- Defining the Program
- Program Objectives
- Responsibilities of Texas AgriLife Extension Service
- Master Gardener Associations
- Texas Master Gardener Title Defined
- Recertification of Master Gardeners
- Volunteer Service Hours Defined
- Master Gardener Leave of Absence
- When to Use the Texas Master Gardener Title
- Dismissal of a Master Gardener Volunteer
- Texas Master Gardener Handbook
- Value of Texas Master Gardener Training
- Pesticide Recommendations by Master Gardeners
- Starting a County Master Gardener Program
- Managing a County Master Gardening Program
- Background Checks/Screening of Master Gardener Volunteers
- Screening Applicants
- Training Volunteers
- Employing Volunteers
- Paying Volunteers
- Granting Texas Master Gardener Emeritus(a) Status
- Program Evaluation and Reporting
- Suggested Time Frame for Starting a Master Gardener Program
- Sample Application Form
- Sample Position Descriptions
- Explaining Texas AgriLife Extension Service
- Understanding, Motivating and Managing Volunteers
- Adult Education
The Texas Master Gardener Program creates a corps of volunteers with extraordinary talents and abilities. It is imperative that this resource for meeting Extension’s goals be understood and managed properly. In making the decision to establish a Master Gardener Program, not only must the time and effort necessary to begin and maintain the program be considered but, more importantly, how the volunteer service from the program will be utilized. Master Gardeners form a network of highly qualified and concerned people who are capable of implementing a wide range of activities useful to the community.
To consider these volunteers cheap labor, useful in handling the less demanding parts of Extension’s work overload, is inappropriate. Master Gardeners are trained to help with the work of the Extension office, yet they are not the usual employees. They are loaded with potential that must be used in the best way possible. When a Master Gardener is recruited, Extension obtains horticultural skills in addition to any number of other abilities, including: teaching, public speaking, writing, publishing, managing, designing, analyzing, human relations, mass communication, and computer software and web design. This guide offers information and suggestions for beginning and managing a Master Gardener program successfully.
Defining the Program
The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer development program offered by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and is designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and improve the quality of life through horticultural projects. Program objectives are implemented through the training and “employing” local volunteers, known as Master Gardeners. They aid Extension by conducting school garden projects; answering telephone requests for horticultural information; establishing and maintaining demonstration gardens; working with special audiences in the community; and designing and implementing community improvement projects, as well as coordinating Master Gardener projects.
The objectives of the Master Gardener Programs include:
- to expand the capabilities of Texas AgriLife Extension Service to disseminate horticultural information to individuals and groups in the community
- to develop and enhance community projects related to horticulture, including: horticultural therapy projects, community gardens, and demonstration gardens
- to develop a Master Gardener network to assist in administration of the local Master Gardener Program
- to enhance 4-H programs through the establishment of 4-H horticultural clubs and Junior Master Gardener groups
Responsibilities of Texas AgriLife Extension Service
The Master Gardener program is administered by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Responsibilities of Extension include:
- recruiting and selecting participants in the Master Gardener Program
- coordinating, conducting and funding training for Master Gardener volunteers
- certifying and recertifying Master Gardeners using State Master Gardener Guidelines
- identifying, developing and determining volunteer activities and projects for Master Gardeners which support Extension’s educational mission
- approving, recording and reporting volunteer service of the Master Gardeners
- recognizing Master Gardeners for volunteer service and leadership
- facilitating communications between Extension personnel and Master Gardeners
These responsibilities are often shared with individual Master Gardeners and/or the leadership of a Master Gardener Association; however, the ultimate accountability for these actions lie with the local County Extension Agent or staff member who serves as Master Gardener Coordinator.
The Master Gardener Coordinator may in fact recruit Master Gardeners to serve as unpaid staff to assist in coordinating projects and activities. For example, Master Gardeners often serve as coordinators for speakers bureaus, school garden programs, demonstration and beautification gardens, and more. This staff of volunteers meet regularly with the Master Gardener Coordinator to oversee the County Master Gardener Program.
Master Gardener Associations
The idea of a Master Gardener Association may confuse some Master Gardeners. Some feel that since they are working for Extension, it is Extension’s role to provide the association. Others feel that an association would separate them from Extension. County Master Gardener Programs can be managed without an association, yet the strong desire exists among Master Gardeners to meet on a regular basis for purposes of education, fellowship and service. Master Gardeners are the ideal group to coordinate these regular meetings and an “association” is often a natural organizational result of these meetings.
Another primary reason for a Master Gardener Association is financial independence. A Master Gardener Program does not need a large amount to be effective. Generally, Extension is able to fund basic program needs, such as office space, telephone and copying. However, Extension often does not have the available funds needed for specific Master Gardener activities and support. In addition, Extension has specific policies regarding Extension agents soliciting and handling monies from community organizations, foundations or corporations.
Associations have more freedom to raise money needed through several means. Some examples might include: conducting plant sales, donating unsolicited money received from speaking engagements; or soliciting grant funds or sponsorships for projects. Funds generated or received by Master Gardener Associations provide support for educational projects, computer and office equipment for Master Gardeners and/or agents, horticultural libraries and resources, college scholarships, and educational and recreational activities for the Master Gardeners.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service will recognize and register Master Gardener Associations, which adhere to the following guidelines:
- the association consists of certified volunteers (Master Gardeners) who serve as representatives of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, thus affiliating closely with the local county Extension office
- a staff member of the local county Extension office serves as Advisor to the Association leadership
Appendix B contains further details about types of Master Gardener Associations and a sample of by-laws for Master Gardener Associations.
Texas Master Gardener Title Defined
The title, Texas Master Gardener, is to be used only by individuals trained in the Texas Master Gardener program to assist Texas AgriLife Extension Service. A trainee must receive a minimum of 50 hours of instruction, pass an examination administered by Extension and volunteer a minimum of 50 hours of service to earn the title of “Texas Master Gardener.” Once a trainee completes the instruction and examination phase, the individual gains the title of “Master Gardener Intern.” From that point, the Intern has a maximum of one year to complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service. Master Gardener trainees, Interns and Master Gardeners are encouraged to participate in local Master Gardener associations/groups and to attend State/Regional Master Gardener Conferences.
It is important to note that the State training and volunteer requirements are minimums. County Extension Agents have the authority to increase these requirements. Documentation requirements and validation of training and volunteer service hours are under the purview of the County Extension Agent or individual designated by the agent. Modifying Master Gardener Association by-laws regarding certification (or recertification) does not supercede State or County Master Gardener Program Guidelines.
Recertification of Master Gardeners
In order to retain the Texas Master Gardener title, individuals are required each year to participate in a minimum of 6 hours of recertification training and provide an additional 12 hours of volunteer service through the local Extension office. Again documentation requirements and validation of training and volunteer service hours for recertification are under the purview of the County Extension Agent or individual designated by the agent.
