The number of Americans who volunteer held steady last year, defying expectations that the rising unemployment and foreclosure rates could cut into civic participation, according to a new report.
The report released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that 26.4 percent of Americans, or 61.8 million people, volunteered through a nonprofit group last year. That figure was about 1 million more than in 2007.
Altogether, Americans donated approximately 8 billion hours of service, worth an estimated $162-billion.
But while the number of people involved in organized volunteerism stayed relatively constant, there was a big jump in participation in less-formal ways of serving, the report says.
The number of Americans who helped neighbors fix a problem rose by 31 percent, to 19.9 million.
“This report suggests that Americans are responding to the hardship around them by reaching out in service to others, giving their time when they cannot give their money,” said Michelle Obama, the first lady, in a press release. “It reminds us of the generosity of the American spirit, and challenges us to work harder to make service part of the daily life of America.”
8.2 Million Youths
The report, which was based on annual surveys of roughly 100,000 individuals collected by the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that more young people were getting involved in service.
The number of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 who volunteered increased from 7.8 million to 8.2 million.
Nonprofit groups, meanwhile, are increasingly in need of volunteers as demand for their services rises.
In a survey by the Johns Hopkins University, supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 37 percent of charities reported relying on more volunteers between September and March than they had in the past.
Forty-eight percent, meanwhile, predict they will increase their use of volunteers this year.
Other findings from the study are collected on the Web site Volunteering in America.
They include:More than a third (35.9 percent) of Americans who volunteered last year did so through a religious organization. For the fourth year in a row, Utah had a higher volunteerism rate (43.5 percent) than other states. Nebraska and Minnesota rounded out the top three. More people volunteered in Minneapolis-St. Paul (38.4 percent) than in other large cities, followed by Portland and Salt Lake City. Residents of midsize cities, particularly those in the Midwest, were more likely to volunteer than people in big cities. Volunteering was more popular in Provo, Utah, than in any other midsize city, with 62.9 percent of residents volunteering. Women were more likely than men to volunteer, with working mothers volunteering at the highest rates. But men were more likely to participate in less-structured volunteering activities.