Webinar Recap: A New Appreciation for Data with the Corporation for National and Community Service

Our latest Nonprofit Insights webinar was an intense one! Dr. Christopher Spera and Anthony Nerino of The Corporation for National and Community Service joined our president Greg Baldwin for a fascinating discussion on new statistics about volunteering in America. We dived deep into data from the Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012 (VCLA 2012) study to explore who is volunteering in America and what that means for volunteer engagement.

This was a chance to see, in numbers, how Americans are volunteering, where they are and who is most involved. We learned some fascinating statistics, and our audience had the opportunity to ask some very applicable questions and discuss how to apply this new info to their own volunteer engagement strategies.

Looking at the Numbers

Parents: Data Infographic

The Corporation for National and Community Service makes volunteering statistics engaging and relevant for organizations. (infographic provided by VCLA 2012 website)

The VCLA 2012 study presented some fascinating numbers relating to different demographics, regions and service categories in America:

  • According to the research, 35 to 44 year-olds volunteer the most.
  • Older people tend to volunteer more with religious organizations than any others.
  • College graduates and employed individuals volunteer more than unemployed people
  • Young people volunteer mostly in youth and educational organizations.

While we often think of numbers as boring and not very personal, Dr. Spera and Mr. Nerino taught us just how important looking at the statistics can be. Because we usually think about how we can engage volunteers, it was helpful to look at the numbers for more directed insights. Greg Baldwin did a great job as mediator, asking questions about the VCLA 2012 facts and engaging the two Corporation speakers on how such data could be relevant to organizations.

Applying Stats to Volunteer Engagement: What Do They Mean for Your Organization?

  • Did you know that one of the most active volunteering demographics is parents with younger children? Mothers especially have the highest rates of volunteer engagement, and this group tends to focus on education and religious opportunities. Perhaps you could consider offering child care at your next charity or school volunteer day.
  • Another interesting fact is that rural residents volunteer the most, with suburban residents a close second. Why do you think that people living in cities volunteer the least? One hypothesis is that urban residents have to worry more about transportation to and from volunteer opportunities. Perhaps providing a shuttle service to volunteering events or bus vouchers could entice more people to volunteer.

Ideas like these kept coming up as our presenters reviewed the VCLA 2012 data. Our audience was also curious to know the “why” behind some of these fascinating numbers and seemed to take away some applicable theories of their own. All of us found a new appreciation for numbers after this webinar, as well as a better understanding of what they mean for volunteer engagement.

Want to learn more about the Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012 study and the Corporation for National and Community Service? Visit the VCLA 2012 website, watch our webinar on Youtube, or view and download the webinar slides from Slideshare.

Don’t miss our next Nonprofit Insights Webinar, How to Solve Global Problems with Local Engagement, coming up May 29th. We will be speaking with Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) about how local organizations can fight global issues like hunger with volunteer engagement. Register today!

Stephanie Rosenburg is a Communications & Social Media Intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach her at srosenburg@volunteermatch.org and follow her at @smrosenburg.

Upcoming Nonprofit Insights: Who is Volunteering in America? A Data Dive with the Corporation for National and Community Service

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

Nonprofit Insights webinar on volunteering in America with the Corporation for National and Community ServiceWho is volunteering in America? How much do they volunteer, and with what organizations? How can nonprofits best engage Americans in their causes?

The new report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, “Volunteering and Civic Life in America,” has some answers. Drawn from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau surveys of tens of thousands of households, the report and its accompanying website show how cities, states, age groups and other demographics rank and interact when it comes to volunteering and community involvement.

What does this mean for nonprofits? How can you use this data to increase support for your organization’s efforts? Why does it matter that parents volunteer at a higher rate than non-parents, or that two out of every three Americans are volunteering informally in their communities?

Who is Volunteering in America? A Data Dive with the Corporation for National and Community Service

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

For this month’s Nonprofit Insights webinar, join VolunteerMatch President Greg Baldwin for a special conversation with Dr. Christopher Spera, Director of Research & Evaluation at the Corporation for National and Community Service. They will discuss the history of this research report, the trends it reveals, and the many ways nonprofits can make best use of the information contained within.

About Our Speakers:

Dr. Christopher Spera, Director of Research and Evaluation for the Corporation for National and Community ServiceDr. Christopher Spera, an experienced senior executive and applied social science researcher and evaluator, is currently the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Dr. Spera develops and oversees the agency’s diverse research and evaluation portfolio. He manages a staff of 8-10 researchers with advanced degrees, represents the agency to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and interfaces with the research community. He is currently overseeing 10+ studies, including randomized controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-experimental studies, piloting of agency performance measures, longitudinal studies, etc.

Currently, he is heavily involved with leading groundbreaking studies and evaluations of CNCS’ major programs, including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). He is also involved in conducting an annual survey to measure volunteering and civic engagement through a supplement to the current population survey (CPS) administered by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dr. Spera leads a CNCS research agenda rooted in a “research-to-practice model” whereby research results are used to inform program and policy decisions, thereby infusing best practices into everyday program operations. Dr. Spera has over 20+ peer-reviewed publications and holds his Ph.D. in Human Development and Educational Psychology from the University of Maryland.

