Sarah Ford | February 3, 2015

The Real Reason 75% of Americans Don’t Volunteer

By Greg Baldwin

Our country takes great pride in the role volunteering has played in our history. We believe that volunteers are virtuous, kind and essential to the health of our society. It is why the Dr Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, for instance, is celebrated as a national Day of Service. We are a country that loves volunteering.

We are also a country where three out of four people don’t do it.

According to the Corporation for National & Community Service 62.6 millionAmericans volunteered in 2013. That is about 25% of the adult population, and if you happen to be keeping score, the lowest rate in a decade. Yes you can view this as a glass 1/4 full. But given how important volunteering is, I’m not alone in thinking, “We can do better.”

In 2009 I joined a cross-sector coalition of leaders, practitioners and researchers to take a fresh look at why so many efforts to promote volunteering fail to live up to expectations. The group came to be known as Reimagining Service and over the last five years it has hosted an open and honest inquiry into everything that is right and wrong with volunteering.

The group recently released its final report, which summarizes its history and findings. It also champions four principles we need to take seriously in order to overcome the challenges that limit volunteering.

ATTENTION — policy makers, philanthropists, business leaders, nonprofit executives, consultants, pundits, reporters, data scientists, academics, political leaders, future Presidents and future volunteers. If you are serious about investing in a world where everyone has an opportunity to make a difference here are four things you need to know.

Reimagining Service’s Four Principles of Volunteering:

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