Many factors help state lead nation in volunteer status

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's no surprise that Nebraskans are again among the top volunteers in the nation, according to an annual report from the Corporation for National & Community Service.

That's especially true when one looks at the factors that encourage people to volunteer.

The report indicated 37.4 percent of Nebraskans volunteer, ranking us fourth among the 50 states and Washington D.C. It listed 512,300 of us as volunteers, performing 63.5 million hours of service, or 46.4 unpaid hours per resident -- fifth among 50 states and the District of Columbia. That figures out at $1.4 billion of service contributed.

There are a number of reasons we are among the leaders in volunteering.

For one, we feel attached to our communities -- two-thirds of us own our homes -- which boosts the volunteer rate.

Other factors:

* We live near where we work. Nationally, commuters travel on average just over 25 minutes to work, compared to 18 minutes for Nebraskans. That means volunteering opportunities are closer at hand.

* We have a lower poverty rate; 12.3 percent compared to a national rate of 14.3 percent. As poverty increases, the volunteer rate decreases. The same goes for unemployment; the national unemployment rate in 2010 was 9.8 percent, compared to 4.8 percent in Nebraska.

* Nebraska also has a low foreclosure rate, which also translates into higher volunteer rates.

* And don't discount service clubs. Communities with a higher proportion on nonprofits per capita are likely to have higher volunteer rates. As the number of nonprofits per 1,000 city residents increases, the volunteering rate also increases. Nationally, there are 4.55 nonprofits per 1,000 residents. Nebraska bests that as well, 6.59 nonprofits per 1,000 city residents.

One need only look around McCook and other Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas towns to realize how important volunteering is to our way of life.

Whether it's community celebrations, building projects, pulling together to help someone in need or whatever the cause, volunteering is alive and well.

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