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New Report Sheds Light on Why People Volunteer

(Feb. 28, 2005) While moral values are the primary reason many Americans volunteer, clear differences emerge between age groups, according to a survey by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Seventy-five percent of those who volunteer said that acting on their moral values was either an absolutely important or very important factor in why they volunteer. In contrast, 47 percent indicated they volunteer to gain new experiences, 42 percent because they were helped by a volunteer in the past and 30 percent because of a desire to meet other people.

Young adults (ages 18 to 34) were more likely than other age groups to say that gaining new experiences was a major motivation for volunteering (59 percent), while seniors (ages 65 and up) were most likely to place greater emphasis on their desire to meet other people (48 percent).

The study also showed that Americans place a greater importance on volunteering than giving. Fifty percent of respondents said volunteering one's time was more important, compared to 20 percent who said giving was more valuable. Twenty-six percent said that volunteering and giving were equally important.

'The study provides some interesting insight that can help charities as they seek to attract volunteers of a certain age group,' said AFP President and CEO Paulette Maehara, CFRE, CAE. 'We talk a lot about segmenting donors and trying to ascertain why they give, but we haven't spent as much time examining why volunteers give their time. This study gives charities something to think about as they try to reach out to various groups.'

Who Volunteers and for How Long?

Americans most likely to volunteer included individuals who attend religious services once a week or more (72 percent), college graduates (68 percent), women (60 percent versus 54 percent for men) and those having incomes of at least $75,000 (62 percent).

However, those who volunteer the greatest number of hours per month (on average) are, with one exception, from entirely different groups. Individuals with incomes of less than $35,000 annually (23 hours per month) volunteer the most, followed by men (20 hours), those attending religious services once a week or more(19 hours) and 18-34 year olds (19 hours).

Twenty-two percent of Americans reported that they are more involved in volunteer work as a result of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war on terrorism. Individuals ages 18 to 34 (26 percent) and those living in the Northeast (25 percent) were most likely to say their volunteerism has increased due to these causes.

About the Survey

The survey was based on telephone interviews conducted between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5, 2004, with a nationwide sample of 1,002 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Quinley Research in Claremont, Calif., conducted the survey on behalf of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The margin of error for questions posed to all of the respondents is +/- 3.1 percent.

To obtain a copy of the survey, contact Thrivent at (800) 847-4836 or mediarelations@thrivent.com.

Thrivent is a nonprofit Fortune 500 financial services organization based in Minneapolis, Minn., and serving more than 2.8 million people.

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