Research

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Overview Statistics

This website is home to the most comprehensive look at volunteering and civic life in the United States. Data includes volunteer and civic engagement rates and rankings, trends, and demographics for the nation, 50 states and major cities across the country. In 2015, one in four adults (24.9 percent) volunteered through an organization, demonstrating that volunteering remains an important activity for millions of Americans.

  • Overall, the volunteer rate remained steady as 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.8 billion hours last year. Based on the Independent Sector's estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour ($23.56 in 2015), the estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $184 billion.
  • Volunteers have 27 percent higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers, possibly due to developing new skills and expanding personal networks.
  • Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly 80% of volunteers donated to charity, compared to 40 percent of non-volunteers. Overall, half of all Americans donated at least $25 to charity in 2015.
  • Generation X had the highest volunteer rate of the all age groups at 29%, but the Silent Generation (75 and older) had the highest median hours among volunteer at 100+. Millenial volunteering ticked up slightly to 22% in 2015.
  • Over the past 14 years, Americans volunteered 113 billion hours, estimated to be worth $2.3 trillion. We urge you to volunteer with your family and friends this holiday season and into the New Year. To find local volunteer opportunities, visit Serve.gov.

New Research

Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion: Measuring Dimensions of Social Capital to Inform Policy
CNCS commissioned the Committee on National Statistics to create a panel ‘to identify measurement approaches that can lead to improved understanding of civic engagement, social cohesion, and social capital—and their potential role in explaining the functioning of society.’ This study is the product of that panel, offering recommendations for the improvement of civic engagement research. These recommendations have been incorporated into a revised volunteering and civic engagement national survey, which will be fielded in 2017 and the data released in 2018. (released 2014)

Nonprofits and Community Organizations

Volunteering in America's Faith-Based Organizations (PDF 111 KB)
This document reviews some of the research from the Corporation for National and Community Service on the nexus of faith-based organizations in order to help guide the process of forming more effective collaborations. (released 2009)

Intrinsic in the spirit and purpose of many faith-based organizations is a sentiment that it is important to make a difference by serving others—it is only natural that faith-based organizations and other nonprofit organizations work together to achieve the good they wish to see in the community.

Volunteer Retention

AmeriCorps VIP Volunteer Capacity Study
The AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program (VIP), a grantee of CNCS, was developed to build the volunteer capacity of non-profit and educational organizations serving California communities. This study shows how organizations effectively used AmeriCorps members to improve their ability to recruit and manage volunteers. The impact of the program on organizational capacity was found to be statistically significant. (released 2015)

The New Volunteer Workforce (PDF 315 KB)
This article highlights innovations in volunteer management and other strategies for retaining volunteers. (released 2009)

Nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers, but poor management can result in a volunteer's dissatisfaction. As a result, more than one-third of those who volunteer one year do not donate their time the next year at any nonprofit. That adds up to an estimated $38 billion in lost labor. To remedy this situation, nonprofit leaders must develop a more strategic approach to managing this overlooked and undervalued talent pool.

Capitalizing on Volunteers' Skills: Volunteering in America by Occupation (PDF 426 KB)
The brief is designed to help broaden and deepen public and private sector partnerships, and allow nonprofits to take full advantage of the skills volunteers have to offer. (released 2009)

Capitalizing on Volunteers' Skills looks at the prevalence of volunteering among people in various occupations and, for the first time, shows how often they use their occupational skills when they volunteer.

Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering (PDF)
This report focuses on important components of recruiting and retaining Baby Boomer volunteers.(released 2007)

While much attention has focused on how to recruit Baby Boomers into the ranks of volunteers, relatively little attention has been paid to ensuring that those who choose to volunteer one year continue to do so the next. Because three out of every ten Boomer volunteers choose not to volunteer in the following year, a key aspect of keeping Boomer volunteer rates high is to learn how to retain existing Boomer volunteers.

