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The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released the Volunteering in America report today. The comprehensive report, including data by city and state, can be found in a new, sleek, user-friendly website. Fortunately, the stumbling economy has not had an adverse effect on the rate of volunteerism, which has remained steady, and the total number of volunteers has increased by about one million in the last year. The findings are consistent with much of what we've seen here at the Case Foundation, both anecdotally and through our programs of the past few years.
Some key findings of interest from this year’s report:
- Millennials are Leading the Charge The report shows that about 8.2 million young people (ages 16-24) volunteered in 2008, compared with about 7.6 million in 2007. This growth accounts for almost half of the overall increase in the number of volunteers nationally. The increase in volunteer rate for young people from 20.8 percent in 2007 to 21.9 percent in 2008 matches their beliefs about giving back. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, about 70 percent – the highest rate since 1970 – of students entering college in 2008 believe that it is essential or very important to help people in need. We see this belief exemplified on Social Citizens as we explore how the Millennial Generation is getting involved with causes by applying new approaches, ideas and technologies to social issues.
- Neighborhood Engagement is on the Rise Individuals are getting more involved in projects to improve their communities, as the number of people who worked with their neighbors to fix a community problem rose 31 percent in the last year. In addition, there was a 17 percent increase in the number of people who attended community meetings. We realized just how eager people are to invest in their communities, when we received nearly 5,000 applications for the Make It Your Own Awards, an experiment with funding individuals who wanted to see a change in their communities and true grassroots programs developed by neighborhoods, for neighborhoods.
- Volunteers Give More Volunteers were much more likely than non-volunteers to donate to a charitable cause in 2008. Seventy-eight percent of volunteers gave $25 or more, while only 39 percent of non-volunteers gave. In this tough economic climate, these small, individual donations are increasingly important to nonprofits. The link between volunteerism and giving shows that people want to be involved in a cause in a meaningful way, and if nonprofits can find ways to actively engage people in their programs, they can also expect their budgets to benefit. Recognizing that some of the best advocates for an issue can be individual volunteers, the Case Foundation’s Giving Challenge focused on empowering individuals who are passionate about a cause to reach out to their networks, beyond the benefiting nonprofit’s mailing list, to promote and raise money for their causes.
For the full report, visit volunteeringinamerica.gov. CNCS has also provided a resource center for organizations and communities that want to grow their volunteer base and more effectively engage volunteers, and they have planned a series of ask the expert webinars with leading researchers and practitioners in the volunteerism field.