The title of Texas Master Gardener is valid only when the volunteer is participating in a Master Gardener program being conducted by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. When an individual ceases active participation in the Master Gardener program and/or does not meet recertification requirements, the individual’s certification as a Texas Master Gardener becomes void. The County Extension Agents, serving as Master Gardener Coordinators, are charged to maintain this guideline.
Volunteer Service Hours Defined
County Extension Agents/Master Gardener Coordinators employed by Texas AgriLife Extension Service make the final determination on what volunteer service hours are accepted to meet requirements for Master Gardener certification and recertification.
To assist in this determination, the following guidelines are provided. Volunteer service hours should be performed during activities that are:
- Educational in nature, as opposed to service or maintenance-type work.
- Supportive of Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s mission, objectives, and issues.
- Identified as sponsored (or co-sponsored) by Texas AgriLife Extension Service
- Master Gardeners should wear Master Gardener name badges and/or shirts/apparel.
- Collaborations with other organizations are important, but Extension does not supply other organizations with volunteers to do their work.
- A Master Gardener’s volunteer hours may be claimed for credited with the Master Gardener program or another organization, but not both.
- Approved in advance for volunteer hours by the County Extension Agent/Master Gardener Coordinator.
Master Gardener Leave of Absence
On occasion, a Master Gardener Intern or Texas Master Gardener is unable to fulfill the requirements to obtain or maintain certification due to illness, illness in the family, or other personal situation. In cases such as these, a “Leave of Absence” can be granted by the County Master Gardener Coordinator. This decision is generally made with input from the individual and local Master Gardener leadership. The Leave of Absence would be for a specified time period and may have specific training and/or service requirements for the individual to regain full status as a Master Gardener Intern or Texas Master Gardener.
When to Use the Texas Master Gardener Title
Graduates of the Texas Master Gardener Program should not display credentials or give the appearance of being a Texas Master Gardener at a place of business unless that location is designated as a Master Gardener educational activity location by the local Extension office. Texas Master Gardeners must not use the title, Texas Master Gardener, in any form of advertisement. Implying Texas AgriLife Extension Service endorsement of any product or place of business is improper. The Texas Master Gardener program is a public service program operated by Texas AgriLife Extension Service to provide unbiased information, and the Texas Master Gardener title is to be used only when doing unpaid volunteer work in this program. When Texas Master Gardeners speak before groups on horticultural subjects it is permissible for them to accept unsolicited reimbursements or gifts.
Dismissal of a Master Gardener Volunteer
A volunteer may be reassigned or dismissed at the sole discretion of Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Disregard for the policies and guidelines established by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the County Master Gardener program are grounds for dismissal of a Master Gardener Volunteer. Other examples of conduct which could lead to disciplinary action include, but are not limited to: illegal activity; behavior which compromises the health and safety of volunteers, Texas AgriLife Extension Service employees, or clientele; being habitually disruptive to the overall program; unwilling or unable to work amicably with agents and/or volunteer leaders; conduct which is harmful to the Master Gardener program’s reputation; or failure to relinquish/rotate leadership roles. The nature and seriousness of the infraction or violation will determine whether the option of reassignment or dismissal should be considered.
Before any official action is taken, the County Extension Agent and/or immediate Extension supervisor should counsel with a volunteer(s) when reassignment or dismissal is being considered. If dismissal is decided by Extension, communication with the volunteer(s) will be done in confidentiality.
Texas Master Gardener Handbook
The Texas Master Gardener Handbook will be sold to certified Master Gardeners (including trainees) of Texas AgriLife Extension Service for a set fee (contact the Extension Publications office or State Master Gardener office). This fee includes certificates for Master Gardener certification and recertification, and wallet cards for Master Gardener Interns. Handbooks purchased by non-Master Gardeners are at a higher cost, unless special arrangements are approved through the State Master Gardener office.
Value of Texas Master Gardener Training
Through Master Gardener training, amateur and novice gardeners can advance their gardening expertise with up-to-date horticultural information, as well as gain considerable self-satisfaction. For professional horticulturists, Master Gardener training can provide invaluable education and meaningful experiences which may be included as qualifications for employment and/or maintaining competence. The volunteer aspect of the Master Gardener program allows individuals to dedicate their time and talents to educate, enhance, and beautify their local community utilizing the science and art of horticulture.
Pesticide Recommendations by Master Gardeners
When making recommendations which include the use of pesticides, Texas Master Gardeners must follow the current recommendations found in the various publications available from Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Use of other pesticide recommendations, chemical or “organic,” is not approved. When making pesticide recommendations, if more than one product is listed as satisfactory, each product should be recommended. Cultural problems and soil additives which are not specifically covered by Extension recommendations and publications should be recommended only after consultation with County Extension Agents or Specialists. Questions concerning commercial production of crops and pest management on such crops are to be referred to the local county Extension personnel.
Starting a County Master Gardener Program
An honest needs assessment is the first step in starting a County Master Gardener Program. Does your county need a Master Gardener Program? There are two groups of people immediately involved in a Master Gardener Program: Extension employees and volunteers who will enroll in the program. Although there may be people in your county who would like to have a course in horticulture offered through your office, do you need the volunteer work that would result from the program? Keep in mind that the program is designed to produce competent volunteers to aid you in disseminating horticultural information to the public. It is not designed to be a course available to anyone with no obligations on the part of the recipients.
Consider these questions:
- Is the office swamped with phone requests for horticultural information during the gardening season?
- Could you use volunteer help answering these phone requests?
- Is there a demand on your time to talk to garden clubs and civic groups?
- Could you use help with publicity and information processing as it relates to horticulture?
- Are there community needs for horticultural projects (e.g., 4-H clubs, school gardens, public landscaping, or others) not addressed for lack of trained and willing workers?
- Would people in your area who are interested in gardening be able or willing to pay the required fees for participating in a Master Gardener program?
- Are you able to provide office space and a telephone for volunteers (i.e., accommodate the volunteers in your office space)?
If the answer to most of the questions is yes, then a Master Gardener program may be very useful in your county.
Next, you might write job descriptions for the volunteers (see Appendix D). Be as specific as possible in describing job objectives and responsibilities while keeping in mind the work load in your office. It will also tell you if you have volunteer jobs available.
Be aware that the greatest expenditure of your time and smallest return of competent help may occur in the first year of the program. You will be busy organizing the program, generating the publicity and setting up the training sessions.
Teaching the course can be done entirely by you, with the aid of resource materials from Texas AgriLife Extension Service, or you can invite qualified people from the community, nearby colleges, Extension specialists or a mixture of these people and agents.
From the beginning of the program, trainees must realize they are being trained specifically to represent Extension and to help in disseminating gardening information, not simply to improve their gardening skills. To help impress this point and to get the organization working from the beginning, select a trainee to act as group coordinator. As the program progresses, previous Master Gardeners can help advise and direct the trainees as they start the program. Established programs across the country have seasoned Master Gardeners coming back year after year so that the program becomes more self-managed.
