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Volunteer Scholars is an approved Certifying Organization (CO) for the President’s Volunteer Service Awards (PVSA). The PVSA is a prestigious national honor offered in recognition of community service. Established in 2003, this award honors individuals and groups who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to volunteer service over the course of 12 months. Community service hours can be accumulated on a variety of projects throughout the year.

The PVSA is awarded annually at the Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels. For many, earning one or more awards will be a noteworthy honor on future college or scholarship applications.

Volunteer Levels
PVSA Hours Table

Eligibility

Membership

Recognized volunteers must have a valid membership in Volunteer Scholars at the Gold or Platinum level to have their volunteer work reviewed and certified for the PVSA award.

Student Status

Members must be enrolled in public school, private school, parochial school, charter school, home school, online or virtual school, hybrid of these, or community college (through age 18).

Citizenship

Recognized volunteers must be US citizens or lawfully admitted permanent residents of the US.

Age

Students ages 6 through 18 can earn this award. A student must be age 6 by August 31 (in other words, the student may have completed some activities while 5 years old, but must turn 6 by the end of the award cycle). A student cannot turn 19 before March 1 of the award year (in other words, the student was 18 for at least 6 months and 1 day, or “more than half”, of the award year.)

Aging Up a Level Mid-Year

PVSA has different award levels by age with increasing expectations as participants get older. There is a change in required hours between ages 10 and 11 (kids to teen) and between ages 15 and 16 (teen to young adult). For example, a 10-year-old needs to complete only 50 hours for a Silver Award, but an 11-year-old is expected to complete 75 hours for Silver. If a child is the younger age for more than a half-year, his/her hours will be submitted at the lower age. If the child ages up with more than a half year of the award year remaining, he/she will be counted at the new, older age. In other words, if a student turns 11 (or 16) on or after March 1, he/she may be counted as age 10 (or 15) for the award year. The Volunteer Scholars administrator will make this designation during the hours review.

Award Year

The Volunteer Scholars award year runs from September 1 through August 31 each year. All volunteer hours must be entered in the Volunteer Scholars online portal by 11:59 pm on August 31, no exceptions. Hours entered after that time cannot be counted for the closing year, nor can they be carried forward to the next year.

Tracking Volunteer Hours

All community service activities and hours must be entered in the Volunteer Scholars online portal. Volunteer Scholars will no longer accept the former fillable pdf log or any other electronic or hard copy formats such as Google Sheets, Excel, faxed, photographed, scanned, or handwritten copies of the log.

Itemized Details
  • Volunteer hours worked must be entered in the Volunteer Activity Log in discrete entries noting the date worked, hours worked, activity description, and beneficiary organization.
  • Example: Instead of entering “12 hours- Boy Scouts”, our reviewers must be able to see specifics like:
    • March 3, 2019,  Park Clean-Up,  Boy Scouts,  3.0 hours.
    • April 4, 2019,  Canned Food Collection,  Reston Food Bank,  4.0 hours
    • May 5, 2019,  Built Birdhouses,  Meadowlark Gardens,  5.0 hours
Back-Up Documentation

Volunteers must submit back-up documentation demonstrating that they have completed the hours they reported on their Volunteer Activity Logs. Forms of accepted back-up documentation include:

  • Letter or email* from organizer/supervisor at the beneficiary organization
  • Letter or email* from the adult organizer of the volunteer work, such as Honor Society advisor, scout leaders, guidance counselor, etc.
  • Certificate or “thank you” from an organization for your work
  • A time tracking log from a single charitable organization, such as a public library’s log, provided it comes from their system and contains a clear identifier such as the orgranization’s logo and/or contact information. (See note below about school and organization logs that are not accepted.)
  • For self-organized work only: photographs of you performing the work or letter/email from the beneficiary
  • Documentation must be submitted as pdf or jpg attachments to entries in the Volunteer Scholars online portal.
  • For back-up documentation, such as a letter, that confirms hours completed over a range of dates, the volunteer should upload this to the latest date in the series.
  • Note: *Emails documenting work should be sent to the volunteer and printed as a pdf for attachment. Do not send individual emails to Volunteer Scholars.
Incomplete/Unacceptable Back-Up Documentation

Volunteer Scholars cannot accept the following for back-up documentation:

  • Generic time-tracking logs from schools or honor societies as these often (1) do not identify the full name and contact information of the beneficiary organization and (2) include types of volunteer work or leadership recognized by the school or organization, but not approved by Volunteer Scholars.
  • Documentation of the number items contributed such as 50 articles of clothing, 25 cards, 200 digital images, etc, unless the volunteer has separately tracked his/her specific hours. See note below that “piecemeal” work is not accepted where a time is assigned to a set number it items.
Review/Acceptance of Hours

Volunteer Scholars will review all service hour entries and maintains the right to contact beneficiary organizations to verify volunteer work completed. Volunteer Scholars may reject any entries that are incorrectly documented, unsubstantiated, or that are of an excluded type of participation.

