Some 62.6 million Americans volunteered a total of 7.8 billion hours in 2015. The total dollar value of volunteer time nationwide has been estimated at nearly $184 billion.
While nationally, about one in every four adults volunteers annually, in some parts of the country, volunteering is much more common. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Corporation for National and Community Service to identify the states with the highest rates of volunteerism. In Louisiana, just 18.4% of residents 16 and older volunteer each year, the lowest share of any state. In Utah, a nation-leading 43.3% of adults volunteer each year.
Volunteer work is typically done through an organization or group. In the vast majority of states, religious groups and churches are the primary drivers of volunteerism. The second most common type of organizations that Americans volunteer through are educational and youth service programs.
Beyond involvement in faith-based groups and educational programs, a variety of socioeconomic conditions influence volunteer rates in a given state. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Mary Love, spokesperson for the CNCS, explained that “some aspects of an area can make it easier or harder to get people involved.”
Two of the strongest correlations with volunteerism is the share of adults with at least a high school diploma and the share of residents in a given area living in poverty. “These socioeconomic factors [affect] the time available to volunteer, as well as… the amount of opportunities available for them to become involved,” Love said. To be sure, at least 90% of adults have a high school diploma in every state with the highest volunteer rates, while nationwide, 87.1% of adults have graduated high school. Additionally, Idaho and Oregon are the only state on this list with a higher poverty rate than that of nation.
Perhaps the strongest and most intuitive correlation with volunteer rates is homeownership. According to Love, “Greater attachment to a community encourages volunteering and owning a home tends to signify a personal interest to the long-term success of a community.” Only three of the states with the highest volunteer rates have a lower homeownership rate than the national 63% figure.
Other important factors include commute times and the presence of nonprofit organizations. The average American commuter spends 26.4 minutes travelling to work. Love explained that “those with a long commute may have limited time available for volunteering…” The mean commute time is lower than the national average in 14 of the 15 states with the highest volunteer rates.
The presence of nonprofit organizations also play a major role in volunteerism in the U.S. “In order for people to volunteer, there needs to be capacity to recruit, place, and manage these volunteers – simply put, there must be infrastructure in place to support individuals wanting to volunteer,” Love said. It may also be the case that a greater presence of nonprofits in these states fosters interest in volunteerism among residents. Utah is the only state on this list with a less dense concentration of nonprofits than the nation as a whole.
To identify the states with the highest volunteer rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the annual average percentage of state residents 16 and older who volunteered with an organization each year between 2013 and 2015 from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The survey also included state data on historical volunteer rates, where individuals volunteered primarily, and the types of volunteering activities. We also looked at state educational attainment rates, poverty rates, homeownership rates, commute times and median household incomes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. The number of nonprofit organizations per 10,000 state residents came from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. The value of volunteer hours by state was calculated by Independent Sector, a charitable sector advocacy group. Annual unemployment rates are for December 2016 and came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These are the states volunteering the most.