Volunteering is an American tradition that has made an immeasurable contribution to communities and organizations throughout the country. More than 167,000 volunteers, motivated by the values and mission of the NPS, donated 5.4 million hours to the national parks in 2007 through the agency’s Volunteers-In-Parks program. Their in-kind donations of time and expertise are valued at $109.35 million (for dollar value of volunteer hours). Beyond these contributions, volunteers engaged in their communities and parks often become lifetime donors.
Volunteerism is at an historic high during the 21st century due in large part to the renewed national interest in volunteering after the 9/11 terrorism attacks in 2001 and the 2005 hurricanes.
In 2007, 60.8 million adults volunteered 8.1 billion hours of service in the U.S. The figure represents 26.2 percent of the population, slightly lower than 26.7 percent in 2006.
- Volunteerism increased from 20.4 percent in 1989 to 26.2 percent in 2007.
- The volunteer rates among young adults ages 16-19 almost doubled between 1989 and 2006 (from 13.4% to 26.4%, respectively). (Some of this is related to school service learning requirements.)
- The mid-life adult volunteer rate declined between 1974 and 1989 (23.2% to 22%, respectively) but rebounded to 29.8 percent in 2006.
- The volunteer rate for older adults, ages 65 and older, has been increasing. Their volunteer activities through the last three decades increased from 14.3 percent in 1974 to 23.8 percent in 2006.
- The number of volunteers serving in an education or youth services organization nearly doubled from 15.1 percent in 1989 to 26.7 percent in 2007.
- Religious institutions were the most popular organization choice among volunteers.
- There were one million more volunteers in 2007 than 2002, and volunteering is stronger than two decades ago.
- The top five states for volunteerism in the new report were Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska and Montana, with volunteer rates ranging from 43.9 percent in Utah to 38 percent in Montana.
- The lowest five were Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, New York and Nevada with volunteer rates ranging from 21.8 percent in Mississippi to 17.7 percent in Nevada.
Sources: Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. Volunteering in America: 2007 State Trends and Rankings in Civil Life, Washington, D.C. 2007; Independent Sector, “Independent Sector Announces New Estimate for Value of Volunteer Time”, April 13, 2009