Basic Guide to the Volunteer Management System (VMS)

Basic Guide to the Volunteer Management System (VMS)

This guide has the following sections. Scroll until you find the one you want to read.

1. What the Opportunities Are and Finding Descriptions of the Opportunities
2. The Meaning of Subtitles/Codes Which may Be Assigned to VH Opportunities
3. Finding Which Opportunity You Should Use to Report Your Hours
4. Reporting Advanced Training (AT)
5. Reporting Volunteer Hours (VH)
6. Using Volunteer Opportunities with the NTX Prefix
7. Reporting Impact Data
8. Getting More Help

 

1. What the Opportunities Are and Finding Descriptions of the Opportunities

After you log in the Volunteer Management System (VMS), you will be on the Volunteer Dashboard. Choose “My Placements.” This will show you a list of opportunities, which you can scroll through. These names will look to you like projects, but in the VMS system, they are called “opportunities.” Opportunities are listed in alpha order, so AT (Advanced Training) opportunities will be near the top, followed by the majority of the VH (Volunteer Hours) opportunities. (The “My Placements” file is for exploring the opportunities list, not the place where you report your hours.)

You will notice that the same project name may be listed 2 or more times, each time with a different subtitle.
Example: Cedar Ridge Preserve: Educational Talk
Cedar Ridge Preserve: Field Research

These subtitles are codes required by Texas Parks and Wildlife, which hosts the VMS system for all Master Naturalist chapters in Texas. They are federal codes which correspond to funding designations. When you report your volunteer service hours, you should report them to the correct code.

2. The Meaning of Subtitles/Codes Which May Be Assigned to VH Opportunities:

Educational Talk
Includes: Leading, organizing, instructing or staffing an educational activity which has a planned learning objective and generally is planned for a specific time, such as classroom instruction, workshops, presentations, chapter trainees’ classes. These events have direct clients (“captive audience”).

Public Outreach
Includes: Leading, organizing, planning or staffing an educational activity where participants come and go and are able to inquire on a broad set of topics, such as staffing a booth or visitor center; also includes writing an educational article or brochure and serving on a Wildlife Hotline. These events have indirect clients.

Technical Guidance
Includes: Providing written management recommendations to land owners and/or land managers, writing ecosystem management plans and city/county/regional conservation plans

Natural Resource Management
Includes: Planning, leading or participating in activities that improve the health of a natural area or resource, such as invasive species or trash removal from a natural area, plant rescue, restoring or improving natural habitat, wildlife houses and towers, developing an ecosystem plan, tree planting, prairie restoration

Wildscape and Facility Maintenance
Includes: Planning, leading or participating in activities that improve and manage the public’s access to nature, such as developing new or improving existing nature trails, wildscapes and interpretive areas, gardens, wildlife viewing areas

Field Research
Includes: Planning, leading or participating in data collection and/or analysis of natural resources where the results are intended to further scientific understanding, such as field surveys, banding and tagging, species watch

As you scroll through the list of opportunities on the My Placements page, you will see a brief description of that opportunity. Click where the screen says “Click here for details.” Then you will see a more complete description of the opportunity, including a short definition of that particular subtitle or code. This will help you decide if that code is the correct one for the activity you did.

You will also notice that you can remove any particular opportunity from your “My Placements” list. You may want to do this if you believe you will probably never use that opportunity. If later, you want to return a deleted opportunity to your list, contact your VMS Verifier (Approver) or the Membership Director, who will have to do this.

Use the back arrow to return to previous screens.

3. Finding Which Opportunity You Should Use to Report Your Hours

If the activity you did was listed on the NTMN website calendar, the activity description will tell you, at the bottom of the description, which code to use to report your hours. Sometimes the calendar entry will suggest 2 possible codes to use for a VH activity. The one you use depends on what you actually did there. You decide which code more closely matches the work you did. If you did several different things, choose the code on which you spent the most time. For AT activities, the calendar will tell you which AT opportunity to use and the number of hours that will be approved for that training.

Some opportunities do not have a subtitle, because, for the present, they have only one code. All volunteer activities at that project will likely be in the same code. If activities at that project expand into other areas, additional codes may be added later.

(Remember that when you are ready to report your volunteer service hours, you will go to the Volunteer Dashboard and choose “Report My Service.”)

4. Reporting Advanced Training (AT)

To report hours, after you are logged in to VMS, go to “Report My Service” on the Volunteer Dashboard page. This is where you will select the opportunities for which you are reporting hours. At first, you will see only one line of print. Click there, and the whole list will open. If you are reporting Advanced Training hours, you MUST select an opportunity name that begins with AT. There are several AT opportunities (some of them begin with AT: NTX). Those are the only places to report AT. To find out which one you should use, look up the training on the NTMN website Member calendar. Below the description of the training will be the opportunity you should use for those AT hours. Click on the opportunity; the screen will open where you will put in some information. Click on the little calendar to select the date that you did the training.  Next to the instruction to “Describe your service or training,” in the box write what you did and where. Remember to put in the approved number of hours for the training. The website Member calendar will tell you how many hours are approved. Only that number of hours will be approved, even if you were at the training longer than that. Travel time cannot be counted for AT activities. When finished with that entry, click OK.

