States Volunteering the Most

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Iowa farmland, corn
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10. Iowa
> Volunteer rate: 32.5%
> Adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.7% (tied – 7th highest)
> Total value of volunteer work in 2015: $1.85B (20th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.6% (10th lowest)

An estimated 31.3% of Iowa residents age 16 and up volunteer each year, a larger share than in all but nine other states. Nonprofit organizations often rely heavily on volunteers and high volunteerism rates in Iowa are likely bolstered by a high concentration of nonprofit organizations. There are about 87 nonprofits in Iowa for every 10,000 state residents, the second largest share in the country and more than double the national figure of 34 per 10,000.

High homeownership rates typically mean a greater share of the population has a personal interest in their community’s long-term success. In Iowa, 70.7% of homes are owner occupied, a larger share than in all but half a dozen other states.

Overlooking Prince William Sound, Alaska
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9. Alaska
> Volunteer rate: 32.7%
> Adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.6% (4th highest)
> Total value of volunteer work in 2015: $552.2M (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)

Volunteerism rates tend to be higher in areas with relatively low commute times, as individuals with longer commutes may have limited free time to volunteer. In Alaska, the average commute time is only 19 minutes, one of the shortest of any state in the country.

In keeping with another national trend, the high volunteer participation rate in Alaska corresponds with a relatively high concentration of nonprofit organizations. Across the state, there are 66 nonprofits for every 10,000 residents, nearly double the national concentration of 34 organizations per 10,000.

Vermont farm house
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8. Vermont
> Volunteer rate: 33.1%
> Adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.7% (tied – 7th highest)
> Total value of volunteer work in 2015: $436.4M (4th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (tied – 8th lowest)

In most states, churches and religious groups account for the largest share of volunteer work. Vermont is a notable exception. Only 15.4% of volunteers in the state volunteer through a religious organization, the smallest share of any state. Some 28.3% of all state volunteers in work with educational or youth service groups, accounting for most volunteerism in the Green Mountain State.

Working adults are more likely to volunteer in their spare time than their unemployed counterparts. A high rate of volunteer participation in Vermont may be bolstered by a strong job market. Only 3.1% of the state’s labor force is out of a job, well below the 4.7% national rate.

Longhorn Statue in Dodge City, Kansas
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7. Kansas
> Volunteer rate: 33.1%
> Adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.3% (17th highest)
> Total value of volunteer work in 2015: $1.70B (19th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.2% (tied – 20th lowest)

Areas with strong high school attainment rates, high homeownership, and low poverty tend to also have greater volunteer participation rates. In Kansas, adults are more likely to own a home and have a high school diploma, and less likely to live in poverty than the typical American. These factors may partially explain why 33.1% of the state’s adult population volunteers annually, a greater share than the comparable 24.9% national rate.

According to estimates by Independent Sector, charitable sector advocacy group, the estimated value of all volunteer work in the country in 2015 was nearly $184 billion. Some $1.7 billion of this was generated in Kansas.

City Skyline, Omaha Nebraska
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6. Nebraska
> Volunteer rate: 33.7%
> Adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.0% (14th highest)
> Total value of volunteer work in 2015: $1.18B (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.4% (9th lowest)

Nebraska is one of seven Midwestern states to have an especially high rate of volunteerism. There are several socioeconomic and environmental conditions in the state that contribute to this. People with longer commute times typically have less free time to volunteer; in Nebraska, the average commute is only about 18 minutes, nearly the shortest in the country. Additionally, homeowners tend to be more invested in their community and have a personal interest in their community’s long-term success; Nebraska residents are more likely to own their homes than the typical American.