Volunteer Management Capacity Study, 2003 (243 KB PDF)
This report highlights the importance of establishing a strong volunteer support infrastructure for recruiting and retaining volunteers and provides a set of effective volunteer management practices. (released 2003)

The Volunteer Management Capacity Study assessed the capacity of the nonprofit sector to engage volunteers in a way that provides the greatest possible impact and to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Benefits of Volunteering and Participation in Civic Life

Volunteering can make you healthier (PDF)
Not only is volunteering a good thing for communities, but it is also good for you. Read about how volunteering can be beneficial to your health. (released 2007)

Even when controlling for other important factors, such as socio-economic status, age, and gender, research has shown that adults who volunteer are more likely to experience health benefits when it comes to longevity, mobility and mental health. The research indicates that volunteers need to commit a considerable amount of time to volunteering (about one to two hours per week) for there to be a significant relationship between volunteering and good health. Read more about how volunteering can have health benefits. (released 2007)

Civic Health and Unemployment II: The Case Builds (PDF)
This report, released by NCoC and its partners, explores the relationship between civic health and economic resilience. It finds that the density and type of nonprofit organizations in a community, as well as its social cohesion, are important predictors of that community’s ability to withstand unemployment in a recession. Read more here, and see the related 2011 brief.

Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment
New research from the Corporation for National and Community Service on the link between volunteering and employment provides the most compelling empirical evidence to date that unemployed individuals who volunteer increase the odds that they will get a job.

The economic downturn that has plagued the United States economy over the last half decade has increased the need for pathways to employment for the millions of Americans struggling to find work. Government leaders, nonprofits, and news media have long provided anecdotal evidence that volunteering can increase employment prospects by helping job seekers learn new skills, expand their networks, and take on leadership roles. Despite this, there has been little quantitative research to date that has established an association between volunteering and finding a job.

Key Findings

  • Volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers
  • Volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51 percent higher likelihood of finding employment
  • Volunteers living in rural areas have a 55 percent higher likelihood of finding employment

CNCS also found that volunteering is associated with an increased likelihood of finding employment for all volunteers regardless of a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, geographical area, or the job market conditions.

Community Factors that Influence Volunteering

Shorter Commutes Leave Time for Service. (2.8 MB PDF) (2007)
This report uncovers what factors can influence a community’s volunteer rate. A variety of items, such as average commute times and average levels of education in a community, can help us predict and understand the level of service and volunteering in an area. (released 2007)

Metropolitan areas with longer commutes to work also tend to have lower volunteer rates. The effect of commuting is so strong that if average metro area commuting times increased by only three minutes, from 26 to 29 minutes, we would expect volunteer rates to decrease by 2.3 percentage points.

More about the Volunteers Themselves

In 2007, 3.7 million volunteer caught the travel bug (PDF 356 KB)
Learn more about individuals who travel a considerable distance to volunteer in other parts of the country, what states have the highest percentages of travels, where they go, and what types of volunteering they do. (released 2008)

This report provides other interesting details of how volunteers and non-volunteers use their time. (released 2008)

Not surprisingly, volunteers and non-volunteers in general tend to spend their time in very similar ways, including work, leisure, and other activities. However, there are some important differences, such as the amount of time each of these groups spends watching television. On average, those who have never volunteered watch 436 more hours of television than volunteers each year.

College Students are Twice as likely to Volunteer (PDF) (2006)
The College Students Helping America report presents data on student volunteers and their volunteering habits.(released 2007)

Teens, Baby Boomers, and older adults lead the way in volunteering (PDF) (2006)
This report provides volunteering levels for 1974, 1989, and current Volunteering in America data. (released 2006)

The rate of volunteering among older teenagers was found to be almost ten percentage points higher than it was in 1989 and remained higher than the rate in 1974. For mid-life adults, the volunteer rate was higher than it was in 1974 and 1989, suggesting that Baby Boomers, are volunteering in mid-life at a higher rate than past generations. The rate of volunteering among older adults today was also higher than it was in 1974 and in 1989.

Mentors Regularly Work Full-Time
This report focuses on mentors and looks at the characteristics and demographic factors of volunteers who mentor and other volunteers who do not mentor. (released 2006)

Fifty nine percent of all volunteers who engage in mentoring work full-time—a higher percentage than volunteers who do not engage in mentoring (53%). Despite having less discretionary time, these adult volunteers are as inclined to mentor youth as volunteers working part-time, and more likely than non-working volunteers.

Civic Health Research and Resources

NCoC provides research on a wide variety of topics related to civic health including civic learning, corporate citizenship, online engagement, political involvement, and social capital. Access these resources at www.ncoc.net/research.

NCoC collaborates with over 30 partners nationwide on civic health initiatives to create a deeper understanding of civic life, in order to generate dialogue and catalyze sustainable civic strategies. Read more about these partnerships and projects at www.ncoc.net/CHI.

The Civic Life component of this site is
in partnership with:

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