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…
- Is the proposed service project representative of the goals, practices and teachings of the Texas Master Naturalist Program?
- How does the project address a pressing naturalist, natural resource management, chapter and/or partner need for meaningful service or resources?
- 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.?
- Is the project within the Chapter’s service area and ecological training?
- How does the project allow the chapter to focus and/or create visibility, identity and/or recruitment for the chapter?
- How can the project’s impact on the community and our natural resources be measured?
This Chapter Management and Operating Protocols document has had the following examples for guidance. Be sure to review the latest version of that CMOP here. Minor updates occur every few years for new clarity.
|Being “on call” as a wildlife rescuer for a non-partner organization
(Why: no actual service time)
|Transporting injured, native wildlife to licensed wildlife rehabilitation service||Providing outreach on the prevention of unnecessary wildlife captures or ‘rescues’ (e.g. knowledge to answer questions on “abandoned” wildlife)
|Planting exotic plants or a vegetable garden
(Why: this activity is not within our mission)
|Planting native plants or a Wildscape at a local school||Leading 5th graders and school staff in implementing a native plant garden or Wildscape at a local school
|Monarch monitoring in Colorado
(Why: opportunity is not within Texas)
|Monarch monitoring in Texas||Monarch monitoring within your local Chapter’s area|
|Cleaning the elephant cage at a zoo
(Why: not a native species and does not fall within our mission)
|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
(Why: is a private business)
|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.|
|Identifying flora and fauna on your property and uploading it to citizen science website
(Why: Private benefit)
|Uploading imperiled species observations into iNaturalist on public land with permissions set to “public.”||Organizing a public or private land “bio-blitz” for citizen scientists and experts to learn from each other and upload data to eBird and iNaturalist
|Conducting wildlife management activities on your own land
(Why: private benefit—conducting activities on personal property is not volunteer service)
|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
(Why: the individual is employed and receiving pay to conduct this work already/not volunteer service for this individual)
|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 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
(Why: the individual is employed and receiving pay to conduct this work already/not volunteer service for this individual)
|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 a ‘for profit’ or ‘mission’ contrary to that of the TMN Program.
Time spent fundraising for non-TMN organizations.
(Why: not representing the TMN Program)
|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.
Time spent representing your local TMN Chapter’s interest to a Board/organization which has developed a designated “Master Naturalist Representative” spot on their leadership team. (Such as liaison positions)
|Serving on a TMN Board or as a Committee Member at any level within the TMN program.
Training other organizations how to conduct natural resource management activities. Providing natural resource technical guidance expert advice on/to a municipal advisory committee or land trust council.
|Watching nature documentaries, the unplanned altering of species habitat, advocating for bike and hike access trails in sensitive nature areas
(Why: not serving TMN Mission)
|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.|
|Manning a “store” or native plant sale that raises funds for non-TMN organization.
(Why: not part of the TMN mission)
|Answering phones/emails and doing basic office work for your local County Natural Resources Agent
|Serving as an information docent by giving programs, leading tours, and/or organizing outreach events on native wildlife and habitats|
|Preparing food items for social activities of the Chapter
(Why: Preparation of food for an activity that is purely social does not meet the mission of the TMN)
|Planning and organizing logistics for a Chapter volunteer recognition event.
Serving on the hospitality committee.
Coordinating the creation of a new Chapter Volunteer Project
|Mentoring a TMN Member-in- Training
Teaching at a New Class training event
Serving on a New Class committee
Project Activity Category descriptions from an earlier CMOP:
|Direct Outreach (Training & Educating)||DO||Leading, organizing, developing, delivering 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
· Delivering Workshops
· Developing & delivering training Presentations
· Conducting/Leading Webinars
· Delivering/an instructor for Chapter MN Members in Training/interns class
· AT you prepare and present as a TMN Member to other TMN Members
· Interpretive hikes
|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
|Indirect Outreach (Public Outreach)||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.||· Being a docent for a nature center (excludes selling items)
· Writing articles, brochures or newsletters
· Answering a Wildlife Hotline (not on call)
|Technical Guidance||TG||Providing free, detailed natural resource management advice or assistance for any natural resource related program or related business. For example: providing expertise in land management guidance, in consultation and/or written form, to Chapters, partners, land owners and/or land managers.||· Site visits for and writing ecosystem management plans
· Land Management Assistance Program (LMAP)
· Serving on a City/Community/Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Committee
· Advising other organizations on natural resource management (outside of serving as a board or committee Member of an organization)
|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.||· Removing foreign debris that improves the health of a public natural area or resource
· Invasive species removal
· Plant and/or /endangered Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) species rescue (not rehab)
o E.g.: Turtle Patrol
· Restoring or improving natural habitat
· Wildlife houses, towers, chimneys
· 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 native species gardens (NOT vegetable gardens)
· Wildlife viewing blinds
· Wildscapes/native plant gardens
· Cleanup activities in habitat
(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
· Stream Watch/Stream Team/ Water Quality Monitoring
· Nestbox monitoring
· Citizen Science
|Chapter & Program Support, Business and Administration||CB||Activities related to managing and running a Texas Master Naturalist Chapter and its committees.||· TMN Chapter Board of Director or committee duties—including New Class Director
· TMN Chapter Newsletter, website or social media management
· Management of TMN Chapter records and reporting
· Representing TMN Chapter at multi-Chapter events
· Other TMN Chapter administration
· Assistance to TMN State Program and State Program Office
|Other||OT||Any activity approved by a Chapter 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.
|· Wildlife rehabilitation (not SGCN animal rescue)