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Volunteering in the U.S. – 64.5 million points of light

In his 1989 inaugural address, George H. W. Bush invited Americans to volunteer – to become one of a “thousand points of light”.  America was listening! According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 64.5 million volunteers who provided service at least once between September 2011 and September 2012. Most volunteers put in time through a religious or education/youth service organization; however, 7.8% – or approximately 5 million individuals – provided service in a hospital or health care setting.

The report, available online, provides a number of statistical analyses:

  • Demographics: age, gender, race/ethnic group, educational attainment, marital status, employment status, parents of children under the age of 18 (it makes a difference!)
  • Hours of volunteer service provided: almost 6% of all volunteers reported 500+ hours of service in the year; the median was 50 hours
  • Number of organizations for which one volunteers
  • Type of primary organization for which one volunteers: civic/political/professional/international, educational/youth service, environmental/animal care, hospital/health care, public safety, religious, social/community service, sport/hobby/cultural/arts, other 
  • Main volunteer activity: the greatest number (10.9%) collected, prepared, distributed, or served food
  • How volunteers become involved: self-directed, asked by someone else (boss, relative/friend/co-worker, someone in the organization, etc.)

The summary portion of the report also includes historical data back to September 2008.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Volunteering in the United States – 2012.  [press release]  February 22, 2013.  http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/volun.pdf   Earlier reports (back to 2002) are available at http://www.bls.gov/schedule/archives/all_nr.htm#VOLUN.

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