After September 11th, American volunteerism hit a high note. People from all walks of life gathered together and volunteered through various projects and organizations. That spirit of community, though prevalent in other areas of American society now, has recently started to wane. Volunteering has sunk to an all-time low with only about 25% of unpaid workers for nonprofits and other work being recorded. American Volunteerism has declined, but is there a comeback in the future?
The statistics can’t be denied. According to the Labor of Department, as of September 2013, only about 25% of unpaid workers for nonprofits and other work have volunteered at least once within the prior year. This is the lowest rate of volunteering that the annual report has recorded since it was first conducted in 2002. After 9/11, during the years of 2003 – 2005, volunteering statistics saw a huge increase in numbers. Communities, families, and individuals came together to bring peace and joy through service projects and various nonprofit organizations. During this time, that percentage of unpaid workers was riding high at close to 30%. What caused the decline?
Better Job Market Pushed Aside Volunteerism? The current job market looks to have stalled the volunteer spirit in Americans. However, while that might make sense, when looking at the jobless rate between the years of high volunteerism, we can see that the jobless rate was actually lower than it is now. So, given that employed Americans tend to volunteer consistently more than those out of work, what has attributed to this decline in volunteerism?
A Nation Divided Against Itself… Within the findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can clearly see the main organization that a volunteer works for is largely religious. Putting aside personal beliefs and issues, this nation is distinctly divided when it comes to religion and politics. Now, taking into consideration those findings, we can gather that the decline is, at least in part, caused by this national divide. There is a clear divide between volunteers who help out bigger organizations like United Way and Red Cross versus individuals who volunteer for smaller, local organizations. But that doesn’t account for an overall decline for American volunteerism…
Economy stunts nonprofit growth… While the economy has slowly been on the rise in terms of employment and even the housing market, nonprofit organizations have taken a beating. In the sixth consecutive year for increased demand of nonprofit help, Nonprofit Finance Fund conducted a survey that showed that alarming trend. In this survey, 5,000 respondents involved, saw an 80% increase in demand for goods, while 56% of those were unable to meet those demands. The CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund commented in a statement, “The struggles nonprofits face are not the short-term result of an economic cycle; they are the results of fundamental flaws in the way we finance social good.” These critical finance matters are only made worse when you see that some of the wealthiest foundations are still recovering from the recession. Can we see a comeback in the near future?
There is hope… In the spirit of volunteerism, nonprofit organizations have combated the struggle by joining with other nonprofit groups – working together to achieve more possibilities. For nonprofit organizations, updating software and websites have proven beneficial – especially when engaged by online volunteer matching sites. VolunteerMatch listings were up in March when compared with the previous year’s numbers. That silver lining is only the beginning for more and more organizations to see a connection with the people and groups who want to see a change in their communities and in this world.
If you want to be a part of that change, I encourage you to get connected with local organizations that are looking for individuals, such as yourself, that are hungry for a positive future! Check out VolunteerMatch, Serve.gov (formerly USAFreedomCorps), Boys and Girls Clubs of America, AmeriCorps, and other organizations that need your helping hand!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Drop a line down below…