Project Approval Process

How to Start a New Project and get it Approved.

Getting a Volunteer Service Project Approved requires a form to be completed and submitted to the Volunteer Services Committee chairperson for review and approval by the Committee.  That form is available here.  Online submission of “Opportunities” via the new VMS system may be supported in the future and if so will be described here (TBD). Meanwhile, use the form. To assist members and the Volunteer Services Committee in doing this, the following information and guidance is presented.

The State TMN Chapter Management and Operating Protocols document, available here, contains the following statements in the Article VI “Volunteer Service Requirements”:

Volunteer service project opportunities can be presented by various entities ranging from the state program sponsors, the Chapter, local Chapter partners, an individual volunteer, nature centers, schools, city, county, state and federal agencies. Often Chapters institute a “class project” where the current training class of the Chapter finds/develops and mutually agrees to volunteer for the project as a group and receive their required volunteer service hours at the same time.

Volunteer projects may be a series of short experiences or they may involve the long-term efforts of a volunteer team. The opportunity to do meaningful and interesting work is the reward of the Texas Master Naturalist volunteer. There are few constraints for Texas Master Naturalist volunteer projects whether Chapter initiated or individually initiated, except that volunteer service must meet the TMN Program Mission by being dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their local communities for the State of Texas and approved by the Chapter.

All volunteer service projects must be pre-approved, ideally, through a local committee process, as this can often be an arduous job that should not be left to just one person. [our chapter’s Volunteer and Advanced Training Committee does this using guidelines set by the State TMN program.]  This advanced approval of volunteer service projects and opportunities is important in order to:

  • Ensure that volunteers are covered by the program insurance available
  • Provide a list of service projects for volunteers of the chapter
  • Ensure the goals of the organization and the partners are met

The following are points for the Chapter’s Volunteer Service Coordinator and/or Volunteer Service Committee to consider…

  1. Is the proposed service project representative of the goals, practices and teachings of the Texas Master Naturalist Program?
  2. How does the project address a pressing naturalist, natural resource management, chapter and/or partner need for meaningful service or resources?
  3. What is the scope of the project in terms of when it would need to be conducted, where, estimated time needed to complete or maintain per month, how many volunteers would be needed, etc.?
  4. Is the project within the Chapter’s service area and ecological training?
  5. How does the project allow the chapter to focus and/or create visibility, identity and/or recruitment for the chapter?
  6. How can the project’s impact on the community and our natural resources be measured?

This Chapter Management and Operating Protocols document also has the following examples for guidance.

Bad/Unacceptable Better Best
Being “on call” as a wildlife rescuer for a non-partner organization Performing licensed wildlife transport service Performing licensed wildlife rescue service in cooperation with a partnering rehabilitation and public education non-profit organization
Planting exotic plants or a vegetable garden Planting native plants or a Wildscape at a local school Leading 5 th graders and staff in implementing a native plant garden or Wildscape at a local school
Monarch monitoring in Colorado Monarch monitoring in Texas Monarch monitoring within your local Chapter’s area
Cleaning the elephant cage at a zoo Caring for the Prairie Chicken area at a local zoo that is in partnership with the local Chapter Leading interpretive programs about Prairie Chickens at a local zoo that is in partnership with the local Chapter
Maintenance at a private native plant nursery Maintenance of a demonstration garden at a park/nature center or being part of a native plant propagation team for the city’s botanical garden Holding a workshop on how to install and maintain a Wildscape or other similar type of native habitat.
Conducting wildlife management activities on your own land Conducting wildlife management practices/activities on public land Teaching/assisting landowners to develop their own wildlife management plans that the landowner would carry out
A teacher receiving service credit for natural resource education activities he/she conducts in their classroom A teacher receiving service credit for natural resource education activities he/she conducts as an unpaid after school Environmental Club leader A teacher /volunteer who organizes and conducts a natural resource education workshop for other Master Naturalists or the general public.
Stream clean-up by a volunteer who is employed by and works for a local watershed protection program Stream clean-up by volunteers who do not work for a local watershed protection program Texas Master Naturalist Volunteers conducting stream or watershed restoration practices. Or Master Naturalist volunteers coordinating a stream clean-up for the local community to participate in.
Receiving service credit for time spent as a Board member or Committee member for an organization whose mission is NOT involved with natural resources or the environment, Receiving service credit for time spent serving as a Board or Committee member for a non-profit organization devoted to education, conservation and management of natural resources or the environment. Receiving service credit for the time spent serving as a Board or Committee member at any level within the TMN program.
Conducting endangered species surveys; developing nature trails or habitat brush piles at a local park/nature center which is in a partnership with your local Chapter. Maintaining a nature classroom/training area for that same partner who also allows the Chapter to keep an office and/or hold Chapter meetings in this same space.

Another useful table in the document is the Project Activity Categories

Service Activity Code Description Examples
Training & Educating Others (Direct) TR Leading, organizing, instructing or staffing an educational activity where participants have a planned learning objective and generally stay for the full event (e.g., planned start and end times with a single agenda). Classroom instruction
Workshops
Presentations
Conducting/Leading Webinars
Chapter MN trainees/interns class
AT you prepare and present as a TMN member
Advanced Training AT Advanced Training you attend as a participant AT sessions at TMN Statewide Annual Meeting
Rainwater Harvesting Steward Program Training
Project WILD Instructor/Facilitator Training
Public Outreach (Indirect) PO Leading, organizing, or staffing an educational activity where participants come and go and are able to inquire on a broad set of topics. <or> Writing an educational article or brochure. Manning booth or visitor center
Writing articles or brochures/ newsletters
Wildlife Hotline
Technical Guidance TG Any work that provides natural resource or program related business, land management, and other expertise consultation and/or written management recommendations to cooperators, Chapters, partners, land owners and/or land managers. Site visits for and writing ecosystem management plans
Land Management Assistance Program (LMAP)
City/Community/Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Committee
Natural Resource Management
(including Natural Resource Stewardship and Conservation)
RM Activities that improve the health of a public natural area or resource. Natural resource management, restoration rescue and rehabilitation. Invasive species or trash removal
Plant and/or /endangered species rescue (not rehab)
E.g.: Turtle Patrol
Restoring or improving natural habitat
Wildlife houses, towers, chimneys
Developing an eco-system plan
Tree planting
Nature/Public Access NPA Field-based activities that improve and manage the public’s access to natural areas or resources. Creating and/or maintaining nature trails, Wildscapes and/or interpretive areas Developing new or maintaining and/or improving existing:
Hiking trails
Interpretive gardens
Wildlife viewing blinds
Wildscapes/native plant gardens
Interpretive hikes
Field Research
(Including Surveys and Citizen Science)
FR Planning, leading or participating in data collection and/or analysis of natural resources where the results are intended to further scientific understanding. Field surveys
Banding and tagging
Species watch
Texas Nature Trackers Programs
CoCoRaHs
Stream Watch/Stream Team/ Water Quality Monitoring
Chapter & Program Support, Business and Administration CB Activities related to managing and running a Texas Master Naturalist Chapter and its committees. Board of Director or committee duties
Chapter Newsletter or website management
Management of Chapter records
Hours reporting
Chapter reporting
Representing Chapter at multi-Chapter events
Other Chapter administration
Assistance to State Program and State Program Office
Other OT Any activity approved by a Chapter that is not defined above.
In general a Chapter should only have a small percentage of hours in this activity (< 5%).   When this activity code is used, a Chapter should investigate the reason.
Time spent serving as a Board or committee member for a natural resource/environmental organization in partnership with the local Chapter
Time spent supporting partnering organization activities, i.e., NPSOT, Friends organizations

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