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Lending a Hand: Volunteers Filling Gaps for Communities and Nonprofits

Resource Center - Foundation

(Aug. 4, 2009) Even during a time of prolonged economic recession, volunteering has remained steady, fueled by a compassion boom led by young adults and a wave of do-it-yourself volunteers, reports the Corporation for National and Community Service in a recent study.

Volunteering in America 2009 found that a total of 61.8 million Americans volunteered through an organization in 2008, up one million from the previous year. America's volunteers dedicated more than 8 billion hours of service in 2008, worth an estimated $162 billion.

The report also found an increase in volunteering by young adults (age 16-24), rising from 7.8 million in 2007 to 8.2 million in 2008. The finding aligns with other indicators suggesting a strong service ethic among the millennial generation, including a 217 percent increase in applications to AmeriCorps over the past 8 months.

While the formal volunteering rate remained relatively stable at 26.4 percent, other less-formal ways of serving in communities have dramatically increased. The number of people who worked with their neighbors to fix a community problem rose by 31 percent, from 15.2 million in 2007 to 19.9 million in 2008, suggesting an emerging trend of self-organized ‘do-it-yourself' service.

Nonprofits Turning to Volunteers to Fill the Gap

In the wake of declining financial and staff resources, more nonprofits are relying on and increasing their demand for volunteers. A study by Johns Hopkins University found that between September 2008 and March 2009, more than a third (37 percent) of nonprofit organizations reported increasing the number of volunteers they use, and almost half (48 percent) foresee increasing their use of volunteers in the coming year.

Increasing volunteer numbers could also help with fundraising challenges since the report also discovered that individuals who volunteer are more than twice as likely to donate to a charity or nonprofit organization as individuals who do not volunteer: 78.2 percent of volunteers made a charitable contribution worth $25 or more as compared to 38.5 percent of non-volunteers.

Key State and City Findings

  • For the fourth year in a row, Utah was the top volunteer state with a volunteer rate 43.5 percent, followed by Nebraska (38.9 percent), Minnesota (38.4 percent), Alaska (38 percent), and Iowa (37.1 percent).
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul once again ranked number one among large cities at 38.4 percent, followed by Portland, OR (36.7 percent), Salt Lake City, UT (36.5 percent), Seattle, WA (34.3 percent), and Kansas City, MO (33.4 percent).
  • Mid-size cities, particularly those in the Midwest, have on average higher volunteer rates than large cities, and residents of mid-size cities contribute more hours to volunteering.
  • In the second annual look at volunteering in 75 mid-sized cities, Provo, Utah, again led the nation with a whopping 62.9 percent volunteer rate, followed by Iowa City (42.9 percent), Ogden, UT (43.6 percent), Madison, WI (41.5 percent), and Topeka, KS (40.7 percent).
  • Although women are more likely than men to be volunteers—in fact, working mothers have the highest volunteer rates of all—men are more likely to participate in their community in less formal ways.

Background

The research is based on annual surveys of approximately 100,000 individuals collected by the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics in partnership with the Corporation. The VolunteeringInAmerica.gov website contains nine years of data on volunteering, and rankings, volunteer trends and demographic information for every state and almost 200 large and mid-sized cities. It is produced to help national, state and local leaders better understand volunteering trends and demographics and use the data to develop effective strategies for recruiting and retaining volunteers.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that each year engages four million Americans of all ages and backgrounds through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.



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