Managing a County Master Gardening Program
Although the greatest concern about starting and continuing a County Master Gardener Program seems to be the training, of equal importance is managing the program. The horticultural training must be of good quality, and because it is, the volunteers value their training and are most often motivated to join the program to obtain the training. But when the purpose of the program is considered, management is of equal importance, for only through management can that training and knowledge be used to meet the needs of the community and Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Some of the most successful County Master Gardener Programs rely heavily on volunteer management and leadership. County Master Gardener Programs often benefit by having an advisory committee to assist in planning and administering volunteer activities.
Self-management is an important goal for the County Master Gardener Program since it meets the needs of both Extension agents and volunteers. The primary goal of the program is to multiply the efforts of Extension personnel, but if the agent’s time is consumed by volunteer management, not much progress has been made. Volunteers benefit from self-management by becoming an integral part of the program instead of merely cheap help. Being a manager can be a very satisfying position for the right volunteer.
The concept of self-management has lead to conflict between Extension and volunteers, particularly Master Gardener Associations. Self-management does not mean separation or independence from Texas AgriLife Extension Service. As described in the previous sections, Extension has clear responsibility for the overall administration for the Master Gardener Program, and all Master Gardeners in managerial/supervisory positions are still responsible to the local County Extension Agent/Master Gardener Coordinator.
For Extension agents not eager to give up the reins, consider the concept that a well-managed program should be able to function well without you. The idea is to accomplish the goals of the organization by using the entire organization, not making one person indispensable, which would only hinder the organization should that person leave. If you decide to make a career change, the Master Gardener program should be able to continue without you until your position is filled.
While a volunteer may coordinate and manage other volunteers, an Extension agent must still manage the overall program so that it meets the needs and mission of Extension and does what it is designed to do. Because volunteers are, in effect, employees who are not paid with money, it is appropriate to think of them as employees. This attitude is beneficial to all involved for it is a role familiar to both the volunteer and paid staff. Appendix F delves deeper into managing volunteers.
Background Checks/Screening of Master Gardener VolunteersThe Texas Master Gardener program provides the following MINIMUM guideline for conducting background checks/screening of volunteers within the program. County Master Gardener programs may, as with other state guidelines, increase program requirements and guidelines.
County Master Gardener programs will conduct background checks on all Master Gardener volunteers, interns, and trainees. Extension’s Youth Protection Standards (YPS) program should be used for conducting background checks. The YPS program does not request or receive a credit reports as part of the background check/screening. YPS only receives criminal background information.
Prior criminal background checks are acceptable by YPS with documented verification from any one of the following sources: school districts, churches, recognized youth groups or associations, law enforcement, Texas Youth Commission, Department of Defense–Child and Youth Services and/or Family Program, concealed handgun license; and/or licensed day care workers.
Background checks/screening should be conducted every three years for each Master Gardener. Tracking when Master Gardeners need additional background checks will be the responsibility of the county Master Gardener program.
Information required to perform the background screening:
- Name (First, Middle and Last)
- Date of birth
- First 5 digits of the Social Security Number
- Signature of the applicant
- Race/ethnicity is optional
The cost of the background check/screening will be borne by the individual volunteer or through funds raised by the local county Master Gardener program or association.
Additional questions about the YPS program should be directed to the State 4-H/YPS office or the State Master Gardener office.
Screening processes are encouraged and are useful, and people should not be admitted to the program who are unsuitable. Still, each group of trainees will be different. One group may include many extroverts who are aggressive in running public programs; the next may be filled with quieter types who are better at planning, writing and other behind-the-scenes work. Fortunately, nearly all Master Gardener programs experience a return of veteran volunteers who come back year after year. These people give continuity and stability to the organization that can be reassuring to new trainees. Some agents feel uncomfortable with the screening process since they feel that no one should be turned away from Extension programs. However, these people will become employees who will in turn serve clients who should not be turned away. By choosing the best applicants, you are ensuring the best service for consumers.
Many Master Gardener programs have too many applicants because of the popularity of the program and are compelled to screen applicants. There are a variety of ways to handle screening. Person-to-person interviews are good and in some programs former Master Gardeners are involved with this process. Who could be better at knowing what kind of person makes a good volunteer than a good volunteer? Application forms with appropriate questions are another method used in some units. Design the questions so that the applicant reveals his or her personality, interests and abilities instead of only giving the answers that they think are wanted. One method is to reject all applicants who do not mention the desire to volunteer in their answer to a question regarding why they want to become a Master Gardener.
Examples of applications and interview materials are included in Appendix C.
A California study revealed that the horticultural subject matter in the Master Gardener training is one of the primary reasons volunteers come into the program. Master Gardener training has a history of being comprehensive and of high quality. Since it is impossible to commit Extension specialists to all individual training programs, agents are encouraged to use local professionals when organizing training programs. Area colleges as well as retired or non-working experts in horticulture are often a source of trainers for some of the subject matter. It is however critical that any individual used to train Master Gardeners be directed and capable of delivering research-based information in an unbiased manner.
Due to the size of Texas and limited resources of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, it is helpful to conduct multi-county Master Gardener trainings so that two or three groups of Master Gardeners can be trained simultaneously.
The following subjects are usually covered while meeting the minimum of 50 hours of training:
Master Gardener Training Outline
- General Concepts
Plant growth and development
Soils and fertilizers
Diagnosing and managing plant health
Concepts of insect management
Concepts of disease management
- Specific areas of horticulture
Fruits and nut production
Landscape plant materials
Landscape design and maintenance
Turfgrasses and care
- The Master Gardener Program
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
The Master Gardener Program
Being a volunteer and working with people
The topics within each section are not arranged in any particular order. It is important, however, to conduct classes in the first section before beginning the second section as instructors of specific commodity classes assume trainees already know the basic principles. Other courses may be added when deemed appropriate by agents in any locality.
Classes can be taught as lectures, workshops, tours or a combination of these techniques. Courses are usually offered once or twice each week, during the day.
The Texas Master Gardener Handbook serves as the text for Master Gardener training. It consists of more than 450 pages illustrated with hundreds of drawings in a loose-leaf binder format. Every Extension office should have a handbook for your review.
Appendix G contains information regarding educating adults that may be helpful in developing Master Gardener training.
Volunteers are unpaid employees. They must be hired (accepted into the program), trained (horticultural information as well as orientation), welcomed into the work place (give them a place to work and explain office procedures), put to work (given a job description and set out to do the job) and “paid” (the job is the payment and must be appropriate).
It is important not to neglect the working conditions of the volunteers. These include not only desk space, available phone, clerical and computer equipment and a coat rack but also policy and administration, supervision and relationships with paid staff. Explain policies and administration of Texas AgriLife Extension Service to the volunteers before they begin working. Working conditions are often overlooked when dealing with volunteers. The old attitude of “they’re worth what we pay them” tends to reign in some offices and volunteers must work wherever they can find space. Volunteers are valuable employees, doubly valuable since they save the office a great deal of money, and as valuable employees, they deserve proper work space.
