The Value of Volunteers
In 2001, the sea turtle program staff proposed a study to project leaders to determine the value of volunteers’ time. Leaders were provided with time sheets (one for each month, May through November). For each activity on the timesheet, a column was assigned to both the ”number of hours spent” and “number of people involved”. Project leaders filled out and mailed a summary of the volunteer timesheets each month. At the end of the season, beach/island totals were summarized in an Excel spreadsheet and returned to each project leader for verification.
The minimum wage ($5.15 per hour) was used for those who simply patrolled the beach. Anyone who was trained to do the other more technical tasks (move nests, inventory nests, or work in an administrative capacity) were valued at $10.00 per hour.
Fifteen separate beaches/islands participated in this study. The size of each group varied from only a few, to over a hundred on two of the beaches, for a total of 520 volunteers. The number of volunteers was not directly related to the number of nests laid on a beach each summer, but was more an indication of the enthusiasm generated by the project. The monetary value for “Beach Patrol” and “Management” were similar due to the higher number of hours in patrolling at the lower rate, versus the lower number of hours in management at the higher rate. Both came in at over $50,000. The total for the season, $104,964, was astonishing. We had no idea that the volunteers’ time would have such a high value, which made it even more imperative to publicize these results.
It is clear from these numbers that recovery goals could not be met without the volunteers’ involvement in management efforts. It is also clear from our results that the state of South Carolina could not afford to pay for the services provided by volunteers. Sea turtle conservation efforts in South Carolina are greatly enhanced by the altruistic dedication of these individuals.
The citation for the this published paper is
Hopkins-Murphy, S. R. and J. S. Seithel. 2005. Documenting the value of volunteer effort for sea turtle conservation in South Carolina . Chelonian Conservation and Biology. 4(4):930-934.
In 2010, a new initiative to document volunteer time was implemented through an online reporting system. Documenting this volunteer time is important for matching federal grant dollars (financial support for the program) and emphasizing the public's support of sea turtle conservation in South Carolina. The results were astounding. A total of 391 individuals documented their time (36% participation). These 391 participants dedicated 21,922 hours and drove 66,286 miles. Using $16.26 per hour and $0.50 per mile, this volunteer effort is valued at $389,595 and provides grant matching power for one year equal to $1,168,782! The results in 2011 were similar. A total of 376 individuals documented their time. These 376 participants dedicated 17,364 hours and drove 86,249 miles. Using $16.53 per hour and 50.5¢ per mile, this volunteer effort is valued at $330,583 and provides grant matching power for one year equal to $991,749! This grant matching power is critically important to our program especially during the current economic climate of our state.