Volunteers & Interns

Mobilizing community resources and expanding capacity through volunteers and interns enhances an organization€™s general profile, potentially attracting more volunteers, program participants, and donations.

Many public gardens rely on volunteer support in every area of operations and volunteers often fill key roles in running organizations and handling common tasks. Using volunteers allows your organization to increase services, take advantage of broader skill sets and increase capacity.

Interns fill a similar niche as volunteers and it is often easy to find student interns who are eager to use their GIS skills to gain valuable work experience. Internships give students networking opportunities, enables them to apply classroom knowledge, and gives them confidence in a field of study. The page will provide you with resources to help recruit and train volunteers and interns to work with your organization'€™s GIS and serve as a general guide to creating a successful program to increase your garden’s capacity and have up-to-date useful maps of your collection.


When recruiting, provide a clear description of the position and the kind of person you are looking to add to the team. We have created an example volunteer description and an intern position description as starting points for your program that can be downloaded below.

Advertise for the position in your garden'€™s newsletter, email lists, listservs, local newspapers, at local community colleges and universities and on your website.

If you have direct access to a university with GIS courses contact professors and advertise in those courses. If you don'€™t have direct access to a university, contact one in your area that has a GIS program. Remember to check community colleges. Many programs have internship requirements. Once you have established a relationship with a program, you can advertise your internship on a regular basis.

We have created a mock-up flyerand amini version of the flyer that that can be downloaded below and used as an example or altered in order to recruit help at your garden. After you get a potential pool of applicants, interview each person to determine if they are a good fit. GIS candidates should enjoy detail-oriented work and have an interest in museums and conservation issues; research skills are valuable. Careful attention to accuracy is more important than speed in nearly all GIS operations. Much GIS work area is quiet, independent and well suited to a well-organized person.  Curiosity and an interest in problem solving are helpful. GIS people must be comfortable with computers and previous exposure to GIS is preferable.

Volunteer Position Description | Intern Position Description | Large Flyer | Small Flyer

Suggested Curricula

Week One: Introduction to Public Gardens

  • Show your new team a presentation that gives a general overview of public gardens through history and their role in science. You should include information specific to your garden'€™s history, policies, and mission statement. A sample presentation can be downloaded below.

Week Two: Nomenclature

  • Show your ream a presentation that outlines the principles and procedures related to the naming of plants. This is particularly helpful to people who might have technical expertise but are lacking botanical knowledge. A sample presentation can be downloaded below.

Week Three: Introduction of Maps

  • Introduce your team to the maps at your institution to explain symbols, labels, etc., and have people go into the garden and field check. Have each person locate every plant on the map you give them.

Week Four: Online Courses and Books

Maintaining Your Program

First, make sure to be organized! It is very important to make projects clear, simple and attainable in order to not overwhelm people. Examples of simple projects include updating plant center attributes, placing labels and annotation, or mapping small areas of the garden.

In order to retain volunteers it is important to create a sense of community and togetherness. Celebrate even the smallest successes and make sure to thank them on a regular basis. Handwritten notes, small gifts, or baked goods can all be used to show your appreciation. Yearly or frequent field trips to gardens, nurseries, or museums in your area are a great way to bond the group and see the work of other museums and professionals in the industry. Hosted luncheons and potlucks are also great ways to connect the people in your group.