Most Master Gardener programs make it a point to recognize volunteers for their contribution with an awards event. Certificates of completion are presented. Special certificates for volunteers giving time beyond the required amount are presented as well. Some programs even recognize the contributions of program sponsors. Name tags bearing the Texas Master Gardener logo may also be presented to Master Gardeners so that they will feel more a part of an organization. Usually representatives from local government are invited to participate in the festivities and willingly show their appreciation for the volunteers’ efforts.
While many Master Gardeners truly appreciate certificates, pins and luncheons, others appreciate different forms of recognition. Sometimes the best recognition they can receive is more responsible and meaningful work or what amounts to a promotion. Understanding the personal motivation of volunteers can lead to this kind of appropriate reward.
Granting Texas Master Gardener Emeritus(a) Status
Purpose. The purpose of these guidelines is to establish eligibility criteria for Texas Master Gardener Emeritus/a status and to define the rights and privileges associated with such status.
Definition. Emeritus is an adjective defined as retired but retaining an honorary title: a professor emeritus. The terms, emeritus and emerita, are singular, masculine form and feminine form, respectively.
“Texas Master Gardener Emeritus(a)” is an honorary title awarded to a retired Master Gardener volunteer for distinguished service to Texas AgriLife Extension Service. County Master Gardener Programs may bestow the title on any Master Gardener who is permanently retiring as an active Master Gardener and who has served Texas AgriLife Extension Service with distinction.
A retired Master Gardener is defined as an individual who chooses not retain certification through the recertifation established by State and County guidelines.
The decision to bestow this exclusive title is serious and should be made by consensus of the County Extension Agents, serving as County Master Gardener Coordinators, and the County Master Gardener leadership. It is recommended that the Master Gardener Coordinator would establish an ad hoc committee consisting of the Coordinator and Master Gardeners to discuss local guidelines for the emeritus/a status and address any nomination received.
The bestowal of emeritus(a) status is administered and granted by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. This status is a distinctive honor, not a right.
The emeritus/a status is not to be confused with the title of “Honorary Texas Master Gardener,” which may be granted to anyone, such as philanthropists/patrons, politicians, and celebrities.
Eligibility. Nominations for emeritus(a) status are limited to certified Texas Master Gardeners, preferably with five or more years of service to Texas AgriLife Extension Service as a Master Gardener. Recognizing that some Master Gardeners may make a significant contribution to Texas AgriLife Extension Service in a shorter time period prior to retirement, discretion regarding time of service is given to the County Master Gardener Coordinator and ad-hoc committee.
A Texas Master Gardener may be nominated for emeritus(a) status while still an active volunteer, but the status will not be conferred until the individual ceases service as a Master Gardener. The awarding of emeritus(a) status may be made once yearly, in December, and conferred at an appropriate county event.
Emeritus(a) status may be bestowed posthumously.
Nomination. Each nomination letter for Texas Master Gardener emeritus(a) status shall be addressed to the local County Master Gardener Coordinator/County Extension Agent. Nominations can be made by County Extension Agents and Texas Master Gardeners. Nomination letters should provide a succinct recommendation and highlight evidence of the nominee’s meritorious service to Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Master Gardener program.
Upon receipt of a nomination, the local County Master Gardener Coordinator and ad-hoc committee may seek additional evidence, input and recommendations from fellow Extension faculty members and Master Gardeners.
Upon final decision on emeritus(a) status, the County Master Gardener Coordinator shall notify the nominated Master Gardener in writing of the final decision. The Texas Master Gardener Coordinator should also be sent a copy of the notification letter.
Recognition and Privileges. A Texas Master Gardener emeritus(a) is considered an important and integral part of the Master Gardener community. emeritus(a) Master Gardeners shall be recognized by:
- Presentation of a certificate or plaque indicating emeritus(a) status at an appropriate event/ceremony;
- Other recognition items may include an ID card, name badge or gifts recognizing status as an emeritus(a) Master Gardener as deemed appropriate by the Master Gardener Coordinator and ad-hoc committee;
- Listing of name, county, and title in a permanent Texas Master Gardener emeritus(a) roster located at the State office of the Texas Master Gardener program, Texas A&M University.
Emeritus(a) Master Gardeners shall be accorded the following privileges:
- Freedom from recertification requirements to maintain Texas Master Gardener certification;
- Continued access to Extension facilities and educational resources;
- Invitation to maintain membership in the local county and state Master Gardener association (note: annual dues would be paid by the Master Gardener emeritus(a) unless waived by the association governing board);
- Invitation to participate in Master Gardener educational and social events;
- Right to serve as an invited advisor to County Master Gardener programs;
- Other rights and privileges as approved by the local County Master Gardener Coordinator and ad hoc committee.
Program Evaluation and Reporting
Evaluation and reporting is the chief tool of management, and the manager who seeks to manage and direct the organization to better and more significant goals needs to use this tool. Many volunteer organizations overlook this because it takes time and planning. When plans are made and implemented through setting of concrete goals, job assignments and hours of volunteer work, it only makes sense to evaluate and find out if anything happened and if it did, was it planned.
By planning the evaluation procedure at the beginning when goals are set, data can be gathered while the program is in action. If the goal is to put out $100,000 worth of horticultural information to the public, then the volunteers need an efficient and relatively easy system to gather data while they are giving out the information. If volunteers are included in the planning and goal setting, the evaluation will make sense and they will not feel they are being asked to do meaningless and boring paperwork. Goals are not always attached to large numbers. Perhaps your Master Gardeners would like to serve a previously neglected segment of the community. For example, the goal might be to provide an opportunity for horticultural therapy to members of a halfway house or to start three, 4-H Junior Master Gardener groups.
Evaluation not only reveals a program’s success, but it furnishes evidence that the program is valuable. In explaining the program to the paid staff, the community or to volunteers, hard figures that reveal the amount of money saved by the citizens, the number of people seeking and receiving service or the special population served, present a convincing case for continuation and support. Future planning can benefit greatly from evaluations of previous programs too. Evaluations should be meaningful and timely. Measure the ways your goals were achieved. Some events need to have rapid reporting back and others should be assessed after a given time (i.e., 6 to 12 months).
The Master Gardener program has proven beneficial to Extension offices again and again, and good management practices have been an important factor. If volunteers are useful employees, it is only logical that they be treated as valuable people by being sensitive not only to them and to their needs but to the quality of work they are asked to perform.
- Paul Hersey, Kenneth H. Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior (Englewood Cliffs: PrenticeHall, Inc., 1972.)
- Shirley H. Taylor, Peggy Wild, “How to Match Volunteer Motivation with Job Demands” Voluntary Action Leadership, Summer 1984.
- Marlene Wilson, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs (Boulder: Volunteer Management Associates, 1976).
- Brenda Hanlon, editor. The Best of VAL (VOLUNTEER, The National Center for Citizen Involvement, 1980).
