Americans significantly increased their commitment to volunteering and civic engagement in 2011, a new report from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship finds.
According to Volunteering and Civic Life in America, 64.3 million adults (26.8 percent) volunteered through a formal organization in 2011 — a year-over-year increase of 1.5 million and the highest rate nationally since 2005 — contributing a total of 7.9 billion hours valued at more than $170 billion. Among those who volunteered through an organization, the most common 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). In addition, 65.1 percent volunteered informally by helping out their neighbors, up 9.5 percentage points from 2010.
Robert Grimm, director of the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Maryland, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that the increase was mainly due to population growth, not a response to the economy or other factors.
The report ranks states, large cities, and metropolitan areas by volunteer rate and provides data on volunteer hours per resident, number of volunteers and hours of service, value of service contributed, and other indicators of social connectedness and civic engagement. For the seventh consecutive year, Utah was the top state in terms of volunteer participation, with a rate of 40.9 percent, followed by Idaho (38.8 percent), Iowa (38.4 percent), Minnesota (38.0 percent), and South Dakota (36.8 percent). The top five metropolitan areas were Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (37 percent), Rochester, New York (34.8 percent ), Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (33.4 percent), Salt Lake City (33.2 percent), and Jacksonville, Florida (32.2 percent).
The report also found that parents volunteer at a significantly higher rate (33.7 percent) than the national average (26.8 percent), with a volunteer rate of 46 percent among parents in their late forties with school-aged children and 38 percent among working mothers. Among parent-volunteers, 43.1 percent volunteered at schools or youth service organizations. "In America, education must be the great equalizer — and robust engagement from communities, families, mentors, tutors, and other volunteers is absolutely vital to achieving that core American ideal," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "As a nation, we are so much stronger working together collaboratively to advance student learning than working in isolation."