Investing in local Firewise actions proves that your community takes wildfire safety seriously. The minimum of $2 per capita may seem like a big goal for a small community. But most Firewise neighborhoods have no trouble meeting or exceeding that amount of investment each year.
Communities can count grants, in-kind services, loaned equipment, contractors hired by the community, or, of course, cash as part of their investment. Most commonly, though, small neighborhoods achieve their $2 per capita minimum investment through volunteer hours. So, how do you put a dollar value on the volunteer efforts of your neighbors or your Firewise Board? A website called Independent Sector can help.
This group researches and tracks the value of volunteer time by analyzing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information. The group’s numbers are based on the average hourly earnings of all production and non-supervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls. Independent Sector takes this figure and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits. Independent Sector’s research group announces these figures each spring. The rate for 2015 renewals (as of April 2015) is $23.07.
Now that you know what your volunteer hours are worth, you can use this information to track investment for different activities. For a Firewise Day, keep a count of how many people are volunteering and for how many hours during that event. The time volunteers spend 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 count that for each person doing the work.
You can find forms to help you track volunteer time and services.
You might be surprised at how quickly the volunteer efforts add up. For example, 20 volunteers putting in just 2 ½ hours of their time each year represents nearly $1,000 of investment in Firewise work – almost enough to meet the minimum investment for a community of 500 residents.