- Diane Relf, editor. The Virginia Master Gardener Management Guide. (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Cooperative Extension, 1985)
Suggested Time Frame for Starting a Master Gardener Program
- Determine the needs of your office. What are the jobs that volunteers are needed to do? Write job descriptions for these jobs. Exactly how many volunteers are needed and how many hours of work are available? Does your office have enough space and equipment for the volunteers to do these jobs?
- Determine the registration fee. There is a set fee for the Master Gardener handbook, graduation certificate and wallet cards (contact the state Master Gardener office). Additional local fees may be necessary and added to cover costs of meeting facilities, activities, field trips and refreshments.
- Arrange to train cooperatively, if possible, with a nearby county.
- Survey the population to determine interest in the program.
- Schedule training sessions (dates and times).
- Engage instructors for sessions you do not teach.
Six to 8 months before training
- If training will not take place in the Extension office, make arrangements for alternative site.
Prepare application forms and plan publicity. If needed, request slide sets/videos for training sessions.
Three to four months before training
- Make application forms available.
- Announce and explain program through the media. Set deadline for application 6 weeks before program. You can always accept a few latecomers if necessary. If the media serves multiple counties, clearly state where the program is available.
- Confirm/remind instructors of their commitment to the training program. Tell them where to be and when. Find out what must be provided for them to do their jobs (copies of handouts, audio-visual equipment).
- Increase advertising 2 months before training, especially if response has been slow. However, it is better to have a few volunteers working at clearly defined jobs than too many volunteers with little to do.
- Notify applicants of their status in the program as applications arrive.
One month before training
- Order handbooks for training from the Extension Publications Department.
- Notify applicants of training schedule, materials they will need to bring to class and directions to the meeting place.
- Cancel if low turnout; notify the instructors and applicants.
- Most Extension offices find that winter/spring training seems to work best. Just as the volunteers complete training, the spring rush for gardening information occurs providing plenty of jobs and leaving no gap between graduation and work.
County Master Gardener Associations can play a significant role in the operations of the County Master Gardener Program. The following pages offer guidelines for creating a County Master Gardener Association.
Master Gardeners considering an association need to first determine the type of organization they want. The Master Gardeners may want to establish an “organization” committee or task force to help evaluate options and make recommendations. In general, an informal association is loosely structured, with no formal rules, coordinated only by a chairperson. A formal association may operate under bylaws and elect officers to oversee the association.
The next level of formality in associations occurs through a desire to become a not-for-profit corporation. Such corporations require articles of incorporation and bylaws. Formal documents must be filed with the appropriate state offices for incorporation. Several County Master Gardener Associations in Texas are incorporated as a “501(C)(3)” not-for-profit corporation.
The benefits of being a not-for-profit corporation include, tax-exempt status and limitation of liability. The limitation in liability is important when doing projects which expose the group to some accident or risks. Being able to accept tax deductible contributions is another benefit and is important if funds are needed to finance projects. Disadvantages of incorporation are that it is expensive and complicated to create and maintain the corporate structure; the requirements of the law must be strictly observed. Obtaining legal counsel is a first step toward attempting to incorporate and be sure the group understands the responsibility of the act.
The Associations’s goals and purposes should determine the organization. If the need is purely social, there is little reason for formality. If you intend to become community activists, with attendant risks, you probably need the protection of a formal organization so that you can raise money and limit liability.
The best advice is to start small. Be informal first, get to know each other and establish an organizational identity. If and when you choose formality, realize that you will be dealing with government bureaucracy that is not always easy and may require professional guidance.
Below is a sample Bylaws for use by County Master Gardener Associations:
County Master Gardener Association
(in support of Texas AgriLife Extension Service)
Article I. Name
The name of this organization shall be the ___________________ County Master Gardener Association.
Article II. Objective
This organization shall be a non-profit, educational, literary and charitable association to support Texas AgriLife Extension Service. This organization will not be affiliated with any commercial enterprises. Its objectives shall be:
- to increase knowledge of gardening to its members and the general public
- to support and assist Texas AgriLife Extension Service by providing the community with information on good gardening practices through educational projects, including publishing news articles and other mass media, presenting at garden clubs, schools and other community groups, and responding to telephone inquiries
- to assist “Master Gardener Interns” in fulfilling their volunteer commitment
Article III. Membership
Section 1. Members of this organization shall be Texas Master Gardeners, certified by Texas AgriLife Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System.
Section 2. Non-voting associate membership shall be extended to participants of the “Master Gardener Intern” in the _________________ County Master Gardener Program. No dues will be required of associate members.
Section 3. To maintain good standing, each member must have paid the dues for the current year.
Section 4. Dues for the members of this organization shall be $____ per year, payable annually by the third monthly meeting. New memberships during the year are to be pro-rated to January.
Section 5. Associate members will be accepted into full membership upon completion of the Master Gardener Program and payment of their dues.
Section 6. Failure to attend a portion of the regular meetings of the association (i.e., one-half the total number of meetings) may result in loss of membership in the association.
Section 7. Members must maintain their certification through recertification each year to retain membership in the association. Recertification will include a minimum of six additional hours of Extension training and a minimum of 12 additional hours of Extension volunteer work.
Article IV. Meetings
Section 1. Meetings will be held monthly.
Section 2. Special meetings may be called if the need arises at the discretion of the executive committee (see Article IX, Section 1). Such special meetings shall be announced to members by phone or mail at least 3 days before the meeting date.
Article V. Fiscal Year
The fiscal year of this organization shall run from January 1 to December 31 of each year.
Article VI. Officers
Section 1. Officers of this organization shall be:
- Recording Secretary
- Corresponding Secretary
Section 2. Officers shall be nominated by the nominating committee and a slate of candidates shall be presented in October.
Section 3. Officers shall be elected by secret ballot in the regular November meeting, shall be installed at the December meeting and assume their duties upon installation.
Section 4. The President-elect shall serve for 1 year, then succeed to the presidency for 1 year.
Section 5. Officers other than the President and President-elect may be re-elected to the same office for a second term.
Section 6. All nominees for the office must be active members in good standing.
Article VII. Duties of Officers
Section 1. The President shall
- Preside at all meetings of the organization.
- Appoint a parliamentarian and the chairman of each standing committee and any special committees.
- Be an ex-officio member of all committees except the nominating committee.
- Work with the Treasurer on the budget.
- Co-sign checks along with the treasurer.
Section 2. The President-elect shall
- Assist the President
- Attend committee meetings at the President’s request.
- Become the President at the expiration of the current president’s term of office.
Section 3. The Vice President shall
- Take charge of meetings in the absence of the president.
- Be chairman of the bylaws committee.
- Be chairman of the program committee.
- Be responsible for the reserving of the meeting room and ordering the necessary furnishings.
Section 4. The corresponding Secretary shall
- Take care of all necessary correspondence.
- Keep a current list of members’ names and addresses.
- Be a member of the newsletter committee.
Section 5. The recording Secretary shall
- Record the minutes of each meeting
- Read the minutes of the previous meeting.
- Keep a record of attendance at meetings.
- Be a member of the newsletter committee.
Section 6. The Treasurer shall
- Receive all dues and monies for the association.
