The Obvious Reason Volunteering is at a 10-Year Low

Editor’s Note: There’s been a lot of hoopla lately about a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the volunteer rate in the U.S. to be lower than it’s been in a decade. With our 16-year relationship with the nonprofit, corporate and volunteering sectors, VolunteerMatch is in a unique position to clearly view what’s really going on. To help everyone understand this phenomenon better, VolunteerMatch president Greg Baldwin published this post on LinkedIn.

The Obvious Reason Volunteering is at a 10-Year Low

It is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate the irrepressible spirit of goodwill, generosity and hustle that is as much a part of American culture as the 4th of July, Mount Rushmore and our aversion to the metric system.

It is a time to be reminded that America is the place where we celebrate our freedom to come together to get things done, to fight injustice and to invest in our future. It is also a good time to point out that in 2013 volunteering hit a 10-year low, and try to explain how it is that so few people seem to understand why.

Click here to read the rest of Greg’s article and discover the obvious explanation for this recent volunteering trend…

Reviewed: 365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating, and Rewarding Your Volunteers

365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating, and Rewarding Your VolunteersQuick poll: Are there enough potential volunteers to go around?

Instinctively, most of us in the nonprofit sector would say “heck no!” If there were enough potential volunteers, we wouldn’t be scrambling to get the help we need, right?

Sunny Fader says wrong, and we think she’s right. In her new book, “365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating, and Rewarding Your Volunteers,” she begins by debunking three common myths concerning volunteers. The first, that there is a shortage of potential volunteers, is a key point for volunteer managers looking to build and improve a nonprofit’s volunteer program.

People have an intrinsic need to give our time, our skills, and our passion, says Ms. Fader. The problem is that nonprofits are not adequately tapping into this vast resource of altruism. We need to actually ask people to volunteer – and to make sure they feel comfortable doing so.

Ms. Fader spends the rest of her book, which was published by Atlantic Publishing Group in March, 2010, providing practical, real-life advice for how to do just that. She writes from her own considerable knowledge of volunteer management, after spending a major part of her professional and personal life involved with nonprofits. She also gathered dozens of success and failure stories from actual nonprofit volunteer professionals (including VolunteerMatch).

The result is a readable, practical guide that provides such gems as a “Sample Recruitment Budget Form,” an “Interviewer’s Tool Kit,” and “Tips for Mediating Employee-Volunteer Conflicts.”

Who doesn’t need these tools? “365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating, and Rewarding Your Volunteers” is a great reference, a guide that you can consult every day if you need it. And by following Ms. Fader’s expertise, every day you’ll make your volunteer program better.

Click here to buy the book.

Additional note: the folks at Atlantic Publishing Group are donating a portion of the book’s profits to the Humane Society of the United States, in honor of their dog who just passed away.  It’s always nice when you can increase your knowledge, improve your volunteer program, and help support a nonprofit all at once.

What Will Be The Key Findings in Next Week’s Volunteering In America 2010 Report?

On June 15, the Corporation for National and Community Service will release its report on the latest national volunteering trends. The survey, based on 2009 data from the US Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the largest review of volunteering participation rates in the nation.

Once again, CNCS will be making all its data available on its interactive Web site, Among the features of the site, visitors will be able to answer:

  • What are the volunteer trends for my city and state?
  • What factors influence my city or state’s volunteer rate?
  • Which cities do well at recruiting and retaining volunteers?
  • How has the economy impacted volunteering in America?

This will likely be the second year in the a row that the economy and the recession are the major backdrops to the community involvement landscape.
Last year was a very tough year for many of us, but mixed in with all the discussion about recession was a strong vein of hope and faith — that within our collective will to get involved, communities ALREADY have the tools they need to solve their problems. So I’m excited to see what the report shows.

What about you? What do you think the report will show? Have you seen volunteering increase where you are? Or is all the talk about volunteering just that – talk? Share your guesses here.

(Photo: A volunteer reads to children at the Williamson County Library.)

Slim Rise in U.S. Volunteer Rates No Match for Huge Rise in Federal Spending on Volunteering

Build Brigade, Homes for Our Troops

Build Brigade, Homes for Our Troops

If no news is good news during tough times, then even slightly optimistic news is a beacon of hope, right?

That’s what the results of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report on U.S. volunteer rates suggest, says the Corporation for National and Community Service. The $1.15 billion federal agency is promoting the BLS figures this week.

But despite some definite improvements — particularly in light of a severe recession — the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

In a press release with the heady headline “Volunteering Up Amid Tough Economic Times,” Stephen Goldsmith, board chair of the Corporation, says “We’re seeing a compassion boom across this country, where communities are banding together and neighbors are reaching out in service to others. It is truly the generosity of the American spirit at its best. The need is great, the momentum is strong, and potential is unlimited for ushering in a new era of service in America.”

