July 27, 2008
Utah, S.L., Provo Rank High for Voluntarism
By Matt Sedensky and David Crary Associated Press
Utahns, already notable nationally for their charitable contributions, are also very giving with their time.
The CNCS, an independent federal agency, used Census Bureau data to determine its state and city rankings, which are based on three- year averages for 2005 through 2007.
The high volunteer rates in Utah and several of its cities are attributed in part to civic-mindedness among the state's many Mormons, but Bill Hulterstrom, president of the Provo-based United Way of Utah County, said other factors also were at work.
"I believe that people here really feel like they can make a difference," he said. "We do not wait for others to fix our problems or neighborhoods."
By state, Utah had the highest rate of voluntarism, 43.9 percent, followed by Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska and Montana. Nevada had the lowest state rate, 17.7 percent; Florida and New York were the next lowest.
Minneapolis-St. Paul was the top-ranked big city, just ahead of Salt Lake, while Portland, Ore., was third. At the bottom of the rankings were Miami, with a voluntarism rate of 14.5 percent; Las Vegas; and New York City.
Among 25 mid-size cities, Provo came in first with a 63 percent rate -- the highest of any jurisdiction in the report.
Nationally, the volunteer rate fell in 2007 for the second year in a row, to 26.2 percent. One of the problems, according to Robert Grimm, director of research for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), was what he calls "the leaky bucket" of voluntarism.
Nationally, about one in three people who volunteer in a given year do not do so the following year.
"There's interest in volunteering in a lot of people, but they're just not staying with it," Grimm said.
Rapid turnover is a problem across the country, and one of the reasons the national rate dropped again in 2007 after reaching 28.8 percent in 2005. In all, 60.8 million Americans 16 and older performed roughly 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service in 2007.
On the bright side, the report concluded that "volunteer intensity" is increasing, with 34 percent of volunteers contributing more than 100 hours of service in a year -- the highest rate for that category since 2002.
On the worrisome side were mounting concerns that economic woes - - including high gasoline prices and job insecurity -- would be deterrents for some would-be volunteers.
"With more people in need -- losing houses, losing jobs -- there are more people to serve," said CNCS board Chairman Stephen Goldsmith. "You have fewer people helping and more people needing help."
But even in Miami, things are improving. Multiple agencies reported more volunteers this year, although they said keeping them is hard.
Lynn Heyman, who heads the volunteer program at Miami Children's Hospital, said she has 600 active volunteers at any given time, more than ever. But the hospital must hold orientations twice monthly to keep volunteers streaming in to replace departing ones.
"I don't think the days of people volunteering with an organization for years and years are still with us," Heyman said.
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