What Counts as Community Service?
Type of Community Service

Volunteers may perform any type of community service that they wish, subject to Volunteer Scholars’ guidelines of what “counts” and “does not count.” Major service categories suggested by PVSA include: education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, veterans and military families, economic opportunity, disaster services, and more.

Self-Organized Work

Community service work does not need to be done through an organization or established program. Self-initiated service work such as an individual’s or family’s commitment to cleaning up a park or stream, can be counted for this award. Volunteer Scholars may ask for additional details or documentation on self-initiated projects.

Teaching Assistants/Junior Coaches/Counselor in Training (Dance, Martial Arts, Camps, etc.)

A volunteer who serves as a junior or assistant instructor, coach, or camp counselor may be able to count time spent teaching classes to younger students, even if the studio/camp/sports organization is a for-profit business if there is no in-kind compensation. The student coach/teaching assistant/counselor must not receive any benefits such as free or reduced tuition/class fees, belt testing, or other no-cost benefits. Any student who submits volunteer instructor/coach hours of this type as volunteer work must also submit a letter from the studio/camp signed by the owner or head coach stating that the volunteer did not receive any of the benefits list above or similar in exchange for his/her volunteer work.

Work at a for-profit hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

An exception to the for-profit business rule is student work at a hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Some of these facilities operate as for-profit businesses and/or franchises because of the complexity of the healtcare system. Work at these for-profit facilities can be counted because of the substantial benefit to patients and residents.

Hours Per Item/ Piece Work

Volunteer time may not be calculated as “piece work” where an organization (or volunteer) automatically assigns a unit of time per item collected or completed. For example: a volunteer who is creating cards for the elderly should watch the clock and log the amount of time she worked each day making cards rather than logging a standard 15-minutes per card. A volunteer who is collecting used clothing should note the start and end time of activities such as laundering, sorting, folding, and packaging the clothing items rather than counting 10 minutes per article of clothing. A volunteer who is cataloging images for a citizen scientist project should record the length of time she spent in each sitting rather than tracking 5 minutes per photo. Furthermore, there is no time exchange for “in kind” donated goods. Simply contributing books or toys to a drive does not have a time equivalency. Even when other organizations allow these methods, Volunteer Scholars does not because they almost always overestimate an effort.

Double Dipping/Double Counting Service Hours

Community service hours counted towards the PVSA do not need to be uniquely earned for this award. Hours completed through or required by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, National Honor Society, Beta Club, church, or similar civic or community initiatives, may be applied towards a PVSA award, even if they are performed towards earning another award or recognition.

Questions if an activity “counts”?

Members are welcome to contact Volunteer Scholars to ask if a specific activity is likely to count as community service. A team member will reply with an opinion and guidance on whether or not a type of activity could be counted, but such correspondance is not a firm guarantee by Volunteer Scholars because nuances or details may disqualify an activity once details are submitted. For example, volunteer work with an environmental organization might be counted, but participation in a demonstration, march or rally with that organization would likely be disqualified.

Please note that just because a school or club “approved” yours hours or an organization “awarded” hours, does not mean that Volunteer Scholars can accept these hours if they fall outside of allowed activities or are specifically categorized as disallowed activities.

Volunteer Scholars is unable to provide guidance on what “counts” or does not count to non-members.

What Does Not Count as Community Service?
Unpaid Student Work

Not all unpaid student work can be counted as volunteer, community service work. Unpaid work in a for-profit place of business, such as an office or medical practice, is considered an internship experience and shall not count as volunteer work because the student’s effort would benefit a business rather than a charitable effort. Read above for exception for volunteer camps/sports/dance teaching assistants and nursing homes/hospitals.

Participation/Leadership in a Student Club/Organization

A student’s attendance at regular meetings, participation in events, or even a leadership role in a club, sport, activity, or organizations that he/she is a member of is part of being a member of that organization and does not count as volunteer hours. Being captain of the debate team, social chair for Beta Club, serving on student council, captain of the hockey team, etc, are examples of student leadership, but are not, however, community service. Service projects or charitable work done through one of these organizations, such as a youth group visit to a nursing home or Boy Scouts cleaning up a park, can be counted.