Greg Baldwin, President of VolunteerMatchGreg Baldwin joined what is now VolunteerMatch in the spring of 1998 as its Chief Imagination Officer to finish hotwiring the Internet to help everybody find a great place to volunteer. Today, VolunteerMatch is a leader in the nonprofit world. Its popular web service is strengthening communities and organizations across the country by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect.

Greg appreciates the power of a big idea. He began his career at the Leo Burnett advertising agency where many big ideas were born and later tested his own as a co-founder of 2d Interactive, Inc. — a Boston-based technology start-up. Greg completed his undergraduate studies at Brown University in 1990 with a degree in Public Policy.

He is a life-long volunteer and regularly speaks at nonprofit events and conferences on the subjects of volunteering, communication, and the Internet. He is also proud to serve as the Board Chair of the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration.

Register for this Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

How a Deeper Data Dive into the Latest U.S. Volunteering Report Will Help Your Volunteer Program

Take a deep dive into volunteer dataWith the recent release of the newest “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” report from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), bloggers and data nerds across the volunteering sector started rubbing their hands together in anticipation of all the new nuggets to dissect. This included me (although I won’t admit to whether I fall under “blogger” or “data nerd.”)

A High Level Look

At first glance, the data released by CNCS documenting volunteering in 2011 holds many similarities to that of 2010 and earlier. These big-picture numbers tend to remain in the same ballpark from year to year.

For example, the number of total volunteers remained more or less steady, increasing from 62.8 million to 64.3 million. Additionally, the volunteer rate in 2011 was identical to that in 2009 (26.8%).

In terms of state and city rankings, the major players are pretty much the same – Utah topped the list again, with Iowa and Minnesota also making appearances in the top five. Minneapolis was once again the most volunteer-y big city, with Seattle, Rochester and Salt Lake City also earning top spots.

Finally, the pattern of generational engagement in 2011 also looks very similar to 2010. Millennials, Gen Xer’s, Boomers and Older Adults all volunteered at basically the same rates as 2010, and Gen Xers were the most engaged once again, followed by Boomers, then Older Adults, and finally those self-absorbed Millennials.

Diving Deeper to Get Data for Your Organization

If the big picture of volunteering doesn’t change much from year to year, perhaps zooming in to check things out on a smaller scale will be helpful for organizations using this data to inform volunteer engagement efforts.

Using the well-built VolunteeringInAmerica.gov website, you can drill down to your nearest big city, your gender, your age and your organization’s cause area. Think about what the trends from 2011 in those smaller categories can tell you about how to engage volunteers moving forward in 2013. Here are some examples:


In terms of volunteer rates, Idaho’s ranking jumped from #9 to #2 between 2010 and 2011. The hours per volunteer, however, were the same. This means that more people are volunteering in Idaho. While all of the age groups saw a jump in volunteer rates, the biggest by far was in the Older Adults category. Clearly, something in Idaho is causing older adults to get more involved in volunteering. It may be in the water, but chances are it’s a government program, or increased financial aid for organizations that serve and engage older adults.

Learn from this bright spot! If your organization is in Idaho, consider how your nonprofit can reap some of these benefits and more aggressively engage older adults.

Portland, OR and Jacksonville, FL

Portland’s rankings in terms of volunteer rates dropped from #8 to #16, while Jacksonville jumped from #18 to #5. Neither of them have very high hours per resident, so there is a lot of one-time volunteering happening in these cities.

Perhaps Jacksonville has implemented some new civic engagement programs – is your organization aware of these, and participating? If your nonprofit is in Portland and has been having difficulty engaging volunteers, this data suggests that the problem could be larger than your organization’s strategies. It might be helpful to connect with other groups and see what their experiences have been.


While none of the generations saw a dramatic increase in volunteering from 2010 to 2011, Boomers did have a small bump in volunteer rate from 28.8% to 29.3%. Maybe the slow and meandering economic recovery is beginning to allow some of these Boomers to retire, and/or to spend more of their time volunteering. Either way, this small rise is evidence that Boomers are still, and will continue to be, an important target group for involving volunteers for your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Volunteering and Civic Life in America data and report, stay tuned for a special Nonprofit Insights webinar over the next few months with the team at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

What does your data deep dive into VolunteeringInAmerica.gov tell you about engaging volunteers? Share it below!

(Photo from Ilse Reijs and Jan Noud-Hutten on Flickr.)

Volunteering vs. Giving: How Does Your State Stack Up?

Where does your state fall in the giving vs. volunteering spectrum?

From philanthropy.com

Last month the Chronicle of Philanthropy released “How America Gives,” a study showing how much money Americans give to charity by geographic location. This was presented in a cool interactive interface along with data about income levels, race distribution and age ranges for each area.

