More than 63 million Americans volunteered for some type of organized program in 2009 – about 26.8 percent of the population, and an increase of 1.6 million (or 0.4 percent) over the previous year, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced last month. That’s the largest increase in five years.
The data come from a national survey of about 100,000 people (ages 16 and older) conducted in September by the U.S. Census Bureau. The results do not include individuals who independently helped their neighbors or volunteered for something other than a recognized organization. Those figures will be released in September, said Patrick Corvington, CEO of the CNCS.
Among 16- to 19-year-olds, the number of volunteers (4.4 million) and the rate (about 26 percent) remained virtually the same as in 2008.
Survey participants were not asked why they volunteered, but Corvington suggested that factors could include President Barack Obama’s call for service, individuals wanting to help others during the economic downturn, and the unemployed turning to volunteer agencies to find new job connections and skills.
“Americans are unique,” Corvington said. “We tilt toward problems rather than away from them.”
Much of the increase in volunteering came among women – especially those who are employed, those with children at home and those between ages 45 and 54 – and among African-Americans, particularly women. The percentage of volunteering among African-Americans rose from 21.1 percent in 2008 to 22.8 percent in 2009, according to CNCS.
More than one-third of the volunteers performed service with religious organizations (35.6 percent) and 26.6 percent volunteered at educational sites. The most popular activities were fundraising (26.6 percent), serving food (23.5 percent), engaging in general labor or providing transportation (20.5 percent), and teaching or tutoring (19 percent).
Among teens, the most popular organizations for volunteers were those involved in education and youth service, according to CNCS.
Also among the findings: Homeowners volunteered more than renters; workers with long commutes volunteered less than those with short commutes; individuals were more likely to volunteer as their educational levels rose; and there were fewer volunteers in states with high unemployment, high rates of home foreclosures and high rates of poverty.
Among the states, Utah ranked first with a volunteer rate of 44 percent; New York was last, with 19 percent. Among large cities, Minneapolis had the highest rate of volunteering, with 37.4 percent, while Miami had the lowest, with 14.8 percent.
The largest number of American volunteers on record was 65.4 million in 2005.
The data can be found at http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/national.