Volunteers-In-Parks Training Program and Resources

Welcome to Volunteers-In-Parks Training Program
and Resources

Close-up of a volunteer patch on the arm of a tan shirtOverview

This page and all of its content is the product of a service-wide initiative to collaboratively update the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) training resources. For more than eight months, more than 50 people from across the service, in varying roles, assisted in the development of this agency-wide core content for the VIP program. From the beginning, the goal was to develop training resources that would:

  • Be in a centralized location so materials can be stored, shared, and accessible for a large and changing population, and
  • Develop a core-content and other VIP training resources to best meet the ever-changing needs of our managers, supervisors, and parks.

The goals and purpose for this workgroup were to ensure that the materials developed would:

  • Create clarity in communication and access to support the large variation of VIP needs through the service;
  • Identify that there are diverse needs throughout the agency; and
  • Ensure that success is situated around:
    • Safety;
    • Inclusive Workplace and DO 16E;
    • Supports current policies and procedures (RM7); and
    • Best practices.

Keeping Up With the Times

The Volunteers-In-Parks Reference Manual 7 (RM-7) is designed to be changed and updated. As a result, the materials developed for this agency-wide core content are also intended to be iterative and constantly changing. Members of VIP community are strongly encouraged to reference the Director’s Order 7 and Reference Manual 7 website when referencing policy and actively participate and contribute to the constant development and updating of relevant and needed information.

How to Use

The goal is to make information readily available. In order to best serve our VIP community, we have organize materials into four categories. Through the eight month process, it was recognized that every region, park/unit, and local policy may be different and therefore, these four categories are intended to help differentiate between guidance on national policy and local policy, as well as identify resources that will guide our community members to additional information.

Topic 5 R’s Role Resources


Volunteers-In-Parks Training Program Overview
Volunteers-In-Parks Reference Manual 7 (RM-7) offers guidance to National Park Service (NPS) employees, partners, and volunteers themselves engaged in managing and supporting volunteer activities, projects, and programs at their site or office. RM-7 serves as Level 3 guidance and includes relevant legislation, regulations, Management Policies, and other instructions or requirements issued through Director’s Order 7 (DO-7).

A lot of information is covered in the RM-7, and can be applicable to a wide audience, to best serve the community with varying needs; the first category organizes material by “Topic”:

  • Volunteers-In-Parks Training Program Overview Learning Activity
  • Topic-specific Learning Activities

Volunteers-In-Parks Training Program Overview Learning Activity

The VIP Training Program Overview Learning Activity has been designed to introduce all the key elements from DO-7 and RM-7. By completing this Learning Activity, members of the VIP community will have an understanding of the principles and strategies that guide the administration of the VIP program.

Volunteers-In-Parks: Training Program Overview Learning Activity

This Learning Activity has been developed for anyone and everyone who works with volunteers in ANY capacity! It is vital that we are all on the same page when it comes to policies and strategies that govern the Volunteers-In-Parks program. After the completion of the Learning Activity, individuals will earn a CLP badge.


Topic-specific Learning Activities
Below you will see the titles for all 10 chapters of the Volunteers-In-Parks Reference Manual 7 (RM-7). Under each chapter’s link are the subtopics and, when applicable, a link to a topic-specific Learning Activity.

These topic-specific Learning Activities will provide you with: top things you should know; resources; and industry best practices.

Organized by Chapter from the Reference Manual #7 Volunteers-In-Parks (RM-7)

Chapter 1. Background, Purpose, and Authorities

  • Background
  • Purpose
  • Authorities
  • Establishing Local Policy

Chapter 2. Definitions

Chapter 3. Program Administration

  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Funding
  • Program Management and Supervisory Training

Supporting Resources

Chapter 4. Recruitment

  • Volunteer.gov
  • Who Is an NPS Volunteer
  • Types of Volunteers
  • Who Is Not and NPS Volunteer
  • Types of Volunteers
  • Who Is Not an NPS Volunteer
  • Volunteer Qualifications
  • Volunteer Activities
  • Prohibited Volunteer Activities
  • Interview and Reference Checks
  • Background Investigations
  • Fit for Duty

Supporting Resources

Chapter 5. Onboarding

  • Formalizing the NPS/Volunteer Relationship: Volunteer Service Agreement
  • Forms
  • Volunteer Orientation and Training

Supporting Resources

Chapter 6. Administrative Requirements

  • Volunteer Liability
  • Volunteers and Federal Ethics Rule
  • Volunteers and the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Use of Government and Personal Equipment
  • Government Vehicles
  • Benefits and Protection
  • Safety/Risk Management
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Uniforms and Appearance
  • Housing
  • Park Closure

Supporting Resources

Chapter 7. Reimbursement

  • Reimbursement Policy
  • Establish Park/Program Reimbursement Policy
  • Claiming Reimbursement
  • Reimbursement Requirements

Supporting Resources

Chapter 8. Program Audit, Monitoring, and Evaluation

  • Assessing and Evaluation of Volunteer and Volunteer Programs Using Surveys
  • Program Audits
  • Recognition and Awards
  • America the Beautiful Pass
  • Performance and Conduct Management

Supporting Resources

Chapter 9. Termination of Volunteer Service

  • Park- or Program-Initiated Termination
  • Volunteer-Initiated Termination
  • Termination Process

Supporting Resources

Chapter 10. Reporting

  • Annual Reports
  • Statistics
  • Record Keeping

Supporting Resources

 5 R’s
Volunteer Management is the strategic management of voluntary resources. It is the process of creating systems for recruitment, training, engagement, and coordination of volunteers and is most effective when there is an alignment with mission and an understanding of value within an organization and to community.

