Volunteers are the lifeblood, the backbone, of our organization, and we want them to know their work is appreciated. We also want our land managers to know how hard our volunteers work to build and maintain their trails. Our volunteers sign in at each event, be it a work party, a festival, or a board meeting, and we've tried many different ways to capture the hours spent on our endeavors, reward volunteers' efforts and report their hours to our land managers. Starting with training in July, we're rolling out a new, customized application, SORBA Trail Love (STL), to record and report our precious volunteer hours.
Executive Director Tom Sauret says, "I can now see how many volunteer hours were logged in each state, a particular National Forest, State Park, and even on a particular trail. I can see how many miles of trail were added to an existing trail. Reporting this information to land managers is essential. It will help with grant applications, land manager presentations and reports, and it will help us show our volunteers that we appreciate all they do for their trails."
Software developer Colin Smith, creator of STL, designed the application to be easy to use. "The application records hours for a particular event, and that event is tied to a particular trail. Each trail, unless it's an exception, is part of a hierarchy that reflects the structure of the land manager's agency. The hierarchy is displayed as a graph so that you can easily see the chain used for that agency. Volunteer names have been imported from IMBA's database, so you can search for names and not have to type most names."
The program will be used by chapter officers and their appointed administrators to enter information about their trails and record the volunteer hours. "We're starting with a clean slate, as far as the trail system hierarchies are concerned, so we need to make sure we enter names carefully. Capitalization and spelling are important, and we want to avoid using abbreviations and acronymns. We don't want to end up with hours listed for Black Mountain and black mtn. The system will treat them as separate trails, which could lead to confusion," says Sauret, "but once we have the trail systems entered, all we have to record are hours and names that don't exist in our membership database."
Before opening the system to all the chapters, Upstate SORBA participated in a pilot program to test the new application. Molly Burgman, tasked with entering a backlog of hours from 2012 and 2013 said, "Thanks to all of you, & especially to Colin, the backlog of 2012/2013 volunteer hours has now all been entered into the new Trail Love program. Our current total for 2013 hours is 1431, already! The Trail Love program was a highly anticipated improvement that I think has been worth the wait. I find it to be user friendly, intuitive, understandable, & very "usable" & look forward to learning more of its intricacies as I continue to work with it."
We look forward to getting all our chapters up to speed on this new tool to aid them in their advocacy efforts.