Why report volunteer hours?
Subject: Some local TMN Chapters reflect on why it’s important to report your TMN Service From: Michelle Haggerty
Excerpted from the Hays County Chapter President, Larry Calvert in a message to the chapter members:.
Why report volunteer hours?
From the first day we entered the Master Naturalist class we all heard people tell us to turn in our volunteer hours. We all know we need 40 hours each year to be certified, but why does it matter that we document all of our volunteer hours?
All of the hours we turn in get reported to our Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) sponsors. TPW uses nationally accepted values for each hour of volunteer work reported. Currently that value for the TMN program is $19.50 per hour. For 2011, the Hill Country Chapter reported 8,501 hours, which were valued at $165,700. TPW applies for federal grants to support the work they do, including sponsoring the MN program, state parks, etc. The Fed Aid program awards grants to the agency with our service used as in-kind match. If you use the 2011 value for all Hays County Master Naturalist hours worked since the beginning of the chapter 12 years ago, our work has resulted in nearly $1.23 Million in grants for TPW. Wow! Not bad folks!
Please take the time to keep track of the hours you work and then be sure to turn them in. To spread our membership chair's input work it is best to turn in hours as soon as possible. Following an auditor ruling, STBCTMN is requiring that all hours be reported within 3 weeks of activities to allow changes, corrections, edits, and approvals within TPW's 45 day requirement. Exceptions can be made for rare emergencies like hospitalization, family emergencies, but it will require approval of state admins. [Edited -The VMS now allows everyone to report directly to TPW. Reporting period changed. Don't delay, report today.]
Thanks for your consideration and think about hours you may have just missed turning in for 2012. It is not too late to turn them in. All hours worked in a calendar year count for that year's recertification but we encourage everyone to get their hours reported before the Chapter celebration so you can be recognized publicly for your efforts! Larry Calvert, Hays County Master Naturalist Chapter President
Excerpts from a recent Hill Country Chapter Newsletter Edition:
Why Report Volunteer Hours?
We have all been through the class. For those who have certified or those who are working on it, the reporting of hours is not just to attain your picture in the newsletter and the annual pin! A few facts you may have forgotten:
Your Hours Mean Real Money
Currently, the value of each hour that you report is $19.50. For 2011 alone that amounted to $413,887.50 [for the Hill Country Chapter]. What does that mean? The federal aid grant for the Texas Master Naturalist program supports the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and many of the programs it offers. While not directly contributing to the state park shortfall, the TMN volunteers who conduct service in state parks help replace the loss of staff diminished by budget cuts. As Master Naturalists, you better than most Texas citizens know the value of our state and local parks, local nature centers, and nature education in nature for young people.
Have you gotten out of the habit of reporting?
It has been noticed that there are trained master naturalists who are still providing volunteer services, but for whatever reason, do not report hours. Maybe it seems pointless or worse, too much like punching the clock; but it means a lot to the program and the program really cannot exist without the federal grant that subsidizes it. If it was important to you to learn from the Master Naturalist program, then the small price you pay is to quantify the hours you volunteer in a monthly report. To quote Mother Teresa: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
What expenses associated with being a Master Naturalist can you deduct?
You should definitely check with your accountant, but IRS Publication 526 states that expenses related to the use of your car in giving services to a qualified organization are deductible. Reliable written records must be kept. According to the publication, records “may be considered reliable if you made them regularly and at or near the time you had the expenses.” The IRS also states: If you use the standard mileage rate of 14 cents a mile, your records must show the miles you drove your car for the charitable purpose. If you deduct your actual expenses, your records must show the costs of operating the car that are directly related to a charitable purpose.”
“Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” --Anonymous
TMN Program Impacts (2014 Data)
“Bit by bit builds to bunches…”
•9,676 Volunteers have been trained
•2.833 Million hours of community outreach & service projects--with a value of more than $55 Million
•Today over 200,000 youth and adults reached annually and over 2 Million
•218,000 acres of habitat enhanced
•Over 1,850 miles of interpretive trails developed or improved
•32 National, State and Local Awards Including:
–2014 TCEQ Environmental Excellence Award and the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Award!!!
-Wildlife Management Institute’s President’s Award
-TPWD Lonestar Legends Volunteer Award
-TAMU Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence
-National Audubon Society Habitat Hero’s Award
-US Dept. of Interior’s Take Pride in America Award
-TCEQ Environmental Excellence Award
-Governor’s Volunteer Award in Civic Leadership