April 23, 2018
Mass. Volunteer Rate Drops, Reflecting the National Trend

November 22, 2016 — If Massachusetts nonprofits experienced greater difficulty recruiting volunteers last year, it may be because the volunteer rate in Massachusetts dropped slightly from the year before, reflecting a national trend, according to recently released research findings.

In 2015, 24.8% of Massachusetts residents volunteered, ranking the state 32nd among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., down from 25.4% the year before, according to Volunteering and Civic Life in America, a research report from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The volunteer rate in Massachusetts has steadily declined since peaking at 28.3% in 2006.

Nationally, 24.9% of residents volunteered last year, down from 25.4% in 2013 and 26.5% in 2012.

In the weeks since the 2016 presidential election, a number of Massachusetts nonprofits, particularly those focused on immigration, health care, and the environment, reported a surge in volunteer applications.

The new report noted that volunteers are more likely than non-volunteers to talk to neighbors, attend community meetings, participate in civic organizations, discuss politics or local issues with family and friends, do favors for neighbors, and fix things in the neighborhood.

In addition, according to the report, a growing body of research indicates that communities with higher levels of civic engagement have been linked to lower crime rates, improved health outcomes for aging adults, lower rates of mental illness, improved academic outcomes for children, improved employment outcomes for job seekers, and greater community resilience following a disaster.

According to the report, 50.8% of Massachusetts volunteers donated $25 or more to charity last year.

Among other findings for Massachusetts:
  • 1,336,559 residents volunteered in 2015
  • On average, each gave 28.2 hours
  • The value of those volunteered service totaled $3.6 billion
Fundraising was the most common activity among Massachusetts residents who volunteered. That was followed by collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food, providing professional or management services, engaging in general labor, and tutoring or teaching.

Educational or youth services organizations are the most popular for Massachusetts volunteers, followed by religious, social or community service organizations, hospitals or other health entities, sport, hobby, or cultural or arts organizations, and civic, political, professional or international organizations.

Among large metropolitan areas, the volunteer rate for the Boston, Cambridge, Quincy area was slightly higher than for Massachusetts overall, at 25.1%, ranking the area 33rd out of 51 nationally. However, those people volunteer slightly fewer hours, 27.6 hours annually, than Massachusetts residents as a whole.

Among mid-size cities nationally, Worcester ranked 37th out of 75 cities, with 27.3% of its residents having volunteered last year. Springfield ranked 49th, with a volunteer rate of 25.3%.

In terms of volunteer retention, Massachusetts ranked 30th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia, posting a 60.5% retention rate.

Massachusetts ranked 34th in terms of college students volunteering, with a 27.8% volunteer rate. Parents in Massachusetts, however, volunteered at a higher rate, 35.3%, ranking 21st nationally.

When it comes to age, Massachusetts ranked 31st in terms of Millennials volunteering (21.1%) and 35th in terms of Baby Boomers (25.2%).

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