So what does a compassion boom look like? Here are the numbers:

And some highlights:

  • 1.5 million more Americans say they volunteered between September 2008 and September 2009 than during the previous year.
  • The total number who reported volunteering was 63.4 million people (26.8% of the population), compared to 61.8 million in 2008.
  • Volunteer rates for women increased from 29.4% to 30.1%.
  • People with full-time jobs showed a .9% increase in their volunteer rate.
  • Volunteer rates among unemployed men increased just 1.2%.
  • Those between ages of 35 and 54 were the most likely to volunteer.

If you only keep your eye on the slim rise from 2008 to 2009, you’ll definitely miss the big picture. Three recent years, including the recession year of 2003 (not pictured), all saw higher volunteer rates than last year.

Where would today’s volunteer rate be without the new 9-11 Day of Service, an historic MLK Day of Service, President Obama’s volunteer initiative,, or the recession? It’s impossible to say. But before these expensive national service programs existed (and before the Corporation’s budget swelled by $260 million thanks to the Serve America Act) more Americans were volunteering.

And yet don’t let these results burst your benevolent bubble. Instead, we can use them to help focus our attention on programs that really have made a difference. At VolunteerMatch, 2009 was a banner year.

We’re working on our Annual Report now, but some early highlights show real progress, including a 20% rise in volunteer referrals to 677,000 for the year, 10.4% more visitors, and nearly 20% more participating organizations. Our budget? Less than $4 million.

Where Nonprofits Fit In

To get more great volunteers, great nonprofits have to get into the mix.  Take advantage of the rise in volunteerism at VolunteerMatch by posting your opportunities today.

Also, be sure to take part in our free Webinars to ensure your volunteer program has the quality to match the quantity.

Register for VolunteerMatch 101 on February 3rd, Best Practices for Recruiting Online on February 2nd, or learn more about recruiting a new generation of older adult volunteers  with our next Boomer Volunteer Engagement Webinar, taking place February 24th.

Have Heart, Will Travel: 5 Organizations Using VolunteerMatch to Find Vacationers with Values

488352536_c747cb3681Judging from the response to Haiti’s earthquake, it’s clear that people are willing to travel for a good cause.

However, while the current situation’s urgency provokes quick action, many organizations have already been using VolunteerMatch to get volunteers to travel halfway around the world for them, with or without the push of recent disaster.

As more people look to combine their recreational travel plans with opportunities to help others, the voluntourism industry is seeing more interest than ever. And for many organizations, being part of VolunteerMatch’s network helps them connect with prospective volunteers first—and for free!

Using VolunteerMatch’s Advanced Search options makes it easy for do-gooders to find opportunities that match their preferred destinations and interests, which means not only increased numbers of volunteers for travel-related organizations, but also high-quality matches, each and every time.

Here’s a look at five nonprofits—big and small, educational and environmental—that are finding voluntourists through VolunteerMatch right now:

crossculturalCross-Cultural Solutions: A recognized leader in the field of international volunteerism, Cross-Cultural Solutions was founded in 1995. Over 4,000 people volunteer with them each year in various programs located in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. They’ve received over 37,000 referrals from VolunteerMatch so far , and they reported a 99% overall volunteer satisfaction rate for 2008.

broaderviewA Broader View Volunteers: Based in Pennsylvania, A Broader View allows volunteers to choose from about 130 different programs in 13 different countries throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. Volunteer work consists of orphanage work, day care, community development and teaching. They work with about 150-200 volunteers a year, with 150 referrals from VolunteerMatch to date.

adoptionadvocatesAdoption Advocates International: A newcomer to VolunteerMatch, this international adoption agency finds adoptive families for children living in Ethiopia, China, Thailand, Ghana, and Washington State. For a small organization such as AAI, using VolunteerMatch gives them the chance to connect with many more excellent volunteers.

greenheartGreenheart Travel: A division of the Center for Cultural Interchange, Greenheart Travel provides opportunities for volunteers to make a difference in areas of environmentalism, fair trade, social transformation, and cross cultural understanding. They have programs in 35 countries, and also offer internships, teaching opportunities, and group programs.

wavesWaves for Development International: Based in New York with additional programs in Peru and Switzerland, Waves for Development International provides Educational Surf and Surf Voluntourism programs in coastal communities. While developing and empowering young adults, they also engage travelers and transform their world view.

For information on how your travel-related nonprofit can use VolunteerMatch more effectively, visit our Resources page.

By the way: We also have tools for for-profit travel businesses. If you are promoting volunteering for the travelers you serve, you can embed our SearchLite widget on your site to make it easy for your socially responsible tourists to find a cause they can write home about. Here’s an example.