Volunteer Management is also known as volunteer engagement, volunteer coordination, volunteer administration and refers to “the systematic and logical process of working with and through volunteers to achieve an organization’s objectives”. Strong volunteer programs are people-centered and strategic with volunteer work focused on meeting true needs.There are many ways to approach Volunteer Management, and certainly one size does not fit all situations. There are, however, some basic approaches to successfully managing volunteers that serve all needs – whether a one-time volunteer opportunity such as an event to a recurring long-term position – these five Rs will set you up for success.

  • Program Planning – Needs Assessment
  • What Can Volunteers Do?
  • Training Certification, Age & Other Requirements
  • Developing Position Descriptions

For More Information Visit:

InsideNPS > Volunteers-In-Parks > Volunteer Management Theory > Research

  • Volunteer.gov
  • NPS.Gov – Get Involved Page
  • Printed Resources (VIP Rack Card)
  • Signing up Volunteers
  • Volunteer Service Agreement
  • Managing Volunteer Files

For More Information Visit:

InsideNPS > Volunteers-In-Parks > Volunteer Management Theory > Recruitment

  • Uniforms
  • Background Checks
  • Volunteer Training
  • Motivation
  • Orientation
  • Performance Reviews
  • Safety Management
  • Supervision

For More Information Visit:

InsideNPS > Volunteers-In-Parks > Volunteer Management Theory > Retention

  • Certification & Awards
  • VIP Recognition Certificate
  • Nominate your volunteers for an award
  • Uniform Items / Apparel / Recognition Items & Gear

For More Information Visit:

InsideNPS > Volunteers-In-Parks > Volunteer Management Theory > Recognition

  • Annual VIP Activities and Expense Report (formerly 10-150)
  • Metrics

For More Information Visit:

InsideNPS > Volunteers-In-Parks > Volunteer Management Theory > Reporting

We know each region, park, unit, and even division can vary in titles, roles and responsibility, and authority. The area below provides a brief description of the position title, per RM-7, and a recommendation for what Learning Activities may be helpful for providing a greater understanding of the relatedness between policy and role.
Regional Offices

Regional responsibility for the NPS VIP Program rests with the regional volunteer program manager in the regional office. Volunteer program management duties are assigned by the regional director to a particular position and are included in the service description and critical results of that position.

For more details on the role of the Regional Offices, visit Chapter 3: Program Administration > Roles & Responsibilities > Regional Offices

Volunteer Managers

The volunteer manager develops and operates a volunteer program matching the conditions and needs of the particular park or program. Although volunteer managers are responsible for the overall coordination of volunteer programs, they are not the only people who may directly supervise volunteers. Staff members who are directly responsible for the volunteers’ work supervise those volunteers

For more details on the role of a Volunteer Managers, visit Chapter 3: Program Administration > Roles & Responsibilities > Volunteer Managers

Volunteer Supervisors

Volunteer supervisors must have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities when supervising the volunteers entrusted to them. Supervisory tasks are determined by each park or program.

For more details on the role of a Volunteer Supervisors, visit Chapter 3: Program Administration > Roles & Responsibilities > Volunteer Supervisors


As defined in 29 CFR 553.101, a volunteer is “An individual who performs service under a current, signed individual or group volunteer service agreement without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered is considered to be a volunteer, provided such service lies within the scope of statutes authorizing the bureau’s or office’s use of volunteers.” Volunteers are members of the public and are not considered employees except in the cases of liability and tort claims (workers’ compensation).

While volunteers are not NPS employees, the same workplace policies apply such as facility access, anti-harassment, ethics, standards of performance, and safety. Volunteers may also be referred to as “VIPs.”

You can find additional resources and example documents below.
Volunteer Service Agreement

This document governs the relationship between the NPS and the volunteer. It includes the description, terms, and conditions of the service to be provided (see Volunteer Service Agreement). This may also be referred to as a “service agreement.”(#1) Volunteer enrollment form (e.g., OF-301, OF-301a, OF-301b); (#2) Volunteer Position Description.

More information can be found at: InsideNPS > Volunteers-In-Parks > Volunteer Management Theory > Recruitment

Coming Soon:
  • Example Volunteer Handbooks
  • Example Volunteer Supervisor Handbook
  • Example Position Descriptions
  • Ideas for volunteer recognition

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