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While American volunteer rates are declining, United Way is seeing a dramatic increase in volunteering, with more than double the rate of growth in volunteers compared to the U.S.’ and predicted increases next year, according to a new community leaders' survey by United Way Worldwide.

These results are a reflection of United Way's unique role in bringing together individuals, companies, government, labor, nonprofits, faith communities and more to create community solutions that drive lasting change and results in communities around the world.

In May 2014, United Way Worldwide’s research team surveyed 74 U.S. and international United Way CEOs. The survey found that:

  • The United Way network has seen a bigger increase in the growth rate of volunteering than the nation as a whole.
  • There’s a gap between what most volunteers are doing and the kind of volunteer activities United Way leaders say is most needed in building stronger communities.
  • The role of businesses, schools and faith institutions in engaging volunteers has great potential for solving community challenges.

  • America's volunteer rate is at its lowest point since the federal government started measuring this 12 years ago, down from 27.5% in 2002 to 25.4% in 2013.  Despite the declining proportion of people volunteering, population growth still translated into a 9% gain in actual volunteers from 2002 through 2012.  But United Way saw a 23.8% increase in volunteers in the same time period. And 73% of the global panel of United Way CEOs who responded predict volunteering will continue to rise in the next year.

    The survey findings were released today as part of a report, Volunteering: The Force Multiplier For Community Change.  Download the report at

    The report came right before United Way's annual worldwide day of volunteering, called Day of Action.  Every June 21, United Way hosts hundreds of events across the world that bring thousands of people together to volunteer in their local communities. This Saturday, some 280 United Ways in all 50 states and 9 countries and territories will mobilize volunteers for projects focused on education, income and health.

    As Brian A. Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide, put it, United Way brings people and organizations together to accelerate community change that goes beyond short-term charity.  “United Way spotlights education, income and health because they’re building blocks for a good life and a strong community,” he said. 

    Here are other findings from United Way’s report on volunteering:
    • What Americans tend to volunteer most for isn’t what communities say they most need to drive lasting change.  Among U.S. volunteers, only 7% of their main activities revolved around mentoring.  Meanwhile, 89% of United Way CEOS say mentoring is what’s most needed to make lasting change in their communities.

    Tutoring struggling students is also critical, according to 62% of the United Way CEOs.  Last year, 10% of volunteer activity in the U.S. was related to tutoring or teaching, with the top volunteer activities including: collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food, 11%, fundraising, 10%, general labor or transportation, 8%, serving on boards 7%.

    Nationally, United Way has been working to recruit mentors, tutors and volunteer readers for struggling students.  So far, more than 307,000 people have signed up at

    Businesses, schools (including universities) and faith institutions hold great potential to boost volunteering and build stronger communities.  Some 61% of United Way CEOs say local employers are the best source for boosting volunteering and creating opportunities at a scale where communities actually improve. Some 50% of the CEOs pointed to schools, including high schools and universities, as holding great potential to scale up volunteerism. And 43% pointed to religious communities as strong partners in this area.

    Last modified on Friday, 20 June 2014
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