Nonprofits Should Focus on Building Volunteerism as
U.S. Volunteer Rates Continue to Decline By Pamela W. Baker, CPA, CGFM
Each year the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) teams up with the National
Conference on Citizenship to conduct a Current Population Survey (CPS) that collects information on
the frequency of volunteering and the characteristics of volunteers in the United States. Recent survey
data confirms that the volunteer rate continues to decline among American adults. Between 2012
and 2015, the number of residents who volunteer dropped by 3.4%.
For nonprofits that depend on volunteers for projects, events, and fund-raising, these statistics can be
particularly alarming. It is crucial that nonprofits keep this data at the top of their minds and adjust
their volunteerism-building strategies so that they align with shifting volunteer demographics. This
article will highlight the key findings found in the Volunteering and Civic Life in America: 2016 study.
According to the CNCS, the research shows that 62.6 million adults volunteered in 2015, down from
62.8 million in 2014 and 64.5 million in 2012. Also declining are the number of service hours. In 2015,
an estimated 7.8 billion hours of service were logged, a decline from the 7.96 hours recorded in 2014.
The data paints a clear picture of decreased volunteer activity in the U.S. The research also
demonstrates that volunteer rates vary by generation. Below is an overview of key statistics by
generation. A more complete list of statistics by demographic is available to you at
In 2015, 16.9 million millennials contributed 1.6 billion hours of service. It is notable that young adults
attending college are volunteering at twice the rate of their non-college-attending peers.
In 2015, 19.9 million Americans aged 35-44 contributed 2.3 billion hours of service. Generation X has
the highest volunteer rate among generations.
In 2015, 19.2 million baby boomers contributed 2.7 billion hours of service. Baby boomers and Generation X tend to volunteer more hours compared to other generations.
In 2015, 11.0 million Americans age 65+ contributed 1.9 billion hours of service. This generation has
both the inclination and the means to make larger charitable contributions. In 2015, this generation
had the highest median hours with ages 65-74 at 88 hours and 75+ with 100 hours.
The most common volunteer activities across all generations include:
• Collecting, preparing and distributing food (24.2 percent)
• Fundraising (23.9 percent)
• Providing general labor (18.8 percent)
• Tutoring/teaching (17.9 percent)
• Mentoring youth (17.4 percent)
• Providing professional services (14.6 percent)
• Collecting, making and distributing clothing (13.5 percent)
• Being an usher, greeter or minister (11.4 percent)
• Providing office/administrative services (11.2 percent
• Engaging in music or another form of performance (9 percent)
• Coaching, supervising sports teams (7.8 percent)
• Providing medical care and fire/EMS services (6.1 percent)
The CNCS reports that Americans volunteered 113 billion hours over the past 14 years, with an
estimated worth of about 2.3 trillion dollars. Nonprofits should focus on building volunteerism in key
age brackets to ensure success in their mission, even with volunteer rates dipping.
It is clear that volunteer rates in the U.S. are declining, and nonprofits need more effective strategies for
building volunteerism in key age brackets to ensure success.