While volunteering in Kansas remains strong, the Kansas Volunteer Commission reported last week that Kansas dropped from fourth in overall volunteerism rates to fifth in the nation.
The 2015 Volunteering and Civic Life in America report, released Tuesday, showed the decline. Now, officials are seeking more Kansans to volunteer to meet the critical needs of their neighbors and communities.
“Locally we are down also,” said Linn Hogg, director of Volunteers In Action and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. “As the RSVP volunteers age out of the volunteering sector into the needing volunteers sector, fewer people are taking their place.”
Volunteers In Action/RSVP works with all non-profit agencies in Barton and Pawnee counties and is proud of the many volunteers it has working in the community, she said. The average age of the volunteers is 74. “This is due to the unwavering commitment the 65 and older crowd has to the people in their community.”
So, she is encouraging young people to volunteer. “But are we mentoring that behavior through our own actions. The number of volunteers between the age of 18 and 65 is very low in comparison to the other groups.”
There are some signs of hope.
“We’re thrilled to see that Kansas is first in the nation for teenage volunteerism and fourth when it comes to older adult volunteer rates,” said Brittany Crabtree, executive director of the Kansas Volunteer Commission. “However, we want to be sure we’re engaging the individuals between these age groups – it’s important that parents are role modeling civic engagement for their children, and employers are giving their staff time to engage in the community in which they live.”
National data shows that volunteering not only benefits those being served, but also can positively impact the individuals volunteering and serving in their community. The “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service (2013) found that volunteers have 27 percent higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers.
This likelihood increases for rural volunteers (55 percent). Volunteers also are nearly twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly 80 percent of volunteers donated to charity, compared to 40 percent of non-volunteers.
“This isn’t just in amount of hours but in the number of people,” Hogg said. Some of this is due to how the community looks at volunteering.
“We need to do a better job opening positions in our non-profit agencies to accommodate the young and seasoned professionals, stay-at- home moms, shift workers, ect.,” she. “We encourage people who are volunteering now or who are wanting to volunteer to contact our office. Many opportunities come up each month and if we have your info we can contact you.”
The Kansas Volunteer Commission urges you to volunteer with your family and friends this holiday season and into the New Year. To find local volunteer opportunities, Kansans are invited to visitvolunteerkansas.org/, serve.gov/ or call VIA/RSVP at 620-792-1614.