Overall, one in four adults volunteered almost 8 billion hours through an organization, providing an estimated economic value of $171 billion. In addition to volunteering through organizations, two out of three Americans serve informally by helping out their neighbors, an increase of 9.5 percentage points from last year. The findings come from Volunteering and Civic Life in America, a report issued recently by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship.
We see the miracle of the American spirit when millions of citizens from across the country volunteer to help one another. We see the power of role models as thousands of mentors come through classrooms and afterschool programs to provide stability in the lives of children. We see the impact of pro-bono service with hundreds of businesses, large and small, mobilizing their employees to serve their communities through skills-based volunteering.
Even in tough times, Americans are stepping up. In fact, some of the busiest people are the most active volunteers: mom and dad. More than 33 percent of parents with school-age children contributed more than 2.5 billion hours of their time to volunteer efforts in 2011, most of it to school-based projects, underscoring the pivotal role that schools play as hubs for local volunteer efforts.
Volunteering and civic engagement are the cornerstone of a strong nation, and service has long been a hallmark of the American spirit. Benjamin Franklin, who started the first volunteer firefighter company and first public library, held the conviction that our society thrived when citizens come together in a spirit of cooperation to accomplish great things through service to others. Citizens who volunteer, collaborate, and trust each other are part of the solution to strengthen communities across this country, which makes for a better America.
Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that promotes volunteering and service. Ilir Zherka is the executive director of the National Conference on Citizenship, a non-partisan nonprofit organization working at the forefront of our nation’s civic life.