How to Count A TU Volunteer Hour
Trout Unlimited’s strategic plan outlines four major areas of our mission: Protect, Reconnect, Restore and Sustain. Your chapter or council’s activities and volunteer hours will fall within these four categories. The following glossary helps define each of these categories and sub-categories and also provides examples of the types of volunteer hours which should be counted in each category.
Types of Volunteer Hours
Trout Unlimited’s mission is defined by our watershed-based approach to conservation. We recognize that in order to improve water quality and protect native and wild trout populations we must protect the best remaining places – most often in small headwater tributaries, reconnect streams that have been disconnected by dams, culverts and other barriers and restore downstream areas which have been degraded by development, agriculture or other human or natural processes.
Protect efforts are projects and activities which provide critical land protection within a watershed which in turn improves or protects water quality and stream flows as well as efforts to strengthen programs or management plans which protect water or trout populations. Examples of protect projects or activity hours might include:
- Securing long-term protections for important public lands
- Working with land trusts to protect private land vital for trout or salmon
- Protecting key watersheds from development that damages habitat
- Working with state agencies to protect the genetic integrity of native fish (e.g., hatchery reform, invasive species management)
Trout Unlimited sustains our work by building volunteer capacity to execute projects that support the conservation plan, informing TU members and the community at large on the importance of coldwater conservation, investing in youth to ensure the perpetuation of TU’s mission through future generations, gathering information and data to advise our work and raising funds to support all aspects of our work.
TU advocates for coldwater protections and a range of mission-related topics on a regular basis. Advocacy activity is most often associated with state council efforts. While chapters and councils must use caution when entering into specific lobbying activities related to a specific bill or piece of legislation, this type of activity is permitted when it does not constitute a “substantial part” of the chapter or council’s total hours or expenditures. (If you are active in lobbying efforts, or considering lobbying, please contact Volunteer Operations staff to discuss the restrictions and limitations you must follow to protect TU’s 501(c)3 status.) Examples of advocacy projects or activity hours might include:
- Speaking at your local state capital in support or opposition to a specific piece of legislation (such as a riparian buffer bill or statewide water management plan)
- Hosting a “TU Day at the Capitol” to engage and educate lawmakers about your chapter or council’s activities, mission and legislative priorities
- Writing letters of support or opposition to local or state agencies regarding specific development proposals
When to Count an Hour
While it is often easy to know when to count a TU volunteer hour, there are other times when volunteer hours are commonly forgotten or left out of the chapter or council reporting. We want your chapter or council to get credit for ALL the incredible volunteer work you do for TU and the following guidance below should help clarify many of the times your hours can and should be counted.
Counting Volunteer Leader’s Hours
There are many common volunteer leader hours which are easy to understand and count, including: attendance at chapter or council board and committee meetings, participation in youth education events or activities, individual time spent by the newsletter editor or webmaster on communications, the treasurer on book-keeping and financial report, the secretary on writing the minutes etc... The following list, however, includes hours that should be counted which are not always easily recognized.
- Hours spent by chapter or council leaders attending meetings and events – Volunteer leaders should all have a role to play at a chapter meeting or event, including banquets, such as welcoming and greeting new members, speaking with attendees about the chapter’s work, inviting members and guests to volunteer. A chapter meeting or event is a work event for the volunteer leaders and the hours should be counted accordingly.
- Example: A chapter meeting is held which is attended by four (4) chapter board members. The meeting lasts 2.5 hours and the board members spend much of the time engaging their members and guests in conversation, inviting them to attend other events or encouraging them to volunteer. The total hours which should be counted are 4X2.5 or 10 hours and they should be split among the “Engagement” and “Management & General” categories.
- Hours spent by chapter or council leaders driving to meetings, events and projects – Your time volunteering begins the minute you step out of your home or office door and does not end until you return. If you are heading to a board meeting, a membership meeting, a restoration project or a youth education day, the time you spend driving to and from that activity should be counted and should be included in the category for which the event is being held.
- Example: You are driving to a youth fishing day event and the drive takes 30 minutes in each direction. You should count 1 hour of time and record it under the “Youth Education & Outreach” category.
- Hours spent by a chapter or council leader corresponding by email or phone with members, other leaders, partner groups and more – Much of TU’s business is conducted in the off-hours between work and bed, or on weekends, when our volunteers have time to get behind their computer and answer questions, respond to inquiries and conduct chapter planning electronically. You should always count these hours. Many volunteer leaders find it helpful to estimate their email and other correspondence time on a monthly basis and to distribute it proportionately across the various categories.
- Example: Your chapter is hosting a fly fishing trip for members and guests and all reservations are being emailed to you. Count the hours you spend replying to reservations, responding to questions about proper fishing gear and attire, providing driving directions and more. These hours should be placed in the “Engagement” category.
- Example 2: Your chapter is hosting a fundraising banquet and you use your personal contact list to send invitations to friends by email, reach out to business owners you know requesting donations, communicating with the catering company about the contract and meal choices etc… All of these hours should be counted and placed in the “Fundraising” category.