Find out where you stack up volunteering-wise

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) revealed the new report on volunteering which shows that nationwide about 26.2% of Americans volunteered in 2007, a bit below the rate in 2006 of 26.9% and below the higher levels seen from 2003-2005 of 28.8%

CNCS also released new city rankings of volunteering (Miami gets the dubious distinction of now being the lowest in volunteering nation-wide with a 14.5% volunteering rate, beating out Las Vegas for bottom-of-the-barrel; Minneapolis-St. Paul, with a volunteering rate of 39.3% is in the #1 slot.

Among 75 mid-sized cities, Provo, Utah, was the #1 volunteering site with an impressive 63.8 percent volunteer rate, followed by Iowa City, Iowa, Madison, Wis., Greenville, S.C. and Ogden, Utah. CNCS noted that “For the third year in a row Utah was the top volunteer state with a volunteer rate of 43.9 percent, followed by Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska and Montana.” After Minneapolis St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Portland, Oregon, Seattle and Austin were ranked #2 through #5 respectively.

Accompanying their rankings CNCS revealed a neat new website (Volunteering in America) that lets one explore these various volunteering statistics at the national, state or city level, with data on all 50 states and 162 cities. You can even customize a profile for a specific city by clicking on “Find a City/State” and then when you choose the state or city, select “Customize a Profile” and you can choose along what dimensions you want to look at the city or state’s civic performance. CNCS explains that the new site: “allows nonprofit leaders, policy makers and others an opportunity to get under the hood of volunteering and retrieve data and assemble unique customized reports which include both volunteering and national service data for their cities and states. The site also provides tools, tips, effective practices, and webinars to help nonprofits, communities and civic leaders strengthen their volunteer recruitment strategies, and deepen their volunteers’ commitment to service.”

CNCS data that compared volunteers and non-volunteers with the Census Bureau’s American Time Use data found that the biggest predictor was amount of television watched. Volunteers watched an average of 8 hours less of TV a week (15 hours for volunteers v. 23 hours for non-volunteers). This adds another nail to the coffin on the corrosive impact of commercial entertainment television on civic engagement from the evidence that Bob Putnam marshaled for Bowling Alone.

This is CNN’s story on the data: “Blame it on the traffic. Or the number of new immigrants. Or the allure of the beach. Whatever the reason, Miami, Florida, has secured the bottom spot — No. 50 among major U.S. cities — in new rankings of the percentage of adults who volunteer.

Volunteers sort through cereal boxes at a food bank in Washington.

Volunteers sort through cereal boxes at a food bank in Washington.

“Nationally, the volunteer rate fell in 2007 for the second year in a row, to 26.2 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is releasing its report Sunday. It showed Miami with a volunteerism rate of 14.5 percent, replacing Las Vegas, Nevada, in last place among major metropolitan areas.

“To be fair, the study found 620,000 volunteers were recruited in Miami last year, more than 60,000 over the previous year. And many local nonprofits say they have more volunteers than ever. But there’s no denying how far Miami lags behind other cities, particularly No. 1 Minneapolis-St. Paul, with a 39.3 percent rate.

“The study notes that Miami’s poverty rate and average commute times are slightly higher than the national average, while other factors influencing volunteerism — home ownership and education level — are slightly lower.”


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