A Toolkit for Cultivating Volunteers and Staff into Ambassadors

Toolkit for Volunteer Programs

This Toolkit is designed for staff and volunteers at visitor centers, Heritage Centers, and other community organizations. At Lakes to Locks Passage Heritage Centers, Ambassadors are volunteers that go above and beyond to personally connect to visitors. Ambassadors tell stories in meaningful, lively, and engaging ways that provide a direct personal interaction with visitors and strike an emotional chord—so visitors remember the experience and share it with others. Ambassadors are essential for creating “place-based tourism.”  By speaking with passion and authenticity, Ambassadors help make museums objects, exhibits, and history come alive to visitors. Instead of a visitor simply walking through a museum, for example, without a deep understanding of or making any connections to the exhibits, an Ambassador may point to a specific object and share a personal story about it that makes a lasting impression to the visitor.

The Toolkit draws from the actual experiences of volunteers at Heritage Centers in Essex County, New York. In addition, it is based on the “Workshop on Sustaining Volunteers,” sponsored by Lakes to Locks and presented on November 5, 2014, and a follow-up evaluation. Additional toolkit information is adapted from documents prepared by the Heritage Centers using templates developed by Boris Frank Associates. Permission is granted to any nonprofit organization to use and adapt information from this toolkit for non-commercial purposes. When using the toolkit, please credit Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc., Boris Frank Associates, and/or VolunteerMatch Learning Center as appropriate.

This Toolkit is intended for each organization to adapt to its own Ambassador program needs. There is no right or wrong—only what works for you.


This project has been several years in the making and would not have been possible without the help of the following dedicated volunteers and staff members below:

  • Janice Allen and Larry Cutting, Willsborough Visitor Center
  • Jackie Madison, Don Papson, and Charlie Crowningshield, North Star UGRR Museum
  • Aurora McCaffrey and Carol Haber, Adirondack History Museum
  • Nancy Decker and Meredith Johnston, Westport Heritage House
  • Betty LaMoria and Archie Rosenquist, Town of Moriah Iron Center
  • Mary Curtis and June Curtis, Ticonderoga Heritage Museum
  • Essex County RSVP
  • Clinton County RSVP
  • Rob Draper, National Scenic Byway Foundation
  • Boris Frank Associates
  • VolunteerMatch Learning Center

A special thank you to June Curtis of the Ticonderoga Heritage Museum for her careful reading and constructive edits.

And thank you to the Ambassadors at all the Heritage Centers that go above and beyond to personally connect with their visitors!

The Lakes to Locks Passage Toolkit for Cultivating Volunteers and Staff into Ambassadors was funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program, administered through the New York State Department of Transportation and Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc.

© 2017

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