Volunteering on the Decline – Unless it’s an Internship

Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that American volunteerism had declined to 25.4 percent, the lowest rate since such data were first collected in 2002. The drop in volunteering occurred across many groups including,

  • men and women (though overall, women still volunteer more than men)
  • whites and blacks (no change among Asian and Hispanic volunteers)
  • persons employed (full or part-time) and those not in the workforce
  • persons with a high school diploma or a college degree

The median amount of time a person volunteered in 2012-2013 was 50 hours, with 72 percent reporting that they volunteer for one organization.  Approximately 43 percent of respondents sought out the opportunity to volunteer, while just about 41 percent were asked to do so by another person.

The BLS brief defines volunteers as “persons who performed unpaid volunteer activities,” which could also encompass internships by high school and college students.  This younger group does not appear to be experiencing a decline their interest to donate time, in fact, a study by Millennial Branding and Internships.com found that 77 percent of high school students were strongly motivated to volunteer, a rate even higher than their college counterparts (63 percent). The study suggests that high school youth recognize the educational (skill development) and pragmatic (networking) benefits associated with unpaid internships for organizations or companies that align with their career interests.

Have you noticed any changes in the volunteer pool at your nonprofit?