The Virginia Master Naturalist (VMN) program is a corps of 29 local chapters with more than 1,800 trained volunteers engaged in natural resource education, citizen science, and stewardship.
Essentially all our program activities at the local level are conducted by volunteers, from recruiting new participants and providing training to organizing service projects and tracking volunteer hours. The volunteer chapter leaders in each region of the state are the linchpins of the VMN program and are critical to the success achievement of our conservation mission.
Having these 300+ volunteer leaders run all local aspects of a large, statewide program such as ours is challenging. As our chapters grow and evolve, we find there is an increasing need to train and support those local leaders so that we have a strong supply of volunteers who are confident and prepared to take on the leadership roles. High-quality local leaders increase the overall impact of our chapters, so that they can recruit and retain more volunteers, accomplish more impactful service projects, and ultimately make more significant contributions to natural resource conservation in the Commonwealth.
The purpose of our project is to provide training and resources to increase the capacity of our local volunteer leaders. We will hold four regional Leadership Days at which we will provide training on effective management of VMN chapters, strategies for decision-making and conflict resolution, and plans for creating and organizing impactful service projects. In addition, we will create online resources (e.g., webinars, manuals, templates) that our volunteer leaders, especially those new to their roles, will use.
In the short term, our project will increase volunteers’ willingness to take on and stay in leadership roles, and it will increase their efficacy in those roles. In the long term, our project will result in more robust Virginia Master Naturalist chapters that are better at recruiting, retaining, and managing volunteers and partnerships so that they have more positive impacts on Virginia’s woods, wildlife, and waters.