Last year the Corporation for National and Community Service released its updated 2011 data for Volunteering in America, showing volunteering trends, statistics, tools, resources and information for regions across the U.S.

Any data nerd would get itchy to compare these two studies, but of course there are problems: one data set is from 2010, one from 2011. The Chronicle study mainly looks at overall giving, while Volunteering in America presents volunteering rates as a proportion. Scientifically, it’s not the cleanest comparison.

Let’s do it anyway.

Looking at Totals

The three states that gave the most money overall in 2011 were California, New York and Texas. The three states that volunteered the most hours overall were California, Texas and Florida.

Notice a pattern? The issue with this sort of data is that it is completely based on population size. Of course California and Texas both gave a ton of time and money – they have millions more people than poor Rhode Island!

Giving in CA vs. NY

However, there’s something weird going on with New York, which didn’t make it to the top three for volunteering (this honor passed to Florida, the fourth most populous state.) Are New Yorkers just too busy to volunteer?

Looking at Per Capita

Let’s dive into the meatier numbers. The three states that volunteered the most hours per resident were Utah, Alaska and Idaho. The states that had the highest median charity donation were Utah, Alabama and Mississippi.

Utah is great!First off, let’s all give Utah a resounding round of applause. Nice work!

What’s the deal with the other five states? There is no noticeable pattern based on discretionary income levels (according to “How America Gives” data, that is all over the map, literally.) It doesn’t appear to be linked to population size or density, either.

So what is it about these states that has their residents giving and volunteering in such high numbers? And in a more general sense, what is it that gets people jazzed up to give their time and money?

We could spend years analyzing the differences and similarities across these states – by income levels, culture, geography, religion, political affiliation, education level… and unfortunately I don’t have time to do that AND manage online communications at VolunteerMatch.

But maybe we can start off simple: What do YOU think influences people most strongly to give time and/or money? Leave your thoughts below.

The Difference Between “Civically Engaged” and “Volunteer” (and How to Turn One into the Other)

How to turn "civically active" into "volunteer"Last month the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship released a joint annual report revealing that “a majority” of Americans are civically active in their communities.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I did after reading this was scratch my head. What on earth is “civically active?” Is it different from “volunteering?” If most Americans are civically active, are nonprofits obsolete? How is this classification, and the fact that most Americans fall into it, relevant to nonprofits? Read on.

According to the Civic Life in America website, “civic life” is defined as the “common thread of participation in and building of one’s community.” This didn’t clear up much for me. Common thread amongst whom? What sorts of participation? Building which community – local, global, online…?

Basically, civically engaged individuals as identified by this new report are people who care about what’s going on around them, and who take some action that indicates this. The report specifies five categories of civic participation that were tracked:

Of course, it’s important to note that the “service” category is not necessarily service with an organization. In fact, while as much as 90% of Americans are active in any given category above, only 26.5% of people surveyed volunteer with a nonprofit. So “civically active” is NOT the same thing as “volunteer.”

Kids clean up their community with Community Impact.

Kids clean up their community with Community Impact.

At this point, I hope a lightbulb is going off above your head, or perhaps a little birdy singing “Opportunity! Opportunity!” Because for nonprofits, these civically active people are the cream of the potential volunteering crop.

Individuals who are involved in one of the categories of civic participation are statistically more likely to get involved in others, including volunteering. This makes sense – these people have already shown that they are willing to make at least a small time and effort commitment to strengthening their communities. So all nonprofits need to do is show them how to make that commitment – and their impact – greater through volunteering.

But how? How can nonprofits like you turn civically active people into volunteers for your organizations? Below are some tips based on data included in the Civic Life in America report and our expertise here at VolunteerMatch:

  • The Internet is an increasingly important way for people to stay connected with the people and causes they care about. According to the report, approximately one-third of Americans talk with friends and family online every day. This is a powerful word of mouth network. Nonprofits that connect with people online have a greater chance of getting them to connect offline, as well.
  • Civic engagement follows a pattern very similar to the volunteer lifecycle mentioned in our post about Generation X – civic involvement tends to increase during periods when individuals feel a deeper connection to their communities. If you recognize this, you can target the age groups that tend to feel a deeper connection to your specific cause area, such as education for parents, or working with seniors for 55+.
  • All these people who are civically engaged have one thing in common – they want to make a difference. Their involvement in the categories listed above is proof of that. As a nonprofit it’s your job to show them that they can make an even bigger difference by volunteering with your organization. So it’s important for you to tell your story of impact – how does what you do, and the way you do it, strengthen your community? Once you’ve answered this question, you can share your compelling story with potential supporters.
  • Finally, the categories specified in the report, and listed above, are a valuable tool for segmenting your recruiting efforts. Craft opportunities that are compelling for people involved in each of these specific areas. Use these to pull them into your mission and show them how they can use their interests in political action, social connectedness or current events to make a difference.

To get more help and ideas for how to turn “civically active” into volunteers, check out the Resource Center from the Corporation for National and Community Service, VolunteerMatch’s Learning Center, and be sure to update your volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.