Washington, DC (June 18, 2010)- During this economic recession, as individuals across the country grappled with financial instability, one might predict that the volunteer rate should decrease between 2008 and 2009. The data, however, tell a different story. In 2009, the volunteer rate actually increased to 26.8 percent, up from 26.4 percent in 2008. The number of volunteers also increased to 63.4 million, up from 61.8 million in 2008. This is the largest single year increase in the number of volunteers and the volunteer rate since 2003.
Americans of all ages and backgrounds participate in service. Research indicates that the rise was primarily fueled by increased volunteer rates among women, especially women ages 45-54; among individuals who are married, especially married women; and among those who were employed, especially individuals working full time. These groups typically have volunteer rates that are higher than their counterparts (i.e., men, individuals who are unmarried, individuals who are not employed).
The populations with the highest volunteer rates also included individuals with children under 18 years old in the home and individuals with a high school diploma or college degree. In the midst of the nation’s growing diversity, 2009 saw a number of populations increase their volunteer rates. Overall, the volunteer rate for individuals who identified themselves as African American/Black rose from 19.1 percent in 2008 to 20.2 percent in 2009 – largely due to an increase in volunteerism among African American/Black women. The volunteer rate among African American/Black women rose 1.6 percentage points from 21.2 percent in 2008 to 22.8 percent in 2009.
The organizations where Americans chose to volunteer stayed relatively consistent between 2008 and 2009. Religious organizations continued to be the most popular organization with which to serve. In the midst of the economic downturn, however, more volunteers also served with social and community service organizations, increasing to 8.8 million in 2009 (up from 8.4 million in 2008).
In terms of activities, volunteers most often participated in fundraising/selling items to raise money (26.6% of volunteers do this activity). Other popular activities included: collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (23.5% of volunteers do this activity); engaging in general labor or providing transportation (20.5%); and tutoring or teaching (19.0%).