School Events and Activities

A student’s contributions in and around his/her own school are generally not considered volunteer work. Activities such as decorating for spirit week, setting up for prom, straightening a classroom, or helping at graduation may be performed on a voluntary basis, but are done so as members of that school and therefore not counted as volunteer work.

Performing Arts

Routine, regularly occurring practices and rehearsals for performing arts such as a band, orchestra, ensemble, dance company, comedy troup, improv, individual intrument or similar are considered extracurricular activities and should not be counted as community service. If the band, orchestra, dance group, musician, or similar performs a free community performance or concert, en plein air or street show, or performs at a nursing home, VA hospital, or charitable venue, the time spent giving the performance can be counted as community service so long as the event was open to or viewable by the public at no cost.

Work for Family/ Friends

Unpaid work for family or friends is usually not counted as volunteer work. Mowing the lawn for your parents, babysitting for a family member, or washing a car for your grandparents is considered a contribution to your own family and not volunteer work that benefits the community. Work in the family’s business is not usually considered volunteer work. Tutoring your friend in geometry or teaching your neighbor’s child soccer are considered the normal interactions of a friend/neighbor and not volunteer work that benefits the community. If you believe that there should be an exception for your activity, contact Volunteer Scholars for clarification.

Education/Awareness Programs

Participation or attendence in an education or awareness program about a community issue may not be counted as community service. For example, attending a forum on homelessness, a lecture on poverty, or watching a documentary on abuse may be important to your effectiveness as a volunteer and your understanding as a community member, but it may not be counted as service.

Fundraising

Hours spent on fundraising activities for a member’s own organization cannot be counted as service. Following are some examples of funraising efforts that would not count as a volunteer service:

  • A Boy Scout who spends 6 hours selling popcorn to raise money for his pack/den would not count as volunteer work.
  • A Girl Scout who spends 12 hours selling cookies to raise money for her troop would not count as volunteer work.
  • High school students who organize and host a camp or clinic (dance, sports, STEM, etc) to raise funds for their organization would not count as volunteer work, even if the participants were younger students.
  • Member of National Honor Society who spend 2 hours selling pizza slices to raise money for their program would not count as volunteer work.
  • Band members who hold a bake sale to raise money for travel to an out-of-town competition would not count as volunteer work

However, a student who spends time on a fundraising event that benefits an outside community organization generally can count as volunteer work. Examples include:

  • Beta club members who host a lemonade stand to raise money for the local animal shelter can count their hours worked.
  • Members of the women’s soccer team host a car wash to raise funds for the cancer society can count their hours worked.
Religious Instruction, Worship Service

Performing religious instruction, conducting a worship service, and proselytizing shall not count as community service hours. For example, volunteering as Sunday school, vacation bible school, or religious education assistant or work as an altar boy may not be counted. Community service done through a place of worship that benefits the larger commuity, such as food drives, meals for the homeless, soup kitchens, clothing collections, etc., can be counted.

Fostering Animals

Activities related to the direct care and keeping of foster animals, such as feeding, watering, bathing, exercising, grooming, accompanying to vet appointments, or cleaning up after the animal are considered community service. Activities related to adoption services for foster animals, such as creating promotions or working at adoption events, can be counted. However, if the volunteer is sheltering a foster animal(s) at home, he/she cannot count ALL hours that the animal is sheltered or housed as volunteer time. For example, fostering an animal for 7 days does not yield 168 hours of community service because not all hours of the day are devoted to the care and keeping of the animal.

Hosting Live-In Exchange Student

Activities and interactions with an exchange student who is living in your home is generally not considered volunteer work. Eating, running errands, taking trips, going on outings, and doing ordinary activities of daily life when accompanied by an exchange student does not transform such activities into a volunteer role (since you would likely be doing these things anyway, without an exchange student.)

Paid Work

Volunteers must not receive any compensation or stipend for the community service hours.

Commute Time

Volunteers may not count their time commuting to or from a volunteer position or event as part of their community service hours.

Marches, Rallies, Protests

Participation in marches, rallies, or protests shall not count as community service hours.

Court-Ordered Service

Volunteer service mandated by a court cannot be counted.

Unused/Rollover Hours

Volunteer hours must be completed in the 12 month award period. Unused hours may not be “rolled over” to the next award period. The exception is the Lifetime Achievement Award which is cumulative across multiple years.

Monetary/In-Kind Donations

Monetary or in-kind donations to an organization do not have a volunteer hour equivalency and cannot be counted.

PVSA Awards

For more information or questions on the PVSA, contact the Volunteer Scholars awards administrator at info@volunteerscholars.org