As the holiday season spotlights acts of kindness and giving back, a new federal study shows that 1 in 4 Americans volunteered through an organization and 3 in 5 helped their neighbors last year.
The annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America research, released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), shows that service to others continues to be a priority for millions of Americans.
“We are calling on Americans to volunteer in their communities, and to invite their friends and families to join them,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “Volunteers enrich our communities and keep our nation strong. Service also connects us with our neighbors and provides a chance to use our skills for the common good. There are so many ways we can make a difference for those in need, during the holiday season and throughout the entire year.”
This year’s report found that 62.8 million adults (25.3 percent) volunteered through an organization last year. Altogether, Americans volunteered nearly 7.96 billion hours last year, worth an estimated $184 billion, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour. The volunteer rate consistently remains stable and strong. Over the past 13 years, Americans volunteered 104.9 billion hours, worth an estimated $2.1 trillion.
In addition, more than 138 million Americans (62.5 percent) also engaged in informal volunteering in their communities, helping neighbors with such tasks as watching each other’s children, helping with shopping, or house sitting.
“At this time of heightened unease, the civic health of our country and engagement of our citizens is particularly important,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship. “That’s why all sectors of society from nonprofits, to our government, to businesses should redouble their efforts to promote greater connections among Americans. Our civic health is strongest when people trust and help their neighbors and engage with their government.”
The research shows that overall rate of volunteering remains strong and stable, despite a slight decrease from the previous year, and that Americans’ commitment to volunteering spans across generations. Key highlights of the report include:
- Generation X leads volunteering among generations. Americans aged 35-44 had the highest volunteer rate (29.8 percent) followed by those aged 45-54 (28.5 percent). Generation X also reports the highest rates of participation in organizations among all generational groups at 40.5 percent.
- One in five (21.7 percent) of Millennials (aged 16-32) volunteered. Young adults aged 18-24 attending college volunteer at twice the rate (26.6 percent) of their non-college attending peers (13.2 percent).
- Older Americans, including Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, tend to volunteer more hours. In 2014, the age groups with the highest median hours among volunteers were ages 65-74 (81 hours) and those 75 and older (100+ hours).
- The volunteer rate of parents with children under age 18 is higher than the national average at 31.6 percent. Working mothers continue to maintain the highest rate of volunteering among all populations at 36 percent.
- More than one-third of Americans (36.3 percent) are involved in a school, civic, recreational, religious, or other organization. Americans most frequently volunteer with religious groups (34 percent), followed closely by education or youth service groups, and social or community groups.
The report also measures volunteering at the state and local level. Utah, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kansas claim the top five state spots, while Salt Lake City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Rochester come in as the top large metropolitan areas. Additional rankings are available for mid-size cities and by age groups.
“Every day, volunteers of all ages are giving their time and talents to solve problems and make our nation stronger,” Spencer said. “Whether tutoring students or connecting veterans to services or responding to natural disasters, Americans are doing extraordinary things to improve lives and strengthen communities. As they serve others, volunteers help themselves by learning new skills, increasing job prospects, and even improving their health.”
In 2013, CNCS released Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment, research which found that unemployed individuals who volunteer over the next year have 27 percent higher odds of being employed at the end of the year than non-volunteers. Among rural volunteers and volunteers without a high school diploma, the likelihood increases by 55 and 51 percent, respectively.
Volunteers provide critical support to our nation’s nonprofit, civic, and faith-based organizations, offering time, skills, and monetary support. The Volunteering and Civic Life in America research found that volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly 80 percent of volunteers donated to charity, compared to 40 percent of non-volunteers. Overall, half of all citizens (50.5 percent) donated at least $25 to charity in 2014.
As the federal agency for service and volunteering, CNCS funds the annual Volunteering Supplement to provide government and nonprofit leaders with in-depth information on volunteering and civic trends to help them develop strategies to mobilize more Americans to address local needs through service. The Volunteering and Civic Life in America data includes profiles for all 50 states, 51 large cities, and 75 mid-sized cities, including data on volunteer rates, civic indicators, rankings, area-specific trends, and analysis.
The research is part of the agency’s efforts to expand the impact of America’s volunteers on key challenges facing the nation. CNCS provides critical support to America’s nonprofit and voluntary sector through grants, training, research, and partnerships. Last year, CNCS engaged millions of Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, MLK Day, and other service programs.
The full analysis and customizable data sets can be found at volunteeringinamerica.gov.
Americans interested in finding local volunteer opportunities can visit www.serve.gov.