- Keep an exact account of all dues, other income, bank deposits, disbursements, and other financial matters.
- Pay all bills upon receipt of a written statement and purchase proof with co-signature of the president.
- Make a monthly financial report to the membership.
- Present the financial records for audit semiannually.
- Develop an annual budget to be approved by the Executive Committee (see Article IX, Section 1).
Article VIII. Committees
Section 1. The standing committee chairman shall be appointed by the president and announced at the January meeting.
Section 2. Associate members may serve as members of committees.
Section 3. The standing committees if applicable and duties of each are:
- Educational Enrichment Program
- The Vice President shall serve as chairman.
- This committee is responsible for arranging programs for monthly meetings and additional educational enrichment programs, seminars and field trips.
- This committee is responsible for informing the county Extension agent when recertification programs are required.
- The chairman will serve as editor.
- The committee will prepare and send a monthly publication to inform members of meetings and other pertinent information.
- The committee shall consist of at least a chairman/editor, the recording secretary and the corresponding secretary.
- The committee will consist of at least a chairman.
- The committee will contact and maintain contact with each new Master Gardener class.
- The committee will encourage associate members to become members upon their completion of the class.
- The committee will consist of a chairman and two members who are not currently serving on the executive committee.
- he committee will provide a slate of candidates for offices at the October meeting.
- The committee will appoint persons to fill vacancies that might occur in elected offices.
- The committee will consist of a chairman and two members who are not currently serving on the executive committee.
- The committee will audit the financial records in the presence of the Treasurer and President semiannually.
- The committee will consist of a chairman and at least two members.
- he committee will keep a current list of members and their phone numbers.
- The committee will contact members by the telephone as the need arises.
Article IX. Executive Committee
Section 1. The executive committee will consist of the president who will serve as chairman, president-elect, vice president, corresponding secretary, recording secretary, treasurer, parliamentarian and the immediate past president who will serve as ex-officio advisor.
Section 2. A staff member of Texas AgriLife Extension Service with horticultural duties shall serve as advisor to the executive committee.
Section 3. The executive committee will meet monthly or as necessary.
Section 4. In the event a vacancy occurs on the executive committee, such vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of the term by a person approved by a majority vote of the executive committee.
Article X. Parliamentary Authority
The rules contained in Robert’s Rules of Order, Revised shall govern the association in all cases in which they are applicable and when not inconsistent with the bylaws of this association.
Article XI. Voting
Section 1. A quorum shall consist of 25 percent of the active members.
Section 2. Election voting shall be by secret ballot.
Article XII. Amendments
Section 1. These bylaws may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the membership.
Section 2. Notice of all proposed amendments to the bylaws must be presented in writing at one regular meeting and a copy mailed to members not present. Proposed amendments will be voted on at the next regular meeting.
Sample Application Form
The following is a sample application form used to screen potential Texas Master Gardeners. Emphasis on horticultural interest and commitment to the program are important screening devices.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Master Gardener Application
I wish to become a Master Gardener in ______________ county. I want to be accepted in the Master Gardener training program offered by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. I understand that in exchange for the training made possible through Extension, I will volunteer at least 50 hours of my time to the county’s Master Gardener Program within this calendar year. I understand that I will become a Certified Master Gardener when I complete the training and volunteer work.
Name – Signature
Name – Print
Phone (Day) (Night)
Please Complete the following:
Years of Gardening Experience:
Type of gardening experience and related training.____________________________
Number of years living in___________County:___________________________________
List areas of specialization or hobbies (e.g. flowers, vegetables, ornamentals, house plants, community gardening, fruit trees, etc.)
List experience in working with each type community: schools, youth churches, senior citizens, hospitals, halfway houses, etc.
Please list group affiliations: garden clubs, community gardens, plant societies, etc.
How did you learn of the Master Gardener Program?_____________________________
Why do you want to become a Master Gardener?__________________________________
Are you presently employed, and if so, where?_________________________________
Times available for volunteer work (please check):
To become a Master Gardener is important to me because: (0-Not Important 5-Most Important)
- I will be able to increase my knowledge of gardening. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will be able to gain new skills as a gardener. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will have the opportunity to receive useful training. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will be able to provide a service to other people in my community and/or neighborhood. 0 1 3 2 4 5
- I will have the opportunity to share my knowledge with other gardeners. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will gain a great deal of personal satisfaction. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will be able to creatively use my free time. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will be certified by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will receive free instruction and materials. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will gain gardening experience that can help me get a job. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I will be recognized by people in my community. 0 1 2 3 4 5
- I can get a tax credit for my volunteer work. 0 1 2 3 4 5
Sample Position Descriptions
Master Gardener Volunteer
- Purpose: To extend Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s educational programs in the areas of horticulture, gardening and small-scale food production through use of certified volunteer Master Gardeners.
- Duties: Answers horticultural questions and inquiries by telephone, clinics, demonstration and/or workshops for the general public on gardening, trees, shrubs, lawns, plants, insects and related topics.
- Cooperates with and assists the county Extension office in preparing and producing of specific educational resources, including media materials and home horticulture classes.
- Keeps appropriate records.
- Reporting time and duration: Available to participate in intensive training program in horticulture and related subjects. Available to devote a minimum of 50 hours of Master Gardener volunteer service.
- Additional training needed: Must have knowledge and skills in basic ornamental horticulture, gardening and general related areas.
- Able to effectively communicate with public by telephone, personal contact and/or group contact and through written language.
- Be responsible to the Extension agent in charge of the Master Gardener Program.
- Responsible to: The Extension agent in charge of the county Master Gardener Program provides supervision and support to the volunteer Master Gardener. The advisor will assign, review and assess work; provide in-service training based upon needs of the Master Gardener, and provide space, telephone and other needed support. The advisor will also provide information on professional improvement opportunities.
- Location: Extension office.
- Duties: Meet weekly with supervising agent to discuss current needs and to plan and evaluate volunteer management activities.
- Assist with recruitment in order to expand involvement of adult and teen volunteers in Extension programs.
- Interview prospective volunteers to assess their objectives and capabilities.
- Discuss proposed volunteer placement with the agent.
- Maintain volunteer records and assist in preparing reports of volunteer involvement.
- Results: Open communication between Extension agent and Master Gardener volunteers, smooth operation of Master Gardener projects.
- Training Needs: Computer skills.
- Resources: Office software and hardware.
Horticultural Events Coordinator
- Location: Extension office, program sites, or at home.
- Responsible to: Extension agent or other designated person. Work closely with volunteer coordinator.
- Duties: Recruit and coordinate activities of volunteers involved in developing exhibits, plant clinics for horticultural programs, shows or fairs that will depict the horticultural programs offered to city or county residents through their Extension offices and other topics that are relevant to current problems in urban horticulture. Master Gardeners will develop exhibits after meeting with Extension agents or another designated person to design an appropriate exhibit.
