Volunteering is at a 10-year low. What can we do about it?

By Andrew Dain

It’s official — volunteering rates in America have reached their lowest point in more than a decade. According to a study released last year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25.4 percent of Americans volunteered in 2013.

That’s means only one in four Americans are volunteering every year. Ouch.In all fairness, it’s only a slight decline from the previous year — 26.6 percent. But the decrease is part of a larger trend. The volunteering rate has slowly dwindled from 29 percent to 25.4 percent in just 10 years. It’s clear that Americans are volunteering less, both in numbers and hours.

Volunteering is an undeniably American activity. It’s often called one of the country’s “core values” — the right to form voluntary associations is even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. And with the average American household donating nearly $3,000 to charities each year, It’s hard to understand why Americans are engaging with these organizations, but not volunteering.

Many in volunteer management think these numbers are disconcerting. Volunteers are such important partners for many organizations, and this trend could threaten the capacity — and even the existence — of several nonprofits.

So why are the numbers declining?

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