5. Reporting Volunteer Hours (VH) for Projects and Activities

To report hours, after you are logged in the VMS and are on the Volunteer Dashboard page, go to “Report My Service.” At first, you will see only one line of print. Click there, and the whole list will open. This is where you will select the opportunities for which you are reporting hours. Scroll past the AT opportunities until you get to the opportunities that do not have AT in front. These are the regular project opportunities, and they will be in alpha order. Scroll until you find the opportunity for what you did. (Remember that the website Member calendar listing will tell you which opportunity to use.) Click on the opportunity; the screen will open where you will put in some information. Click on the little calendar to select the date that you did the training.  Next to the instruction to “Describe your service or training,” in the box write what you did and where. Remember to put in the hours you worked, including your travel time. Travel time cannot exceed a total of 4 hours (2 hours each way). The section for reporting mileage is optional for your personal use. MN does not use mileage data. When finished with that entry, click OK.

6. Using Volunteer Opportunities with the NTX Prefix

VH Opportunities with NTX Prefix:

Administration
NTX: Administrative Work
This is the only place where Administrative Work for the NTMN chapter can be reported. (Administrative work for other organizations must be reported to the organization. For example, if you served on the Board of Texas Discovery Gardens, you would report your time to Texas Discovery Gardens. Consult your VMS Verifier (Approver) for help with reporting this type of service.)

Projects
NTX: Community Presentations (Direct Clients)
NTX: Outreach Events (Indirect Clients)
NTX: Walks and Talks, Trail Guiding (Direct Clients)
NTX: Other Pre-approved Natural Resource Management
NTX: Other Pre-approved Field Research
NTX: Other Pre-approved Wildscape & Facility Maintenance

There are 2 main instances in which you will need to use the NTX opportunities:

First Instance

You worked at a project which is on the alpha list of opportunities, but the work you did there does not match any of the available subtitles (codes).

Example: You prepare a program about the Big Spring at Pemberton project and present it at a Sierra Club meeting. This activity would be coded “Educational Talk.” There is no Educational Talk code for the Big Spring project, and we do not have an opportunity called Sierra Club. You would report your volunteer service hours to NTX: Community Presentations. This opportunity is coded for Educational Talks.

Second Instance

You did work in the “Wildscape and Facility Maintenance,” “Field Research” or “Natural Resource Management” code at a project that is not one of our listed volunteer opportunities. This work must be pre-approved. Send your request to activities@ntmn.org before you go, to make sure your hours will be approved.

Example: You worked at Oliver Nature Park maintaining a garden and nature trail. This activity would be coded as “Wildscape and Facility Maintenance,” but we do not have an opportunity for Oliver Nature Park. You would report your volunteer service hours to NTX: Other Wildscape and Facility Maintenance.

There is no guarantee that your hours reported on the NTX categories will be pre-approved. Pre-approved “other” volunteering will be either for another MN chapter’s project or for a recognized organization such as Texas Wildlife Association or Texas Land Conservancy.

To summarize, NTX-prefix opportunities are for volunteering you did that does not fit anything on our current opportunities list.

If you accidentally report your hours to an NTX opportunity, but there is actually an appropriate listing for your work already on the regular opportunities list, you will receive an email asking you to change your report to the appropriate opportunity.

When reporting your service hours, fill in the box that says “describe your service.” In a few words, tell what you did and where. This is necessary to determine if you have the correct opportunity.

7. Reporting Impact Data

If you report VH to an activity that has either direct or indirect clients that is, either Public Outreach, Educational Talk, Community Presentations, or Walks and Talks, Trail Guiding), you will be asked if you have impact data to report. This means clients. Clients are the adults and children that you taught or trained, led on a walk, assisted with teaching, etc., or that visited your booth. Someone at each of these client events must report the clients. Usually it is the project leader or organizer of the activity. When asked if you have impact data, mark “yes,” and enter numbers in the boxes. If you are sure that someone else is reporting the client data for the activity, then you may answer “no” and skip that part. (If the work you did that day consisted only of planning/preparing for the talk or outreach event, of course you will not have any clients yet; therefore, you would mark “no.”)

8. Getting More Help

If you need help with the VMS system or have questions about where to report your service hours, please contact activities@ntmn.org or membership@ntmn.org or your VMS Verifier (Approver).

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