Recruitment, Retention & Recognition, Reporting

Volunteer Management

Appalachian Trail (A.T.) volunteer coordinators and managers lead the more than 6,000 people who give their time each year to keep the Trail open and help inform more than three million visitors. They play a vital role by driving volunteer programs, providing ongoing support to volunteers, and serving as the main point of contact for volunteers.


Clubs & Partners

Our 31-Trail Maintaining Clubs are responsible for most of the day-to-day work of keeping the A.T. open. In 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, much more.

Find your local trail club

Volunteer coordinators’ responsibilities can be broken down into three broad categories:

Recruitment | Retention & Recognition | Reporting


Volunteer Recruitment

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

Recruiting Key Volunteer

Event Promotion


Cultivating the Next Generation of Volunteers

The collective impact of working collaboratively with new partners is a first step in strengthening the support network for the Appalachian Trail and its future.



Volunteer Retention

A person’s first impression with a volunteer experience sets the stage for retention.

Volunteer managers set the stage for success by providing:

  • Orientation
  • Training for assigned tasks
  • Clear expectations, defined in a position description or event kick-off
  • Culture of safety that includes volunteer protections, outlined below
  • Appreciation and recognition
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • An opportunity for volunteer feedback and program improvement

Volunteer Recognition

Recognizing the contributions of volunteers is vital to retention. It helps honor the importance they place on volunteering in the midst of their lives, already full with family, work, or other community commitments.

There’s no singular approach to recognition that works for all people. Recognition takes both tangible forms – like pins and caps, as well as intangible forms – like celebrating someone’s achievements publicly.

A.T. Recognition Program and Request Form

Qualities of good leadership that help people feel seen and recognized in their service includes:

  • Active listening
  • Developing personal connections
  • Requests for volunteers’ opinions on projects
  • Genuine thanks.

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 social media


The value of volunteer impact on the Appalachian Trail represents literally millions of dollars, but more significantly, allows millions of people to hike the Trail every year–fulfilling Benton MacKaye’s vision for a reprieve in nature from a continually industrialized nation.

A.T. volunteer supervisors are responsible for reporting the impact of volunteers they coordinate. If you’re a volunteer or organization’s record keeper for hours reporting, you can direct questions to [email protected].


ATC Volunteer Check-In/Checkout Communication Policy

The Check-in/Checkout plan will provide an emergency response protocol should volunteers encounter a situation that prevents them from returning or contacting their designated Point of Contact (POC) at the expected time. This policy also addresses recommendations for group activities by organizations to indicate responsibilities of individuals and group leaders within the group.


Online Resources

Volunteer Management Research

Find best practices in volunteer management from a host of nationwide entities supporting the spirit of service.

Energize Inc.
National Service Resources
Create the Good
National Service Trends in Volunteering
Everyone Ready

Capacity Building

Building organizational leadership capacity for organizations often includes organizational assessments or strategic planning. The sites listed below provide resources for volunteer-based organizations in capacity building.

National Council of Non-Profits
The Urban Institute

Recruiting Volunteers Online

In addition to the A.T. volunteer database, which is available to all A.T. volunteer managers, other online services exist that will help you get the word out about your opportunities.
Local Volunteer Centers
Points of Light

Volunteer Protection Programs

An authorized volunteer working on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail under the auspices of one of the designated Trail maintaining clubs or ATC is entitled to certain protections under programs managed by either the U.S. Forest Service (Volunteers in Forests) or the National Park Service (Volunteers in Parks) through an individual or a group volunteer agreement. These volunteer protections are especially important in case an injury occurs involving an A.T. volunteer while at work. These protections apply if the volunteer is following the guidelines and standards provided by the club, ATC, or agency

If an injury occurs, a volunteer should follow these five steps:
1.   Immediate care and First Aid
2.   Emergency treatment by a medical provider, if needed (inform agency authorities first, if possible.)
3.   Reporting of the injury to the appropriate agency authorities
4.   Documentation
5.   Follow-up

The documents listed below make up a packet of information about dealing with injuries suffered by A.T. volunteer workers. We recommend that a paper copy of this packet be carried by each A.T. volunteer work leader. Volunteers should be familiar with the contents of this packet, and should complete specific local contact information on the instruction sheet before an accident resulting in injury occurs.

Volunteer Injury Packet

Note: Form CA-16 cannot be posted online; contact your ATC regional office for this form.

Injuries should also be reported to ATC. Complete the ATC Accident Report Form and send to [email protected] and to your ATC regional office.