Nonprofits Work on Donations, Services and Volunteers

Where do volunteers come from?

Approximately 25.4% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered through or for an organization between September 2009 and September 2013. This proportion has remained relatively constant since 2003 after a slight increase from 27.4% to 28.8% in 2003.  (Source: Current Population Survey, September 2013) The volunteer rate was little changed at 25.3 percent for the year ending in September 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. About 62.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Individuals with higher levels of education engaged in volunteer activities at higher rates than did those with less education in 2014. Among persons age 25 and over, 39.4 percent of college graduates volunteered, compared with 27.3 percent of persons with some college or an associate's degree, 16.4 percent of high school graduates, and 8.8 percent of those with less than a high school diploma. Volunteers spent a median of 50 hours on volunteer activities during the period from September 2013 to September 2014. Time spent on volunteer activities was similar for women and men.


In 2014, the proportion of volunteers who became involved with their main organization after being asked to volunteer (41.0 percent) was about the same as the proportion who became involved on their own--that is, those who approached the organization (40.8 percent).


What do these statistics tell us about the impact of individual giving and membership on nonprofits? Relative to volunteering there are generational differences between the baby boomers and later generations in their propensity to join organizations and what they expect from membership. While the percentage of volunteers remains consistent, expectations and reasons for volunteering are quite different in the younger more time pressed individuals. These younger members have different needs and communicate said in a substantially different way.


Careful analysis of volunteer statistics demonstrates a demographic divide between Baby Boomers and their younger counterparts. While percent of hours volunteered does not differed much among age groups (except for young people starting careers and families), there a substantial difference in the criteria used to choose to volunteer. Boomers have been joiners and community builders. Younger generations have more time pressures, they are more reliant on technology for access and engagement and they want to volunteer for short periods conveniently and efficiently fettered into their tight schedules. Understanding and utilizing these generational differences are essential to developing and maintaining a 21 Century volunteer force. Tom McKee and Jonathan McKee have written and accessible book and New Breed the 21-Century Volunteer: Recruiting, Training, Motivating and Occasionally Even Firing Today's Volunteers discusses that the volunteer wants to be asked, how to build effective networks, develop short–term introductory projects then develop roles and responsibilities that fit the individual. It accurately portrays a different approach to volunteering tailored toward those 20 and 30 somethings.



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