The numbers are in—were you counted??? Using data collected and analyzed by Volunteering in America, the National Corporation for State and National Service has just released the national results for 2012.
Who is volunteering??? About one in four Americans volunteered this past year, but in Maine, that number is higher-nearly one out of three people, or a third of our state population, volunteers. In total, 353,360 people provided 43.8 million hours of service, valued at about 745.8 million dollars.
Some benchmarks are holding steady in the state. For example, young adults (16-24) are 31.1% of the population that volunteers, and Maine has the fourth highest ranking of that age group in the US. The age group in Maine that volunteers the most is a sub-set of young adults, the teen group, ages 16 to 19 at 39.9%. Since 2008, their national ranking has moved up from 18th place to first place for 2011 and 2012. Not surprisingly, Maine’s second largest volunteer age group, is the 55 and older category, with 33.9% of the total state cohort. Older volunteers are less likely to suffer from depression, are more mentally alert and have better health, generally.
The state findings also show the sustainability and capacity of the service and volunteer sector. Volunteer retention is a crucial indicator of health in service organizations. If volunteers are well-trained, have clear work descriptions and expectations and are professionally managed, they are more effective, feel useful, serve longer and are of more value to the organization. In Maine, the retention rate for volunteers has increased by nearly 4 percentage points, moving up from 10th place nationally to fifth place. This is a clear sign that volunteer training and management is having a positive effect, making the nonprofit sector more professional, more efficient and better able to serve its constituents. Since this is one of the key reasons why nonprofits take on volunteers, retention becomes a critical indicator.
Other studies indicate that volunteering strengthens employment prospects, especially for those without a college degree or folks in rural areas. Volunteers have 27 percent higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. This effect may be due to developing new skills and expanding personal networks.
Other data reveal that health is improved by serving others. As described on a recent Maine Calling, volunteering is an excellent antidote to feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression.
So, step up and be counted—contact your local volunteer center, go to VolunteerMaine.org, become an AmeriCorps or Foster Grandparent!