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by
Wendy Spencer

During this holiday season, we are reminded of a timeless lesson:  it is better to give than receive, more blessed to serve than be served. And our new Volunteering and Civic Life in America report shows that Americans embrace this idea -- not only during the holidays, but all year long.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) issues this research every year in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship. The research provides a wealth of information on volunteering and civic life, including trends and demographics for the nation, every state, and 126 cities. This in-depth “look under the hood” helps local leaders better understand volunteer dynamics and develop strategies to engage more citizens in meeting community needs. 

Volunteering Remains Strong | 1 in 4 Americans volunteer (26.5%), enhancing opportunities for their neighbors and communities.  64.5 million Americans served 7.9 billion hours.

Our new report shows that volunteering remains stable and strong across the United States, and has a strong pull across generations. Altogether, more than 64.5 million adults volunteered through an organization in 2012, for a national volunteer rate of 26.5 percent, essentially unchanged from the prior year. Volunteers gave nearly 7.9 billion hours of service, worth an estimated $175 billion, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour.

We found that Americans commitment to volunteering spans across generations:

  • America’s teens continue to increase their level of volunteering, rising by nearly 3 percent during the last six years.
  • Generation X volunteers (current age 32 to 48) are riding an even-longer streak of volunteering increases, and they now have the highest volunteer rate of any age group.
  • Not to be outdone, our seniors 65 and over are staying involved, contributing a median of 90 hours annually, a figure far above the level of the general population.

Like last year, we found that parents are the backbone of community volunteering, with more than one-third of those living with children under 18 taking the time to help. And let’s not forget our country’s working moms, who volunteer significantly more than the general population in addition to all of their other responsibilities.

Volunteers are the giving heart of America, essential to our nation’s social and economic well-being. They do hard-but-important work: helping kids learn to read and stay in school, rebuilding communities after disasters, connecting veterans to services, bringing life back to forgotten neighborhoods, and much more.

Volunteering also connects us with our neighbors and provides a chance to use own skills for the common good. Our Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment study showed that volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. These connections create benefits that are even more pronounced for volunteers who don’t have a high school diploma or who live in rural areas, increasing the likelihood of finding work by 51 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

This spirit of generosity doesn’t end with the time volunteers give. Our research found that volunteers are twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers, with 8 in 10 volunteers ready to open their wallets for a good cause, compared to just 4 in 10 for those who don’t volunteer. 

All of this is great news for our nonprofits, our communities, and our country, and says so much about the nation in which we are blessed to live.

This time of year is often when we reflect on the past year and set our goals for the next. Given all the good it does for you and your community; resolve to make volunteering a part of your life in 2014.

Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Learn more about the 2013 Volunteering in Civic Life in America research at VolunteeringinAmerica.gov. To find a volunteer opportunity in your community, visit Serve.gov. This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post Impact blog.