- Provide leadership to other Master Gardener volunteers, particularly graphic artists, lecturers and plant clinic staff. Master Gardeners will establish subgroups of the main exhibit committee that will take responsibility for the development of individual portions of the exhibit, e.g. plant materials. In cooperation with the Extension agent or other designated person, Master Gardeners will arrange for transportation, set-up and take-down of the exhibit on prescribed dates and times.
- Expected results: A quality exhibit that informs the public of Extension program(s) or other appropriate areas in urban horticulture. A plant clinic staffed by volunteers and Extension staff that provides accurate answers to the public concerning plant problems.
- Reporting time and duration: To be arranged with agent.
- Additional training needed: How to involve volunteers in specific tasks. How to plan, conduct and evaluate an event.
- Location: Dependent upon the group being addressed.
- Responsible to: Extension agent or other designated person.
- Duties: Volunteers present lectures or demonstrations on horticultural topics to groups that request them through the supervising agent. Visuals and supporting materials, if available, will be provided by the supervising agent.
- Reporting time and duration: At the discretion of the volunteer and the group requesting the program. Information presented under the auspices of Master Gardeners should agree with current Extension recommendations.
- Expected results: The volunteer will learn more about gardening and how to speak before a group. Residents will have expanded resources to provide horticulture education.
- Resources: Audio visual library of Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Explaining Texas AgriLife Extension Service
If Texas Master Gardeners are to become an essential part of the unit office, it is important for them to understand the organization. Local county Extension staff consists of Extension agents (agriculture, family and consumer science, 4-H, horticulture) and volunteers. Its function is to provide resources and programs for local residents. District staff consists of district directors and provides administrative and program development assistance to the local staff. There are 12 districts in Texas.
State staff consists of specialists (at Texas A&M and at Research and Extension Centers across the state), program leaders and administrative leaders. Specialists provide resource information in specific areas, e.g., soils, turf, home food production, ornamentals, insects, diseases, etc. Program leaders provide guidance in a general area, e.g. agriculture, family and consumer science, and 4-H. Administrative leaders guide Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Some Important dates for Extension:
1862- The Morrill Act created the Land Grant College and University System to provide education in the agriculture and mechanical fields.
1887- The Hatch Act provided for the establishment of facilities in each of the states to conduct research needed to improve agriculture and related areas.
1890- Congress provided for the establishment of an additional 13 colleges in the southern states for the education of blacks, and a land grant university was established in the District of Columbia.
1914- The Smith Lever Act provided for the establishment of Texas AgriLife Extension Service to distribute information, developed by the land grant universities and research stations, to the people where they live.
The function of the federal Cooperative Extension Service is to guide and evaluate state Extension programs.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service differs from the State Department of Agriculture in structure and function. Extension’s function is educative in nature, providing technical resources and developmental structure whereby local residents can identify and address their concerns. All Extension functions are coordinated through the state land grant university system (The Texas A&M University System).
The function of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is regulatory or promotional in nature. It is the function of the TDA to regulate the rules governing the sale of agricultural products, including turf and ornamentals; to regulate the use of pesticides; to develop procedures for controlling of epidemic pests; and to promote the sale and use of Texas agricultural products. The TDA is a department of the state government and as such is under the direction of the Governor’s office.
Understanding, Motivating and Managing Volunteers
McGregor’s theory of human behavior, called Theory Y, assumes that people are not, by nature, lazy and unreliable, and he postulates that man can be basically self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated. Certainly people who volunteer are already motivated. As manager, you need only present them with a clear idea of their goals and good direction. By establishing specific jobs and supplying job descriptions you have already accomplished much of the planning that is important for a volunteer program’s success.
We already know that Master Gardeners have a strong interest in gardening and enough free time to commit themselves to the training and the volunteer hours. Other than that, what brings them to the program and what do they want from it? To answer those questions it is necessary to look at human motivation as it applies to work, for volunteers do work.
Each of us has various levels of need and as we satisfy one need level, we move up to the next. The most basic need is a physiological one and includes food, water, air, etc.; the next need is for safety from harm and conversely to obtain security; the next need is social and includes wanting to be liked and enjoying closeness with others; next is esteem, including recognition as someone of value; and highest on the ladder is self-actualization which means doing what one is best suited to do.
This explains why the unemployed poor are not interested in becoming volunteers even though they may have time to do the work. In fact, volunteers are people who have probably satisfied the first three levels of need and so are seeking to build esteem or reach self-actualization. Those needs are more complex than the ones they have already fulfilled on their own and the Master Gardener program must make an effort to satisfy those needs with appropriate jobs. This is why it is important to have real jobs for the Master Gardeners and not merely time filler. Since they are not paid, the satisfaction from a job well done and worth doing is essential.
As you already know from working with paid staff, it helps to place the right person in the right job. Work motives are often related to three needs: achievement, power and affiliation. These motives display themselves in our behavior and can be identified by the observant manager so that appropriate jobs are supplied to meet those needs. The goal of an achievement-motivated person is success in a situation which requires excellent or improved performance. Achievement-motivated people need to work alone and enjoy the freedom of guiding their own work and setting their own goals. They consistently produce work of high quality and accomplish what they set out to do. They challenge themselves but do not set out to do the impossible. The achiever often will show signs of strong organizational ability, a willingness to complete a job without further supervision and a desire for feedback on job performance.
Power-motivated individuals want to influence others. They are very concerned about their position and reputation. These people are free with advice and want very much to see others follow their direction. Their personalities are usually aggressive, and they are often opinionated. The power-motivated individual will lean toward structures that are quite organized, have a rather carefully spelled out organizational power structure and a high regard for status and prestige within the organization. This person is likely to be assertive (if not aggressive) in behavior and will try to gain power through leadership and/or persuasive tactics.
Affiliation-motivated people need to be with other people who enjoy their company. These people are friendly and caring and want very much to be liked. They work best with other workers rather than alone, and they prefer management to be friendly rather than authoritative. The affiliator will exhibit an open, friendly manner; deep concern for people as individuals; and a need to work within a group. A real need to have personal relationships with other workers and the supervisor also characterizes these volunteers.
Assigning Jobs to Fulfill Motivation
Considering that after they receive the training, which they often value highly, the volunteer work is what the program has to offer the Master Gardener; therefore, good job placement makes a great deal of sense. If the work satisfies these people, they will be an asset to the program and will often return to continue working.
Sometimes little thought has gone into designing of jobs for Master Gardeners. It may be clear from the number of phone calls to the office requesting gardening information that the program will be useful and with that, and only that in mind, people are trained and then sent to the phones. Unfortunately, this not only wastes the diverse talents of the volunteers but also neglects the development of innovative community projects.
Fortunately, these restrictions are usually quite clear and program development soon begins. The budding scientists reveal themselves at plant clinics, and this leads to an office lab to identify plant problems. Master Gardeners staying late to discuss the details and latest findings on rose development can lead to the establishment of a speakers’ bureau, which in turn leads to more and more specialization on the part of the Master Gardener experts. These are, after all, talented amateurs who can be as good or better than professionals; they simply do not make a living from their knowledge.
