Since it is the season of giving, one of the most valuable ways to give is to volunteer. Volunteers help their neighbors, serve their communities, and provide their expertise at no cost. No matter what kind of volunteer work you do, you are contributing in invaluable ways.
Volunteering is a selfless and often joyful act. Every day, over 1 billion people worldwide volunteer for thousands of different companies and organizations. People who get involved in volunteer organizations do so out of the desire to help people or animals, support a cause, or make the world a better place in some way. Volunteering statistics show that their efforts are incredibly beneficial to the causes they support, contributing nearly $200 billion and an average of 52 hours per person per year to their communities. In the U.S., there are one in four Americans that volunteer. The effect of their labor is equal to over 109 million full-time workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental effect on volunteer organizations as they were forced to operate with reduced financial and human resources. COVID caused 11% of volunteer organizations in the US to cease operations. However, the upshot of the coronavirus is that virtual volunteering opportunities have increased, and more people have been inspired to get involved with their community’s post-pandemic. Almost 75% of Americans think that volunteering will be more important after the pandemic.
Volunteers are crucial for charities and nonprofits, many of which would not survive without their volunteer staff’s dedication. I know firsthand with my nonprofit, Center for Healthy Aging. Beyond nonprofits, many other organizations also benefit from volunteer work, including schools, nursing homes, medical care facilities, prisons, and government programs like animal shelters. 70% of volunteer work is done informally, mainly driven by people’s involvement in religious, social, or political groups.
Volunteer time in the U.S. is currently valued at $28.54 per hour. This calculation is based on hourly earnings released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and AmeriCorps data on volunteer hours. It’s estimated that volunteers contribute nearly $200 billion in value to U.S. communities.
In the U.S., 15% of people support hunger and homelessness causes. Hunger and homelessness causes are the most supported in the U.S. The next leading cause for volunteers is health and wellness, with 13% of Americans donating to those causes. According to volunteering statistics, other top causes are religion-based and charities for animals and wildlife, with 12% and 10% of Americans supporting them, respectively.
One surprising benefit of volunteering is that it can assist in job-hunting. Volunteers who’ve been unemployed are 27% more likely to find work. This statistic applies regardless of age, location, ethnicity, or the current job market. Resume statistics indicate that 91% of recruiters value soft skills as much as hard skills, and volunteering is an excellent way to develop soft skills in a real-world environment.
One of the most wonderful things about volunteering is that just about anyone can do it. There are so many opportunities and so many different ways to give back to the community that nearly anyone can find something to do, regardless of their skills or stamina. Baby Boomers are more likely to be volunteers than any other generation, they account for 37% of all volunteers. The highest percentage of volunteers in America work for religious organizations.
Statistically, Utah is the most generous state in the US with 51% of the state’s population reporting volunteer work. Nevada ranks almost dead last in volunteering with only 20.9% giving 75.1 million hours of service or 37.3 hours per resident. Clearly, we need to increase Nevada’s volunteering. Perhaps volunteering in Nevada is low because so many are struggling just to get by. U.S. Census Bureau figures released in Sept. show Nevada’s poverty rate skyrocketed to 16.4%, almost double the 2000 rate, with the percentage of those without health insurance ranked third-worst in the nation. In addition, Nevada’s double-digit unemployment is the highest in the nation. Obviously all affecting the amount volunteerism.
Volunteers confirm that they are pleased to be able to do something to help and are proud to have something to offer society. They value the acknowledgement they get from people in their community, the new skills they learn, and have a strong sense of belonging to a caring organization. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Volunteering is a two-way street. It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, boost your social skills, learn new things, and above all provide for the community.
The Center for Healthy Aging has a couple of volunteer opportunities for you if interested. We have an intergenerational native garden – Teach Me To Grow Healthy – in Lemon Valley, Reno. We have nutrition education sessions as well actual gardening projects that you could participate in as a volunteer. In addition, the Center is involved in an RSVP program, Age Friendly Livable Communities, in which we get isolated, alone elders out to socialize with others and improve their health. For more information go to our website, www.addinglifetoyears.com.
The benefits of volunteering include creating healthier and happier people, including yourself. Volunteering connects you to others, good for your mind and body, brings fun and fulfillment to your life, helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety, combats depression, increases self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose, can advance your career and brings fun and fulfillment in your life. What better way to “Add life to Years”.
Lawrence J. Weiss, Ph.D. is CEO of the Center for Healthy Aging. Dr. Weiss welcomes your comments on this column. Write to him at email@example.com or c/o Center for Healthy Aging, 11 Fillmore Way, Reno, NV 89519.