- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

The hourly value of time donated by Americans to charitable organizations has climbed to $16.05 per hour, up from $15.39 in 2000, according to a coalition of 700 organizations, foundations and corporate philanthropy programs.
According to "Giving and Volunteering in the United States," a national survey conducted by Independent Sector, 44 percent of American adults (83.9 million people) volunteer their time. The average volunteer gives 3.6 hours of time per week, adding up to 15.5 billion hours volunteered each year.
This work represents the equivalent of 9 million full-time employees paid $239 billion.
In 1980, volunteer labor was worth $7.46 an hour. Independent sector bases its hourly values on the average hourly earnings for private nonagricultural workers as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure then is increased by 12 percent to estimate fringe benefits.
Volunteers are the warp and woof of America, as 85 percent of all nonprofit organizations and 92 percent of religious congregations use them, according to Independent Sector. Sixty-five percent of nonprofits and 82 percent of religious groups train their volunteers, and both groups said they could use more volunteers who have the needed skills.
President Bush encouraged volunteerism as a national virtue in his State of the Union speech and set a goal of 4,000 lifetime volunteering hours per person, which can be attained by volunteering four hours per week.
Volunteers at formal organizations average 3.6 hours per week or 24 hours a month. At this rate, they would reach their lifetime 4,000-hour goal in 21 years.
"Our research indicates that millions of Americans are on their way to reaching the president's goal," said Sarah E. Melendez, president and chief executive officer of Independent Sector. "But while 44 percent of the population volunteers, the majority of the adult population remains an untapped resource."
The reason why more than half of all Americans are not volunteers is because they are not asked, Independent Sector says. If asked, 63 percent will volunteer, compared with 25 percent who will not volunteer if requested. The best way to motivate people, research shows, is to simply ask them.
"We urge all Americans to look in their own back yards and volunteer with a charity in their community," Miss Melendez says. "It's as simple as picking up the phone."
Volunteers tend to be religious and generous givers. Independent Sector's research says volunteers give more than twice as much as non-volunteers. Fifty-four percent of those who regularly attend religious services volunteer compared with 32 percent of those who do not attend religious services.
Women are more likely to volunteer than men (46 and 42 percent, respectively), and 28 percent of all American volunteers do so with family members. Fifty-nine percent of all teen-agers volunteer at an average of 3.5 hours per week. These and other statistics are posted at www.IndependentSector.org.


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