If you believe the national figures, volunteerism in America is down... really down. According to an annual report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, volunteer rates in the US have been trending down for some time now. How much? At its lowest point in a decade - hovering around 25 percent. The reporttracks which age groups and races volunteer the most, and whether men or women are more likely to volunteer in communities across the country. We can see from the report that employment status, education level, marital status and more have an effect on volunteering. Other details show troubling trends among those with higher education in that they demonstrated a large decline in volunteerism from 42.2 percent in 2012 to 39.8 just a year later, for example. In communities of color, the decline was even more stark: from 21.1 percent to 18.5 among African Americans, although Hispanics and Latinos saw a modest increase of 15.2 to 15.5 percent. So, what's going on?
Well, the researchers don't all agree, though many believe factors like the economy, poor engagement of the nonprofit sector and people feeling generally over-worked might be to blame. The clarion call for communities across America is that while volunteerism is on the decline, the need in communities is actually increasing. Uncertainty in the health and human services industry, particularly among the poor and elderly populations is at an all time high as many worry about deep cuts Washington could enact soon into staple programs that have traditionally helped to support many on fixed incomes. Strong community partners like United Way have found their roles increasingly more relevant today than ever before in history.
We don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, and the truth is, we never do. United Way has existed since 1887. In Alachua County, we have been around since 1957. That was 60 years ago when a group of well-meaning everyday people banded together to raise $70,000 to help their neighbors in need. They ended up raising $87,000. Today, 60 years later, this community has raised nearly $100 million dollars for charities across the state. People living here have clocked hundreds of thousands of hours of their time to help programs they believe in. Everyday people like you, the person reading this message, has believed in the core mission of United Way - that one person, fully committed can improve the life of another person by mobilizing the caring power of the community to advance the common good.