Volunteering Hits a 30-Year High, New Federal Report Finds
Volunteering has reached a 30-year high in the United States as more people pitch in to help their communities, according to a study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The report, Volunteer Growth in America: A Review of Trends Since 1974, finds that adult volunteering rose sharply between 1989 and 2005, increasing more than 32 percent over the last 16 years. Even with the increase, less than a third of American adults give their time–a finding that has prompted the nation’s volunteer agency to ask more Americans to join this trend during the holidays.
The Corporation calls for more volunteers to mentor at-risk youth, care for seniors, respond to disasters, and meet a wide range of other critical needs. The national effort seeks to engage an additional 10 million volunteers by 2010.
The brief analyzes volunteering rates in 1974, 1989, and 2002-05, using information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It finds that the growth in volunteering is driven primarily by three age groups: teenagers 16 to 19, Baby Boomers and others ages 45 to 65, and older adults 65 and over.
Among the findings:
–Older teenagers (ages 16-19) have more than doubled their time spent volunteering since 1989.
–Far from being a “Me Generation,” Baby Boomers are volunteering at sharply higher rates than did the previous generation at mid-life.
–The volunteer rate for Americans ages 65 years and over has increased 64 percent since 1974.
–The proportion of Americans volunteering with an educational or youth service organization has seen a 63 percent increase just since just 1989.
Other findings: Educational and youth service organizations (such as schools, 4-H, and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) are benefiting from the growth because they have received the largest increase in volunteers between 1989 and 2006. Nearly 24.6 percent of all adult volunteers serve through such organizations, a 63 percent increase since 1989. The biggest percentage of volunteers serves through religious organizations, although the proportion of Americans contributing time to those groups has decreased slightly, from 37.4 percent to 35.5 percent, since 1989.
The report says that although volunteering actually declined between 1974 and 1989 before rebounding, there are several reasons for heightened civic engagement today:
–Teenagers are volunteering in greater numbers, in part, because of an increase in service-learning programs in schools and colleges that combine classroom study with community activity. Another reason may be a response to traumatic national events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and recent natural disasters.
–Mid-life adults are more likely to have children in the home because Americans are delaying marriage and childbearing. The result is increased exposure to volunteering opportunities connected to their children’s school and extracurricular activities.
–Older Americans are living longer, are better educated, and are more financially secure–creating an increased desire for them to remain active and seek ways to give back to communities.
The Corporation is committed to working with volunteer and service-driven organizations to expand the number of Americans who volunteer by 15 percent over the next five years.
The Volunteer Growth in America report is the first in a series of research briefs that will examine historical trends in volunteering in an effort to highlight emerging trends and encourage more adults to volunteer. The Corporation’s “10 x 10” campaign aims to increase the number of volunteers in America from 65 million in 2005 to 75 million in 2010 while achieving the agency’s strategic goals, which include engaging more students and harnessing the experience of Baby Boomers.