Volunteer Value

Volunteer Value

“Cavers give more time, labor, and expertise, spend more of their own money, and are recognized for more project persistence than any other land using group in America.”

I don’t know how you would confirm the above statement from the NSS website, however it does mirror my personal observations of the numbers of cavers willing to donate time and effort to a wide range of cave related activities. Cavers will spend countless hours above and below ground working to improve, conserve, and/or better understand karst features. Sometimes this volunteer work is officially recognized and applauded by the land owner, the community or a governmental entity. But mostly cavers do the work just for the opportunity to explore, understand and protect the unknown. In the mid nineties, the Federal Government proposed “user fees” to help overcome budget deficits. This would have resulted in cavers paying a fee to an agency to locate, explore and map caves on federal lands. In 1998 the NSS entered into an agreement with the USDA Forest Service to define the valve of the volunteer work cavers donated to the Service. The monetary value of the volunteer work negated paying user fees. Since that time Volunteer Value (VV) has

become a recognized mechanism to track and calculate the monetary value of caver projects and has been used by many volunteer groups. A quick search at www.caves.org yields over 150 pages of articles, committee and officer reports, and convention abstracts where Volunteer Value is discussed.

Northeast cavers have a 50+ year history of working to understand and preserve karst features in the region. More recently, the NCC has taken the lead in the protection, exploration, scientific investigation, conservation, and preservation of cave and karst resources in our area. Besides owning several properties, the NCC manages property for other agencies, has made presentations to local governments concerning land use, contributed to environmental impact studies, and advised local property owners on living with their karst properties. All of this work has and continues to be done by volunteers. By assigning dollar values to our volunteer work and adding up

the sums, we can create the documentation that can be used for cave management proposals and karst protection battles. This documentation will also add support for any applications the NCC my make for federal, state, or private grants. The documentation may also be of value when used to calculate charitable contributions for income tax purposes. (The IRS web site, has information on donating services to non-profit organizations like the NCC but check with your tax advisor for your specific situation.)

The Paperwork

At the fall 2005 Board of Trustee meeting, the NCC created an ad hoc committee to start documenting the volunteer work done for the benefit of the organization. Property managers and project coordinators are urged to down load the Volunteer Value Report Sheet #1. This generic worksheet is designed to be filled out in the field and can be used for documenting volunteer labor and contributions for any cave project. Complete one form for each day of a project that involved more than one person. Use one form if one person is doing similar work over a long period of time. Note that travel time and mileage are reported for each driver/vehicle.

A property manager schedules a property cleanup and a dozen people show up …. Use one form for that one day project, an additional form is used if the project continues the next day or the next weekend.

Example 2
A property manager mows grass or does trail inspection and maintenance 6 times over the summer …. Use one form to record the dates and hours worked.

This form can be used to document Volunteer Value for all cave projects: survey, cartography, inventory, photo documentation, science, administration, restoration, maintenance, clean-up, and in-cave work as well as preparation and report filing. Please return forms to me via email at volunteer@necaveconservancy.org or at an NCC meeting. I will review the forms and develop a database for each project.

What Has Monetary Value?
The NCC will generally follow the guidelines the NSS negotiated in its agreement with the Forest Service.

  • Salaries - Volunteer labor will be calculated at $15.00 per hour and may be adjusted occasionally to reflect changes in the average regional and/or national labor rates for similar organizations.
  • Volunteer Hours – Time spent traveling to and from the work site for the vehicle driver. Time spent at the work site actively involved in the project.
  • Supplies – All monies spent on supplies that is not reimbursed. (Ex.: batteries for lights, gloves, gas and oil for equipment, materials donated to build kiosks, etc.)
  • Professional Services – Professional services (Ex: legal, surveying, accounting, appraisal, etc.) will be valued at the professional’s customary rate. If the NCC pays for these services at a reduced rate, the difference between what is actually paid and the prevailing rate is counted as Volunteer Value.
  • Mileage - The dollar values for mileage will be the government rate for business, to be adjusted as the government rate changes. Mileage is calculated to and from the work site as well as the miles accumulated performing the work. Mileage is per vehicle, not per person.
  • Preparation and Documentation – Time spent by the project manager preparing for the activity and completing the VV form(s).

Thank you in advance for helping to create a data base of the volunteer work done in support of the NCC.

Article excerpts and link(s) to the Board of Governors Manual are used with permission of the National Speleological Society. Volunteer Value forms are from originals provided by Jim C. Werker & Val Hildreth-Werker, NSS Conservation Division Co-Chairs, edited and used with permission.