Chris Linnell, volunteer services supervisor at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (FPDDC), Illinois, thought it was crazy when Eagle Scout Gavin Burseth approached her with the idea to bring a herd of goats to eat the poison ivy and other invasive plants at FPDDC’s campground. But sixteen-year-old Burseth, working to achieve the prestigious Hornaday Award from the Boy Scouts of America for significant contributions to conservation, was persuasive. After some creative volunteer management thinking and convincing advocacy from Linnell to the Natural Resources/Land Management staff, the project was approved. In the end, the goats did a perfect job of clearing the dangerous plants, and Burseth also delivered public education lectures and generated media interest in the project.
This fascinating example of an unusual set of volunteers (with lots of pictures) has important implications for volunteer resources managers in any setting. How do you react when a teenager proposes an unfamiliar or nontraditional service project? What does it take to convince others in the organization to support the idea? What special considerations arise when stepping into the unknown? This special e-Volunteerism feature will show you why the nontraditional and the unknown can be a very good thing.