Volunteering Facts

Volunteering Facts & Statistics

The global impact of volunteering cannot be overemphasized. As human beings, we are meant to depend on each other for survival, and volunteering is one way we can watch each other's back. As the facts about volunteering below show, there are over one billion volunteers globally, and they are the foundation of many good deeds in this world. 

The adventure of volunteering has exposed the truth that there's more benefit in giving than receiving. Volunteers contribute vastly to charitable endeavors and nonprofit organizations and help them conduct their programs successfully. While at the same time, its proven less formal volunteering to help out in the community offers benefits for the volunteer and recipients.

Volunteering costs the individual time, but its overall benefits in the long run, both personally and in the community, outweigh the cost. And if we are to actualize our hope of making this world a better and safe place, we will both need the involvement of volunteers and should champion the positive impacts they help to create.

General facts about volunteering

#1 - There are over 1 billion volunteers worldwide1 

This exceeds the number of unemployed people in six out of the ten most populous countries globally. Decision-makers need to understand the relationship between community resilience and volunteerism fully. Volunteer activities will play a part in collective and public well-being since we can find active volunteers in all communities.

#2 - The efforts of volunteers worldwide are equal to 109 million full-time workers1 

This workforce of volunteers worldwide is almost three times the number of those employed in financial services and those working in extractive and mining industries more than five times over.

Informal Volunteering

Volunteering facts - informal volunteers
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

#3 - 70% of volunteer work does not involve any organization but happens informally between people in their communities1 

#4 - 57% of volunteer work worldwide is done by women1 

#5 - 59% of informal volunteering around the world is done by women1 

This percentage is primarily influenced by individuals’ involvement in society, religion, political participation, and membership in informal mutual assistance groups. The gap between informal and formal volunteering seems even higher in non-industrialized countries. 

The fact that women hold the highest share of volunteers at 57% and love to do so informally explains this. Much of local volunteering is informal, spontaneous, and unmediated by an organization. It explores the power of human relationships to strengthen social solidarity and trust, which communities depend on in times of adversity.

Women easily form informal bonds with their neighborhood and are more likely to voluntarily perform nonprofitable activities like babysitting a neighbor's child, grocery shopping for friends, environmental cleanings, or community service.  

In a mixed-sex group where someone has to volunteer their time for a nonprofitable task, a woman is more likely to volunteer than a man to ensure completed tasks. In single-sex groups, this changes, and men and women volunteer equally.

#6 - Only 30% of volunteering work globally is done through organizations1 

This also takes place in local communities but not as much as the informal, especially for lower-income countries. Formal volunteering is more likely to dispute traditional cultural roles and responsibilities with its restrictive policies and norms, which may discourage and limit the number of volunteers, explaining why this number is just 30%.

Volunteering in America

#7 - Approximately 25% of the American adult population are volunteers1

This percentage is declining. It was 28% between 2003 and 2005. People are busy and often run businesses or work full time, leaving little or no time to seek a volunteer experience. Adults between ages 35-44 dominate this percentage and are more likely to be parents with children under 18.

#8 - On average, people in America spend an average of 52 hours per year volunteering their time. 1

#9 - In 2016, Americans contributed $193 billion of their time volunteering in communities1

During this period, the value of volunteer time was $24.14 per hour. Most of this contribution went to the top four national volunteer activities like food collection and distribution, fundraising, general labor or transportation, and tutoring.

#10 - Despite Americans contributing $193 billion of their time to volunteering, the volunteer rate declined by 0.4% to 24.9% in 20161

It is unclear if this percentage will increase or not, considering the recent development in the economic downturn. As more people volunteer to help others, more people also focus on bettering their lives by working full time and furthering their career prospects.

Age Groups

#11 - People aged 35-44 are most likely to volunteer3 

At this age, most people have attained a certain level of stability in their career, income, family, education, and professional skills that organizations, particularly in expert job areas, are more likely to volunteer. 

#12 - People aged 20-24 are least likely to volunteer3

Between 20-24, most people are still looking for a level of stability in their income and might be working full time to build and raise their own families, so they might not offer their time or resources to non-profiting activities.

Single Organization Volunteering

#13 - 72% of volunteers in America are involved with only one organization4 

People engage in nonprofitable activities during their spare time or with their surplus resources, and this is already demanding for people who are not full-time volunteers. Engaging in more than one organizations can be too much to handle for them, and only a few who have enough time and resources to spare or full-time volunteers can afford to engage in more than one organization

#14 - 42.1% of American volunteers became volunteers with their main organization after being asked to volunteer4

They were primarily asked by someone who is already a member of the organization. This is almost the same percentage as people who got involved on their own by voluntarily approaching the organization.

