Franklin County United Way

While American volunteer rates are declining, United Way is seeing a dramatic increase in volunteering, with more than double the rate of growth and predicted increases next year, according to a new community leaders’ survey by United Way Worldwide.

These results are a reflection of United Way’s unique role in bringing together individuals, companies, government, labor, nonprofits, faith communities and more to create community solutions that drive lasting changes and results in communities around the world, officials said.

Here locally, Franklin County Area United Way Executive Director Kim Strubberg said she agrees with many of the findings. She said the local organization relies on a large number of volunteers, which she too feels is on the upswing.

In May 2014, United Way Worldwide’s research team surveyed 74 U.S. and international United Way CEOs. The survey found that:

• The United Way network has seen a bigger increase in the growth rate of volunteering than the nation as a whole.

• There’s a gap between what most volunteers are doing and the kind of volunteer activities United Way leaders say is most needed in building stronger communities.

• The role of businesses, schools and faith institutions in engaging volunteers has great potential for solving community challenges.

America’s volunteer rate is at its lowest point since the federal government started measuring this 12 years ago, down from 27.5 percent in 2002 to 25.4 percent in 2013.

Despite the declining proportion of people volunteering, population growth still translated into a 9 percent gain in actual volunteers from 2002 through 2012. But United Way saw a 23.8 percent increase in volunteers in the same time period. And 73 percent of the global panel of United Way CEOs who responded predict volunteering will continue to rise in the next year.

The report came right before United Way’s annual worldwide day of volunteering, called Day of Action.

Every June 21, United Way hosts hundreds of events across the world that bring thousands of people together to volunteer in their local communities.

“Although we don’t have a specific day of action, one of the things I’m most proud of is the number of volunteers we have year-round,” Strubberg told The Missourian.

In addition to its all-volunteer board of directors and advisory board, the Franklin County Area United Way has volunteers who help in the office; adults and teens who participate in the door-to-door drive; committees which organize special events, such as an annual golf tournament, purse auctions and many other other activities to raise both money and awareness.

Another finding was that Americans tend to volunteer most for isn’t what communities say they most need to drive lasting change.

Among U.S. volunteers, only 7 percent of their main activities revolved around mentoring. Meanwhile, 89 percent of United Way CEOs say mentoring is what’s most needed to make lasting change in their communities.

Tutoring struggling students is also critical, according to 62 percent of the United Way CEOs.

Strubberg said mentoring and tutoring are areas the United Way here is focused on.

Some 61 percent of United Way CEOs say local employers are the best source for boosting volunteering and creating opportunities at a scale where communities actually improve.

About 50 percent of the CEOs pointed to schools, including high schools and universities, as holding great potential to scale up volunteerism. And 43 percent pointed to religious communities as strong partners in this area.