A World Without Volunteers
Halloween is celebrated with spooky costumes, creepy movies, and chilling tales of things beyond. But there’s something that we think would be scarier than any ghost or vampire: A world without volunteers!
For a brief moment this past spring, we got a glimpse of what a world without volunteers might look like when nearly 93% of surveyed nonprofits reported significant volunteer cancellations because of COVID-19.
- Across the country, more than 4 out of 5 nonprofits say they rely on volunteers to operate and serve their communities.
- About 1 in 5 Americans receive some kind of basic needs support (such as housing, food, etc.) from nonprofits and the volunteers that support them across the USA each year.
- Volunteers contribute approximately $187.7 BILLION to our national economy (2019)
Let me paint a picture of a world without volunteers:
Homebound seniors would grow lonelier and hungrier (Meals on Wheels, A Helping Hand, Center for Volunteer Caregiving). Struggling mothers would not have enough diapers and baby wipes (Diaper Bank of NC). Garbage would pile up on roadsides (86it, Keep Durham Beautiful), in streams and lakes (Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Triangle Land Conservancy,). Public parks would have little support (The Umstead Coalition, Dorothea Dix Park).
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that 71% of all fire departments in the U.S. are staffed by volunteers! Without volunteers, the response to calls and emergencies would be devastatingly slow, and the results could be tragic.
“In the quiet hours when we are alone and there is nobody to tell us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes upon a moment in which we wonder, not how much money we are earning, nor how famous we have become, but what good we are doing.” – A.A. Milne
Volunteering has a remarkable impact on society. Here are some important findings:
- Volunteering helps build a more cohesive, safer, and stronger community; it unites people across differences.
It’s true; volunteering connects us. Points of Light recently published a report, Civic Life Today: A look at American civic engagement amid a global pandemic, that shows how volunteering builds civic trust.
- Volunteering bridges the gap between people, governments, and businesses.
“The government cannot satisfy all citizens’ demands, specifically those of diverse religious, ethnic, and social groups.” Volunteers fill the void in local and federal programs by meeting basic needs, like when volunteers step up to help Triangle families with these DIY Family Essentials Kits.
- Volunteering makes a significant contribution to the economy.
Voluntary organizations contribute to the economy as employers and service providers, The sector also creates conditions where the economy can flourish by investing in training, boosting skills, and improving the employability of citizens. For example, volunteers can inspire local youth to take on amazing careers by participating in this virtual volunteer opportunity contributing to Junior Achievement’s Virtual Career Speaker Series!
- Volunteering has positive effects on volunteers as individuals.
Volunteering creates a sense of self-worth and increases self-esteem. A study of adults ages 65 and older found that volunteering has a positive effect on physical and mental health (Herzog et al., 1998).
“We are an all volunteer organization so we cannot attain our mission without the work of our volunteers. We cannot single-handedly care for 75 cats. Our volunteers are the lifeblood. We wouldn’t be able to stay open without them.” – Elizabeth Towns, Volunteer Coordinator of Cat Angels
The good news is, we don’t live in a world without volunteers. This year, we’ve seen Triangle residents step up like never before. They’ve participated in COVID-19 response projects. Families have participated in service together. YOU showed up and made the world less scary.