Volunteers and Volunteering Both Declined For 2013

December 18, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

Fewer Americans are volunteering, and those who do give of them time are volunteering less. A report from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) shows a decline of 2 million in the number of volunteers in 2013 compared to 2012. The rate of volunteers fell from 26.5 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 16 to 25.4 percent.

The report, Volunteering and Civic Engagement in the United States, also shows that volunteers in 2013 contributed an average of 32.1 hours each, and the value of all volunteer hours was $173 billion. Both of those metrics declined from 2012, when residents volunteered 32.4 hours each, for a total of $175 billion.

The absolute number of volunteers was the lowest since 2002, when CNCS began collecting data. There were 59.8 million volunteers that year. The rate of volunteering was 27.4 percent in 2002, and the next three years the rate was 28.8 percent. The rate dropped in 2006 to 26.7 percent and hovered above 26 percent until last year.

Volunteers have also been putting in fewer hours since 2002, when the average number of hours was 36.8 each. That number jumped to its highest, 37.9 hours, in 2004, and has declined every year since except for 2009, when the number of hours held steady from 2008’s 34.2 hours.

Fundraising is the most popular volunteering activity, with 25.4 percent of volunteers reporting having engaged in fundraising during 2013. It was also the most popular activity in 2012, at 25.7 percent. Collecting and distributing food got a slight bump last year compared to the previous year, from 23.8 percent to 24.2 percent. Other popular activities include tutoring or teaching (18 percent) and mentoring youth (17.3 percent).

Religious organizations are still the most popular target for volunteers, with about one-third (33.9 percent) of all volunteers helping religious organizations. Educational organizations were the second-most popular, at 26.2 percent. Both percentages were slightly down from the 2012 numbers of 34.2 percent and 26.5 percent, respectively.

Americans aged 35-44 are the most generous with their time, with 31.3 percent in that age range volunteering. Those aged 45 to 54 were nearly as active, at a rate of 29.4 percent. Cohorts of ages 55 to 64 and 65 to 74 volunteered at rates of 27.2 percent and 27.1 percent, followed by ages 16 to 19, 26.7 percent. Those older than 75 and 20 to 24 were least likely to volunteer, at 20.4 percent and 19 percent.

By region, the South had by far the highest dollar amount, at nearly $60 billion. The Northeast had the lowest, with $29.4 billion. More volunteers — 21.4 million of them — came from the South than any other area. The West had the most volunteer hours per person, at 36.6, followed by the Midwest at 33.1.