Keywords: AmeriCorps, Education, Literacy, Minnesota, Reading
By: Wendy SpencerEarlier this week I traveled to Joplin, Missouri, for a trip I will never forget. The Joplin story is one of a community that never gave up, that demonstrated steely resolve in the face of tragedy, and that is coming back stronger and better than before.
By: Sandy Scott In the wake of the nation’s deadliest tornado in six decades, more than 80 AmeriCorps members are working night and day to assist first responders and victims in the recovery efforts in Joplin, MO.With the death toll at 126, more than 700 people injured, and thousands of structures destroyed, the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin last Sunday flattened everything in its path, leaving residents to scramble to find missing family members and find immediate shelter.RAPID DEPLOYMENTAmeriCorps members have traveled from near and far to Joplin to help coordinate relief efforts.
By: Samantha Jo WarfieldAt 2:00 AM, on May 23rd, just eight hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, MO, the AmeriCorps St.
By: Will ChrysanthosTo those who have lived through devastation as complete as a tornado, every minute following the horror of wind and chaos is a perpetual memorial to the many who did not survive to see the skies clear again.Noon on January 31, 2012 will mark roughly eight months, eight days, and 18 hours since a cataclysmic, multi-vortex EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO.
By: Samantha Jo WarfieldAt a press conference last Tuesday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had this to say about the AmeriCorps members serving in the Joplin area: “I pushed more volunteers your way than maybe I should have. But I had the understanding that I could trust your operation. It appears I was right.”
By: Greg TuckerJust hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO, in May 2011, AmeriCorps members began arriving to help with the recovery efforts.
By: CNCS Staff To mark the one-year anniversary of the May 22 Joplin tornado, we’ll be featuring a variety of content on the serve.gov blog, including Q&As with those who served in the community, like this one.
By Joseph Clay, Former U.S. Marine Serves Tulsa Youth in AmeriCorps On Veterans Day 2015, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer joined Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in honoring veterans serving in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps at a Veterans Corps ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  One of the veterans she met that day was Joseph Clay, a former Marine Corps Sergeant now serving in AmeriCorps through Teach For America.  This is Joseph’s story.
By Jack Wingate, Teach for America
By Greg TuckerRuby Bridges’ walk to school became a symbol of the Civil Rights struggle  In 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges’ daily walk to class took her past an angry mob and into Civil Rights history when she became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to improving the world in which he lived—and challenged the rest of us to do the same. He not only championed the equal rights but also equal access to economic opportunity for all Americans. This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service will honor his legacy as hundreds of thousands of Americans pay tribute by serving their communities on Monday, Jan. 20.
By CNCS Staff
For too many years we have addressed the equation of “fit body and fit minds” as requiring two separate interventions. For the mind, we’ve looked toward mentoring. For the body, we’ve turned to physical activity and health education. But our AmeriCorps investment proves that a national service member can be the catalyst to fit bodies and fit minds. Our formula has been to train our AmeriCorps members on how to use the power of coaching to build relationships with at-risk youth that inspire their healthy futures.
Our nation is more health-conscious and health-aware than ever, but for many there are still obstacles – an untreated disease, obesity, or lack of healthy food -- that prevent them from living their lives to the fullest. That needs to change, and our AmeriCorps members are working to make that happen every day.
Lacking significant support from family, then-high school student Amanda Parris didn’t believe college was an option. But her enrollment in a dropout prevention program led to night classes at a local community college and awakened a desire to give back to others.
The idea of combining service and leadership is one that defined the life of Cesar Chavez. He dedicated his life to bringing attention to the poverty of migrant farmworkers and other segments of the population that were marginalized or overlooked. Chavez also showed us that, no matter how humble our beginnings, we can all accomplish great things.
During your life’s journey, I am sure that you can remember times when your path was made clearer or your baggage lighter because of someone who helped along the way. These thoughts came to mind today as President Obama outlined his plan to expand opportunity for boys and young men of color through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and a new federal task force on which I am honored to serve.
After her seventh-grade teacher explained the connection between service and the Peace Corps, a 12-year-old Laura Glaub promised to factor service into her own life. Years later, she pursued opportunities that would support her dream of becoming a social worker. A quick online search led her to Partners for After School Success, a multi-site AmeriCorps program that targets middle and high school students.
Iowa can add another “first-in-the-nation” jewel to its crown with today’s announcement by Governor Terry Branstad of the creation of the Governor’s Council on National Service in Iowa.
In the months leading up to her college graduation, Diana Martin sketched a mental blueprint for her future. Her past volunteer work as a summer camp assistant, tutor, and soccer coach all added up to one thing—educating children must be part of that future. And the AmeriCorps program, Diana decided, would help her reach that goal.
Whenever the talk begins about our nation making quality education a priority, it’s no surprise that some may be cynical. After all, we have too many children entering school unprepared, too many falling behind early, and too many dropping out before graduation. Why can’t we change this story? The truth is, we can – and we are.
AmeriCorps member Margaret Montague is used to having a steady stream of students come to see her for college advice in her office at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, just outside the nation's capital.
With another winter storm barreling across the Northern United States, we wanted to share some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov site that could come in handy for those in the path of the storm. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is partnering with FEMA to lead the America’s PrepareAthon! campaign to increase emergency preparedness across the nation.
Can a simple mentoring relationship rescue a life in peril? In a world with few easy solutions, there are innumerable stories -- and a new survey -- that demonstrate this could be possible. Let's start with one of these stories.
Tonight millions of Americans will watch President Obama deliver his fifth State of the Union Address.  One AmeriCorps alum will have a choice seat for all the action. Kathy Hollowell-Makle, who served for two years as an AmeriCorps member with Teach For America, will be a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I am a guidance counselor and a teacher, den mother, referee, and confidant. I am a newspaper reporter, editor, and printer. I am a public relations man, chauffer, and pawn shop operator. I am also a scribe, medic, friend, buddy, and informer. I’m the low man on the totem pole, but the buck stops with me. I’m the middle man between Corpsman and staff, between staff and staff, and between Corpsmen and Corpsmen.” I wrote that paragraph almost 50 years ago, along with William “Tex” Arnold and Ed Nungesser, after my assignment to the nation’s first Job Corps Center, Camp Catoctin, located in the piney woods just up the hill from the Presidential Retreat at Camp David, in a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp in rural western Maryland.
As Christina Bodison navigated a demanding course load at Howard University, the former biology major actively searched for ways to be of service to others. First, she mentored high school students during an alternative spring break program in Detroit. Then, she researched HIV, AIDS, and the socioeconomic factors that bar access to health care. All of this compelled Christina to join the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the fight against poverty.
As AmeriCorps celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s exciting to reflect on what the authors of the National Community Service Trust Act imagined for the power of national service. They believed that service should be an innovative public-private partnership, and Minnesota Reading Corps is bringing that vision to life.
During this holiday season, we are reminded of a timeless lesson: it is better to give than receive, more blessed to serve than be served. And our new Volunteering and Civic Life in America report shows that Americans embrace this idea -- not only during the holidays, but all year long.
The recent death of Nelson Mandela affected many who were touched by his inspirational life story, and his fight as a political prisoner to create a free and democratic South Africa. City Year, an AmeriCorps grantee, paid tribute to Mandela in a message from its CEO and co-founder, Michael Brown.

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