Why people volunteer

Food banks are one of the main areas people volunteer
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

#15 - 24.2% of volunteering activities in America are for food collection and distribution4

Topping the list of the top four volunteer programs, we find these activities commonly undertaken by community members and formally through hunger relief organizations. This activity ranges from packing, sorting, distributing, providing food bank access to specialized skills like marketing, technology, or carpentry, thereby feeding 46 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million older adults.

#16 - 23.9% of volunteering activities in America are for fundraising4

A percentage increase is likely as long as organizations ensure that volunteers see and experience the real impact of their charity. Almost all charity organizations have a website as an easy way to receive donations. Digital channels also provide information about the benefits of their project

#17 - 17.9% of volunteering activities in America are for tutoring4

The American educational system also plays a role by enabling volunteering projects and providing volunteer opportunities in elementary, middle, high school, and college. You can do this one-on-one between tutors and students physically or virtually through the organization’s website.

Where people volunteer

#18 - 34.1% of volunteering in America is done for religious organizations4

The majority of religious organizations are non-profit and depend on volunteers to carry out their missions. Which often comes in the form of charity donations, hospital visitations, and related community services. People readily volunteer to work for what they believe in, and this keeps the percentage increasing. As such, religious organizations continue to be key producers of volunteering experiences for individuals in the United States.

#19 - 26% of volunteering in America is done for educational organizations4

High school and college students tend to dominate more and gain volunteering experience from educational organizations. Volunteers with children under the age of 18 volunteer more in educational organizations than other organizations. Student activism has rolled over to government programs like the peace corps.

#20 - 14.9% of volunteering in America is done for social service organizations4

These organizations most times include the government, but sometimes the planning of the volunteer program is done by non-governmental organizations. The goal is to find a way to help families, groups; communities improve their state of living by providing income or social assistance, services for children and adults with developmental disabilities,

#21 - 7.3% of volunteering in America is done for health organizations4

This percentage is lesser because, in this situation, volunteer opportunities are mainly for medical practitioners and health workers because of their sensitivity to human life. Studies into facts about volunteering show that volunteers experience the benefits of greater life satisfaction and overall better health than non-volunteers.

Volunteering benefits: The numbers & facts

#22 - A 2020 UK study showed volunteering to have an equivalent wellbeing value of £911 per volunteer per year5

This study answers the question, "does volunteering make people happier or if happier people tend to volunteer more?" thereby addressing the issue of reverse causality when estimating the well being and physical health impacts of volunteering 

#23 - In one survey, 93% of volunteers reported that they enjoyed it6

Many people enjoy the overall volunteering experience because of the tendency of traveling to different cities or countries, mingling with different people, exploring different cultures, and increasing their knowledge about the different walks of life. This feeling of enjoyment also helps improve their own physical health.

Volunteering contributes to a sense of personal achievement

#24 - In one survey, 90% of volunteers reported a sense of personal achievement6

Volunteering makes people feel fulfilled, exposes you to job opportunities you didn't know about, develops social and professional skills, boosts your self-esteem, and advances your career by improving job prospects. Many older people who volunteer say volunteering helps them feel important to society.

#25 - In one survey, 90% of volunteers reported a sense of personal achievement6

#26 - In one survey, 90% of volunteers reported feeling that they made a difference6

As these facts about volunteering show, apart from going about their daily business, people still look to make a difference in the community where they live and contribute to society’s growth and well-being by participating in any volunteering project in their workplace or community.

Improving mental health and wellbeing

#27 - 77% of volunteers in one survey agreed that volunteering improved their mental health and wellbeing6

ICM research from 2004 shows that almost half of all volunteers reported that volunteering helps improve their physical health fitness. 22% of volunteers age 18-24 say volunteering helps them cut down on alcohol, smokers within the same age also say volunteering makes them smoke less.

#28 - 68% of volunteers in one survey agreed that volunteering helped them feel less isolated6

This is even higher among young volunteers 25-34 has  76%, and 18-24 has 77%. By being part of a team with a common goal, they bond with strangers, increase their social interactions and combat the depression that comes with isolation. It also nurtures their sense of belonging, purpose and expands their support system. 

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Volunteering in the United States, 2015
5 Ricky N. Lawton, Iulian Gramatki, Will Watt & Daniel Fujiwara, 2020. Does Volunteering Make Us Happier, or Are Happier People More Likely to Volunteer?
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