In the U.S., April has the distinction of celebrating voluntarism twice, and in two ways. National Volunteer Month honors the function itself while National Volunteer Week, celebrated in the last week of April, provides an opportunity for individual organizations to recognize their volunteers and the value they create in their communities.
There’s no doubt that voluntarism is going strong in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 62.6 million Americans volunteered through or for an organization at least once in the year ended September 2015.
But voluntarism is not just celebrated in the U.S.
Take Canada, which also names the last week in April as National Volunteer Week. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 12.7 million people, or 44% of all Canadians, aged 15 years and older, participated in some form of volunteer work. In 2017, several volunteer organizations created the Canada 150 for 150 Volunteer Challenge. In conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Canada, the goal of the challenge is to have all Canadians volunteer 150 hours during the year.
In the UK, Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) celebrates the contributions made by millions of volunteers there. Data from 2014/2015 show that just over one in four British adults volunteered formally at least once per month; taking into account informal volunteering – giving unpaid help to people who are not relatives – the number jumps to 34%.
In Singapore, Giving Week is held each December, when corporations, non-profits and individuals across the country come together to make a difference through donations, fundraising and events.
In Australia, National Volunteer Week is held in May to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the 6 million Australians who volunteer each year.
And, according to the website for the United Nations’ International Volunteer Day (December 5), community volunteers worldwide number one billion.
While there is no one source for data on why people around the globe volunteer their time, studies by the Corporation for National & Community Service provide these insights about American voluntarism:
The urge to volunteer crosses all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics, although women volunteer at a higher rate than men.
Education levels are also a factor, with persons with a bachelor’s degree and higher more likely to provide professional or management assistance or to tutor or teach than volunteers with less education.
Among the most popular reasons for volunteering are tutoring or teaching; mentoring youth; collecting, preparing or distributing food; and fundraising or selling items to raise money.
And nearly 80% of volunteers donate their own funds to charity, compared to 40% of non-volunteers.
So, clearly, there is no one reason why we volunteer.
But the result is undeniable…volunteers in large numbers around the world can be counted on to provide critical support to nonprofit, civic, and faith-based organizations by freely offering their time, skills, and monetary support.
P.S. – Ever wonder how much your time as a volunteer is “worth”? Well, the Independent Sector’s 2016 estimate for U.S. volunteer activity is just out and that authoritative organization pegs it at $24.14 an hour!