September 26, 2019

11 cities where residents are actually volunteering more

A recent analysis of the country's volunteer rates notes a significant decline, but there are a handful of metro areas that defy that troubling trend.

Residents of Las Vegas are pitching in at higher rates now than they did last decade. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

How many people volunteer in your town or city?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1 in 4 Americans spend time volunteering each year. These rates vary across the country, and often vary over different time periods. That’s why The Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland did an analysis of recent census data to find out more about the state of volunteering in America.

Researchers discovered many things about how Americans gave back during four intervals over the last two decades: 2004-2006, 2007-2009, 2010-2012, and 2013-2015.

They found that the country’s overall volunteer rate over the last two decades peaked at 28.8 percent, between 2003 and 2005. That rate bottomed out at a fifteen-year low of 24.9 percent in 2015.

But a few cities defied this trend. When comparing volunteer rates between 2004-2006 and 2013–2015, only 11 metro areas had a significant increase.

Comparing two eras of volunteering

2004-2006 vs. 2013–2015

Bend, Oregon: 22.9% | 37.2%
Columbus, Georgia: 16.2% | 28.0%
Johnson City, Tennessee: 14.3% | 33.1%
Las Vegas, Nevada: 14.4% | 18.7%
Ogden-Clearfield, Utah: 39.9% | 50.0%
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California: 27.7% | 34.2%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California: 27.4% | 32.6%
Savannah, Georgia: 20.3% | 45%
Trenton, New Jersey: 17.8% | 29.6%
Utica, New York: 23.0% | 34.1%
Virginia Beach, Virginia: 19.3% | 29.4%

If your city wasn’t listed, never fear! There are plenty of ways to get more involved and donate your time to a worty cause in your town.

If you’re new to volunteering, start small. Try downloading an app that makes it easy to find ways to share your food with those in need or donate cash to a worthy cause. You can also start by just identifying an organization that you’re passionate about and commit to giving your time for just one weekend afternoon.

If you’ve volunteered before, but find yourself wanting to do something different, there are plenty of ideas for creative and fun new ways to give back to the community. Help organize a neighborhood cleanup or arts event, or start a “time bank” — it’s a way for neighbors a way to “bank” their time and expertise to help each other get things done

And remember, volunteering has scientifically proven health benefits. Even just a few good deeds can help boost your mental and physical health. Best of all, volunteering is contagious. Start giving back, and you’ll soon find friends and neighbors are as well. Before long, your town will be on the map for their rising rates of volunteering.

Caitlin Fairchild

The Renewal Project

Caitlin Fairchild is the deputy editor of The Renewal Project.
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