Volunteer Rate Up, Worth $171 Billion

The national volunteer rate reached a five-year high in 2011, with almost one in four adults volunteering through a formal organization. Overall, 64.3 million Americans volunteered, an increase of 1.5 million compared to 2010.

According to “Volunteering and Civic Life in America,” a report released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in partnership with the National Council on Citizenship, the 7.9 billion hours volunteered was valued at $171 billion.

“Volunteering and civic engagement are the cornerstone of a strong nation,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS, the agency that administers AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, programs that engage millions of Americans in volunteering. “We have a prime example of the importance of people working together in the Northeast, where volunteers have really stepped up to support recovery and relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy. People working together and helping out their neighbors can have a positive impact on a community.”

The report shows the volunteer rate among parents is 7 points higher than the national average — 33.7 percent compared to 26.8 percent. Nearly half of parents in their late 40s with school-aged children volunteer and among working mothers, the volunteer rate is almost 40 percent. Schools or youth service organizations are the most popular places for parents to volunteer, at more than 43 percent.

Among citizens who volunteered through a formal organization, the top activities included fundraising or selling items to raise money (26.2 percent); collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (23.6 percent); engaging in general labor or transportation (20.3 percent), or tutoring or teaching (18.2 percent).

More than 65 percent of citizens, almost 144 million, engaged in informal volunteering, which was an increase of almost 10 percent compared to last year. More than 44 percent of Americans actively participated in civic, religious and school groups.

The top five states for volunteering were:

  • Utah, 40.9 percent
  • Idaho, 38.8 percent
  • Iowa, 38.4 percent
  • Minnesota, 38 percent
  • South Dakota, 36.8 percent

The largest percentage point increases in volunteering were found in Delaware (+5.3 percent), Oregon (+5 percent), Alaska (+4.4 percent), Georgia (+3.7 percent) and Idaho (+3.7 percent). Gains in Delaware and Oregon were attributed to collecting and distributing food when volunteering.

The top five metropolitan areas for volunteering were:

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wisc., 37 percent
  • Rochester, N.Y., 34.8 percent
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 33.4 percent
  • Salt Lake City, Utah, 33.2 percent
  • Jacksonville, Fla., 32.2 percent

The largest gains by metropolitan areas were in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif. (+7.2 percent); Louisville, Kent. (+7.1 percent); Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif. (+6.3 percent); Austin-Round Rock, Texas (+5.6 percent), and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (+5.4 percent).