Active listening.
- Developing personal connections.
- Requests for volunteers’ opinions on projects.
- Providing genuine thanks for their work.
Tips & Tricks for Offering Thanks:
- Vary your approach for unique personalities, including cards or a quick phone call.
- Be sincere and honest in your thanks.
- Be as specific as possible.
- Smile when you see them.
- Brag about them to others in their presence.
- Notice something positive about their technique or the work product.
- Promote to new levels of responsibility.
- Celebrate goals achieved.
- Publish photos or names of volunteers in a report, newsletter, or on social media.
ATC Policies on Partnerships and Volunteer Management
A.T. partners share the responsibility of the management of the A.T. The ATC offers the following policies on partnerships and volunteer management:
Trail Assignment and Reassignment Policy
Management Plans and Project Approvals
Trail Crew Safety and Skills Training
Check-in/Checkout Communication Policy
Standards of Care: Conduct and Reporting Policy (2023)
Guidance for A.T. Partners on Best Practices for Establishing or Updating a Code of Conduct (2023)
Organizational Excellence for A.T. Partners
Successful A.T. partners take stock of where they are by pursuing opportunities to strengthen their organizational health through strategic planning, budgeting aligned with mission priorities, and systems in place for planned board leadership succession. They also maintain an up-to-date Local Management Plan for their A.T. duties and responsibilities.