While this time of year may have many thinking about the value of their tax dollars, the Firewise program staff are thinking about the value of volunteers. Every April, the Independent Sector website publishes a new annual estimate of the value of a volunteer hour. The new rate is $22.55, based on 2013 data.
The success of local Firewise Communities/USA efforts can be measured in many ways, but often the most important contributions are made by local volunteers. For communities working on Firewise activities in 2014, it’s important to remember that the time spent by volunteers in making your community safer from wildfire represents an invaluable quantity that can greatly aid your application (or renewal) for recognition status. While it’s important to track expenses and record grant funding, it is the measure of human effort put in by your volunteers that will help you demonstrate the minimum investment of at least $2 per resident that will vastly help in reaping recognition rewards.
The investment criteria is the one thing in the Firewise program that seems to worry most communities when they get started. The good news is, thanks to the valuation of volunteer time, it is very easy to meet the $2 per capita requirement, even without major grants for wildfire mitigation.
Now that you know what your volunteer hours are worth, you can use this information to track investment for different activities. For example, for a Firewise Day, keep a count of how many people are volunteering and for how many hours during that event. The time spent by volunteers to organize, set up, and clean up later also counts. If you have residents who have agreed to do work on their own property at a certain period, you can ask them to estimate their hours and may also count that time for each person doing the work.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly local volunteer efforts add up. For example, 12 volunteers putting in just 4 hours of their time at a single event each year represents more than $1,000 of investment in Firewise work – enough to meet the minimum investment for a community of 500 residents. Forms to help you track volunteer time and services are available on the Firewise Communities/USA web page at www.firewise.org/usa.
By truly “valuing” your volunteers, you will be better able to achieve recognition or renewal status. And by recognizing the value of your volunteers, whether through a special event or presentation of awards, you’ll go a long way toward assuring momentum for your ongoing Firewise efforts. Check out www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time for more details on how the volunteer hour value is determined and used.