To successfully place volunteers in the most suitable positions, you must know them. Design the Master Gardener application forms to begin this process. Promoting active participation from the beginning is also a great help. There are small jobs that clearly need to be done at the very first training session; setting up audiovisual equipment, distributing handouts or merely calling the group back from a break encourages participation.
These first jobs might be handled through a volunteer system. By taking an active part, no matter how small, at the very first lecture, trainees will learn that their role is not a passive one. As training progresses the agent will have ample time to get to know the volunteers thoroughly, especially if there is some time before or after sessions for general social mixing. With the three motivational types in mind, the agent needs to identify the personality types and then match them with appropriate jobs.
It is difficult to list specific jobs for each motivational type because the skills and talents of each person vary. While it may seem that putting out the newsletter may be just the thing for the achievement-motivated person, that won’t work if all the achievement-motivated people would rather take a beating than write a single word. As manager, the agent must consider the talents, skills, motives and personalities in matching jobs with the people.
In designing and redesigning jobs, the agent must assess the jobs to determine their motivational content. If repeatedly no on wants to do a certain job, there is probably something wrong with that job. Keep in mind that the job is the reward itself for the volunteer. There is no money payment, no hospitalization or vacation time; there may not even be a parking space.
Jobs can be changed by enlargement, enrichment or simplification. A job is enlarged by increasing the number and variety of tasks done. Two or three meaningless tasks however, do not equal a single meaningful one. Job enrichment refers to delegating functions that have been considered as managerial. Including the worker in planning and evaluating as well as the work itself helps enrich the job experience. Job enrichment can occur at any level of responsibility. Simplification involves combining tasks or even eliminating some. In simplifying a job, look for any task that appear to be busy work and get rid of them first.
Managing the Organization
To satisfy the needs of volunteers and use their assets in the program for meeting Extension goals, the program must be managed as efficiently as possible. As manager, the agent must plan, organize, staff, empower and direct.
Planning began when job descriptions were created for the volunteers. Once Master Gardeners become a valuable work force it only makes sense to include them in the goals and plans of the office. The business world has discovered that workers are more efficient and happier when they have some identity and can contribute to goals of the enterprise. Again, volunteers gain nothing but satisfaction from their jobs in the program, and they should receive as much as can be designed into the program for them. They are invaluable as unpaid workers and as Extension representatives.
Organizing involves deciding how to get the job done and utilizes delegation which is one of the most difficult jobs of management. It is probably that some Master Gardener programs have never come into existence because of the unwillingness of some agents to delegate. This is expressed in the attitude that there is far too much work involved in a Master Gardener program to make it feasible and no one except the agent can do the necessary work.
The greatest stumbling block to delegating is in the manager’s mind. People with this problem are typically overworked and feel that no one else can possibly do the important jobs in the organization as well as they can themselves. If this becomes the case, remember:
- Some volunteers actually know more than you do about a particular subject area and cannot only do the job but would find your trust in them a reward for their work.
- A good performance from a qualified volunteer is acknowledgment of the fine job you are doing. After all, you organized and initiated the program and hired the volunteer.
- By delegating, you are not only getting the job done, but you have made it possible for someone else to gain experience.
When you have decided to delegate, remember the following points:
- Clearly define the responsibilities being delegated. Be sure agreement is reached as to areas in which this person can function freely and where the limits are.
- Delegate job segments that make sense.
- Choose appropriate people for assignments.
- Mutually set goals and standards of performance. Expectations must be clearly defined.
- Do not lower standards for volunteer staff; it is an insult to a good volunteer.
- Give accurate and honest feedback. People want to know how they are doing and they deserve to know. This is an opportunity for giving satisfaction and encouraging growth.
- Allow risk-taking and mistakes.
- Support co-workers, both paid and volunteer, by sharing knowledge, information and plans with them.
- Whenever possible, promote those who are responsible for carrying out significant portions of the program by giving them a voice in the decision-making body.
- Most responsible people, when given a project, do not appreciate someone constantly checking on them and most Master Gardeners are responsible people.
Staffing is determining who is going to do the job. By encouraging participation during the first training session, you are able to determine the best job for each volunteer. Directing involves allowing the workers to accomplish their tasks. This is done by putting some effort into good job placement and then displaying your confidence in the ability of the volunteers to do their jobs. Control refers to the program and its goals and not the employees. If Master Gardeners are doing the same work year after year, you may want to reassess the amount of control you have over the program. Growth, change, even mistakes are an indication of some program control. Evaluation is the best tool for good program control.
It is beneficial to look at adult education theory to provide good training experiences. Since adults are independent, they resent being placed in learning situations where they are treated as children. Encourage them to determine their own learning needs and take part in planning and evaluating the learning experience. Advanced Master Gardener programs are often self-directed by the volunteers. If there is any doubt about what they want or think they need to learn, simply ask them. Training programs benefit from the comments and criticisms of the participants.
Because of their experience, adult groups benefit from sharing knowledge. Encourage discussion and demonstration when appropriate. Children are future oriented while adults live in the present. They are eager to use their training and education so emphasize a problem-solving approach when possible.
Pre-job training and on-the-job training are both used in the Master Gardener program. The horticultural training is obviously part of the pre-job training as is the orientation to the Extension office and any training on how to answer phones and how to handle the public or the Master Gardener clients. On-the-job training is supplied when a veteran Master Gardener is sent to the plant clinic with the novices. Other on-the-job training can take place with the use of a newsletter. Information on current pest problems can continue the education of the volunteers as they are working with identifying these problems. Working in an office diagnostics lab provides on-the-job training as well.
An appropriate setting is very important in a training situation. The negative effect of certain factors may, in fact, be more important than their positive effect. That is, everyone takes restrooms for granted and will not comment on their presence. However, try having a meeting in a place without restrooms and see what happens to the mood and attention of the audience. Just because there were no comments about how handy it was to have notepads and pencils on the table does not mean such details were not a contribution to a successful meeting or training session. People will not hesitate to mention what is wrong with a situation (too noisy, too warm) but are often unaware of the positive effects of some details (available parking, good directions) and fail to mention them.
Deal with physical surroundings from the beginning by providing clear directions to the meeting place in announcements. Before the appointed time for the meeting, be sure there are enough chairs and check the quality of lighting; the audience should be able to take notes and to see slides, blackboard, etc. Acoustics are important. Have a public address system available and control outside noise. In winter provide coat racks. If extension cords are needed, have them at the meeting site. Name tags are useful especially at initial meetings.
Once the meeting time arrives, be aware of room temperature and ventilation. Even the best speaker will have a difficult time holding the attention of an audience that is falling asleep or shivering. When the physical environment is just right, look to the human environment. Welcome people, including VIP’s and put them at ease. At meetings involve the audience through democratic leadership and give them an opportunity to voice opinion. Since time is valuable, start and end meetings as stated in announcements and invitations.
The Texas Master Gardener Management Guide
Revised – 9 February 2006