Where Have All The Volunteers Gone?

By eleventy marketing group

The once-steady U.S. volunteer rate saw a surprising decline in 2013How quickly the numbers can change. The last time we reported on volunteering statistics on the eleventy blog, the numbers were overwhelmingly positive. Those were figures from 2011—a year when volunteering in the United States reached its highest level since 2005.

But statistics from 2013 recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics paint an entirely different picture of volunteering in America. Essentially, volunteering has declined across nearly all demographics. How did this shift happen, and is it affecting nonprofit organizations?

In today’s post, we highlight some key findings from the 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics volunteering report and raise some important questions about nonprofit volunteer recruitment.

Where the 2013 Volunteering Figures Come From

The figures below come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data was collected through a supplement to the September 2013 Current Population Survey (CPS)— a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment. The supplement was sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Key Volunteering Facts & Figures from 2013 for Nonprofits

Here are some eye-opening stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on American volunteering across demographics:


25.4% of the U.S. population volunteered in 2013

1.1% decline in the volunteer rate from 2012

62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013

2013 volunteer rate was the lowest since they started recording data in 2002

50 hours was the median amount of time individuals spent volunteering last year

71.3% of volunteers spent their time volunteering for one organization

19% volunteered for two organizations in 2013

33% of all volunteers contributed time to religious organizations last year

25.6% volunteered for educational or youth-related services

14.7% volunteered for social or community service organizations

43% become involved with their main organization on their own initiative

40.8% became involved after being asked to volunteer


22.2% volunteer rate for men in 2013 (down from 23.2% in 2012)

28.4% volunteer rate for women in 2013 (down from 29.5% in 2012)

*Women continued to volunteer at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, education levels, and other major demographic characteristics


30.6% volunteer rate for 35- to 44-year-olds was the highest of any age group

18.5% volunteer rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was the lowest for any age group

26.2% for ages 16-19 (teens)

28.2% for ages 45-54

26% for ages 55-64

24.1% for ages 65 and older


30.7% volunteer rate for married people in 2013

20% volunteer rate for unmarried people

32.9% volunteer rate for parents with children under age 18

22.7% volunteer rate for individuals without children


39.8% of college graduates age 25 and over volunteered in 2013

27.7% of individuals with some college or an associate’s degree

16.7% of high-school graduates

9% of people with less than a high school diploma


27.7% of employed people volunteered in 2013

31.7% of part-time workers volunteered

26.8% of full-time workers

24.1% of unemployed people

21.9% of those not in the labor force

What Do These Numbers Mean for Your Nonprofit?

It’s hard to say for certain at this point if the figures represent a temporary dip or a more serious American volunteering drought. Either way, nonprofits should certainly take the potential implications of these figures seriously and keep a closer eye on volunteering numbers.

At very least, the 2013 volunteering decline gives nonprofits a good reason to take a hard look at their volunteer recruitment efforts and ask some important questions:

  • Is your nonprofit doing enough to recruit new volunteers?
  • What can your nonprofit do to keep your existing volunteers involved and engaged?
  • With so much focus on donors these days, is your nonprofit neglecting your volunteer recruitment efforts?

Volunteers play an essential role in helping nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions. At times that can too easily be forgotten or pushed aside as organizations deal with the challenges of fundraising. But, remember, volunteering is a key driver of donations. Volunteers donate, promote the cause, raise awareness, and encourage others to make donations as well.

Be proactive and take action to ensure your nonprofit is giving your volunteers the attention, encouragement and acknowledgement they need.