A study published by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) yesterday details the latest volunteering trends.
Volunteering in America 2009, the latest version of an annual report that looks at volunteerism in the United States, shows a slight increase in the number of volunteers in 2008. A companion website also called Volunteering in America offers links to summaries of the report and a look at volunteering trends in the 50 states and nearly 200 cities.
Last year, a million more people age 16 and older volunteered (without pay) at organizations than in 2007. 61.8 million people (26.4 percent of the adult population) volunteered 8 billion hours of their time through organizations. CNCS estimates the value of the volunteer service at $162B, using Independent Sector’s 2008 estimate of the dollar value of a volunteer hour ($20.25).
While a million new volunteers is laudable, the survey results that formed the basis of this 2009 report were collected in September as part of a supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) which the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts monthly with about 100,000 adults. I’m curious to see whether the 2010 report shows a marked jump in the numbers — both because of the economic downturn that worsened starting last September, and also because of President Obama’s and Michelle Obama’s repeated calls to service throughout the transition and during the new administration.
One number I really liked to see was that over 441,000 more young adults (age 16-24) volunteered in 2008 than 2007, an increase from about 7.8 million to more than 8.2 million. Research shows that young people who engage in service are embarking on a path to lifelong civic engagement. (Tuft’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has reported that volunteering empowers youth with the knowledge that they can make a difference in their communities. In 2007 the Corporation published another report, Leveling the Path to Participation, that also found that youth from disadvantaged circumstances who volunteer feel more influential in their communities than do their peers who don’t volunteer.)
Another encouraging number is the “neighborhood engagement” level. This is the term the Corporation uses for volunteering that takes place independent of an organization. The neighborhood engagement level experienced a 31 percent increase in the number of people “who worked with their neighbors to fix a community problem” and a 17 percent increase in the number of people who attended community meetings.
A related report, Sounding from the Listening Post Project (PDF), a national survey of nonprofits done in partnership with the Corporation, shows that organizations struggling to provide services on smaller budgets rely more heavily than ever on their volunteers to keep their clients and communities healthy. According to the Corporation’s summary, “between September 2008 and March 2009, more than a third (37%) of nonprofit organizations report increasing the number of volunteers they use, and almost half (48%) foresee increasing their usage of volunteers in the coming year.1 Almost no nonprofit organizations are showing a decrease in their volunteer usage.”
Here’s an announcement about the Volunteering in America 2009 report from Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service:
Also take a look at other related research in the field of volunteering.