New Federal Report Finds 1 in 4 Americans Volunteer

Dec 16, 2013


Americans Volunteered 7.9 Billion Hours in 2012; Gen Xers and Parents Lead the Way

Washington, D.C. — A new national study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) shows that millions of Americans make volunteering a priority in their lives.  The annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America research shows that volunteering in the U.S. remains stable and strong across generations.

“Volunteering is a core American value. Americans who volunteer enrich our communities and keep our nation strong,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. “As citizens, there are so many ways we can make a difference for those who are in need, during this holiday season and throughout the entire year.”

This year’s report found that one in four adults (26.5 percent) volunteered through an organization in 2012, demonstrating that volunteering remains an important activity for millions of Americans.  Altogether, 64.5 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.9 billion hours last year.  The estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $175 billion, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour.

The research shows that Americans’ commitment to volunteering spans generations. Key highlights of the report include:

  • The volunteer rate of Generation Xers has trended upward over the past 11 years, increasing nearly 5.5 percentage points, and Generation X has the highest volunteer rate of any age group.

  • Volunteers age 65 and over spent a median of 90 hours on volunteer activities in 2012, the highest amoung any age group, and nearly twice the 50 median annual hours served by the general volunteer population. 

  • Volunteering has trended upward among teenagers (ages 16-19) over the past six years, up nearly 3 percentage points since 2007.

  • Working mothers continue to volunteer at a significantly higher rate than the population as a whole and people who do not live with children under 18 (38.5 percent compared to 26.5 percent and 23.8 percent, respectively).

  • The volunteer rate of parents with children under age 18 (33.5 percent) remained higher than the population as a whole (26.5 percent) and for persons who do not live with under 18 (23.8 percent).

  • Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Eight in ten (79.2 percent) volunteers donated to charity, compared to four in ten (40.4 percent) non-volunteers. Overall, half of all citizens (50.7 percent) donated at least $25 to charity in 2012.

“Volunteering is a critical component of civic life,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of NCoC. “When people are involved in their communities through service, giving, political involvement, and other civic actions, our country is stronger and more prosperous.”

“Helping others who are in need and working together to strengthen our communities is an important American tradition that helps make our nation so resilient,” said Spencer. “But volunteering goes beyond helping other people; studies have shown that the volunteers themselves benefit, whether through increased job prospects, better health, or even better overall well-being.”

The research comes on the heels of the “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” study released by CNCS over the summer, which found that unemployed individuals who volunteer over the next year have 27 percent higher odds of being employed at the end of the year than non-volunteers. Among rural volunteers and volunteers without a high school diploma, the likelihood increases to 55 and 51 percent, respectively.

As volunteering remains strong in America, momentum continues to build around national service and its important role in addressing critical local issues. This year marks the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, celebrating more than 800,000 members who have served our country since the program’s inception. In 2012, AmeriCorps members recruited and managed more than four million volunteers.

CNCS’ more than 360,000 Senior Corps volunteers are also helping millions of Americans find economic empowerment by mentoring and tutoring youth, helping veterans transition into civilian life, and conducting job training to unemployed individuals.

The full analysis and customizable data sets can be found at Americans interested in finding local volunteer opportunities can visit

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