Everyone has a role to play in economic development. Every seemingly small action that contributes to the uplift of a community adds to a community’s competitiveness. For example, when I tutor and mentor middle school and high school students in math, one of my favorite pastimes, I am helping with workforce development—doing my little part to increase graduation rates, test scores, and add to future college enrollment. When my sorority paints playground benches or cleans up our piece of an Adopt-A-Highway, that’s adding to the quality of place, which is now a major factor in attracting quality workers and new residents. When residents of disaster-stricken communities, such as Joplin, Missouri, and concerned people from around the nation get together to clear out debris and help to rebuild, it makes a major impact on residents and businesses alike. There are many examples of how volunteerism impacts economic development—how engaged are your citizens in increasing the collective well-being of the community?
The Corporation for National and Community Service reports that in 2010, 62.8 million adults across the nation provided nearly 8.1 billion hours of service valued at nearly $173 billion. That’s major! My generation, Generation X, born between 1965 and 1981, more than doubled our volunteer rate between 1989 (12.3 percent) and 2010 (29.2 percent), giving more time than ever before in 2010—over 2.3 billion hours.
The five states with the highest volunteer rates are:
- Utah (44.5 percent),
- Iowa (37.9 percent),
- Minnesota (37.5 percent),
- Nebraska (37.4 percent), and
- South Dakota (37.2 percent).
Georgia ranked 41st with a rate of 23.9 percent, and Mississippi was 45th with a rate of 23.6 percent.
The following table shows the 2010 top ten large metros in America in terms of volunteer rates and also provides their volunteer hours per resident.
Atlanta ranked 29th with a volunteer rate of 26.4 percent and 36.6 volunteer hours per residents.
Volunteers working with local and national nonprofit organizations, churches, and civic organizations can fill critical gaps in the community. Leveraging community involvement and the connection that people feel to their communities can add to successful economic development strategies.