Posts tagged ‘National Day of Service’

January 19, 2018

Charitable Giving Threatened by Drop In Volunteerism

On Monday, the USA celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national day of service. From April 15 to 21, the nation will mark National Volunteer Week. Clearly, Americans value volunteerism.

Unfortunately, the volunteerism rate has been steadily declining for years. This trend has disturbing implications for philanthropy.

In 2003, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 28.8 percent of Americans volunteered. By 2015, that rate had steadily fallen to 24.9 percent. This is a huge problem for the nonprofit sector for a number of reasons:

Volunteers Provide a Valuable Resource. Volunteers do a great deal of work that might not be done otherwise. 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.8 billion hours. Independent Sector reports that a volunteer hour is worth $24.14, over $180 billion of total estimated value. Sadly, with volunteerism on the decline, charities are forced to provide fewer services or incur greater labor costs.

Volunteers Serve as Ambassadors. In addition to being a valuable labor resource, volunteers are also fantastic ambassadors for an organization. The typical volunteer serves only one or two organizations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. When volunteers share their experiences, they also talk with friends, family, and professional colleagues about your organization and its mission. This could lead to additional volunteer and philanthropic support. With a drop in volunteerism, there are now fewer ambassadors for charities, which will inevitably lead to less future support.

Volunteers are More Likely to Donate. Volunteers are twice as likely as non-volunteers to make a charitable contribution, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Even planned giving is affected by volunteerism. As I’ve reported previously, researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP states in his book, American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012):

Among those with [estate] planning documents, those who both volunteer and give ($500+) are dramatically more likely to plan a charitable estate gift than those who only volunteer or only give ($500+). Those who only volunteer, plan charitable estate gifts at approximately the same rate as those who only give.”

Those who only volunteer or only donate ($500+) are more than twice as likely to make a legacy gift than those who do neither. [For a free electronic copy of James’ book, subscribe to this blog site in the right-hand column. You’ll receive an email confirmation of your subscription that will contain a link to the book.]

With a decline in volunteerism, we can expect fewer people to make current and planned gifts. This is already happening according to an analysis by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

There are many likely reasons for the decline in volunteerism including:

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January 18, 2013

Is MLK Day Just Another Day Off?

On Monday, January 21, Americans will celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. This is a national holiday rooted in the country’s core MLK Day logoideals.

“Service is a powerful way for citizens, nonprofits, the private sector and government to work together to meet critical needs and advance King’s dream of opportunity for all,” states the Corporation for National and Community Service. “MLK Day is an opportunity for Americans to put the core American principles of citizenship and service into action.”

These core ideals go back to the birth of the country. Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century French historian and political writer, made a number of observations about America including:

The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

“I must say that I have seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support to one another.”

“If a stoppage occurs in a thoroughfare, and the circulation of the public is hindered, the neighbors immediately constitute a deliberative body; and this extemporaneous assembly gives rise to an executive power which remedies the inconvenience before anybody has thought of recurring to an authority superior to that of the persons immediately concerned.”

It is an American tradition that when we see a problem, we often will seek to solve it. We are not content to sit back, whine, and hope the government will take care of it for us. Certainly, government has its role. However, at the heart of the American democratic spirit is the notion of private citizen action to help one another and our society in general.

Volunteers do much good for our society. They also form an important force that allows our democracy to thrive. On MLK Day, hundreds of thousands of people will volunteer joining the millions who do so throughout the year. This call to service makes MLK Day unique among American national holidays.

43 percent of Americans volunteered in 2011, according to The World Giving Index 2011. The world average was 21 percent. Only four other nations ranked higher than the US for volunteerism in 2011 (Turkmenistan, Liberia, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan).

In the US, 42 percent of men and 44 percent of women volunteer. By age group, the percentage of the population that volunteered in 2011 breaks out as follows:

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