As a Charity Co-ordinator for a Nationally Registered Charity part of my duties is to find/locate volunteers. Every year this seems to become harder to accomplish. The problem isn’t just finding people willing to volunteer, which is in itself a task, but finding volunteers who are willing to regularly contribute their time. Most volunteers only want a temporary commitment of a couple hours, a day, a week, then need to be replaced. Just looking for volunteers is often a full-time commitment, to the detriment of other important tasks that need to be accomplished.
The world has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, but I guess that goes without saying. We no longer live in a society where one person in a couple worked and the other stayed home and took care of the household and volunteered whatever spare time they had. We live in the reality of two working person households. This makes it very difficult for people to find time to volunteer.
Also society’s attitude toward volunteering has changed. 50 years ago it was considered a duty, a public responsibility, a way to get to know your neighbors, your community, make new friends, socialize. Today it is viewed as more of an inconvenience, even among many of those who do volunteer. Much of that change in attitude began around the ‘ me ‘ generation of the 80’s. You would be surprised how many people I encounter who think they deserve compensation for volunteering.
I don’t have any statistics to throw at you, they would be irrelevant anyways, because every situation is different. Many things factor into the equation, such as: location ( rural or urban ), economics ( poor vs rich vs middle-class ), employment ( high or low unemployment ), crime ( high crime or low crime districts ), etc…
The percentage of volunteers in an area can greatly differ from one community to the next, so statistics really don’t help much. All I can do is speak from approximately 35 years of working in the Charity Sector, with various charities, in various capacities, both as a volunteer and as a paid contributor.
Volunteering is, unfortunately, dying a slow and painful death. And that’s unfortunate, because it is what strengthens communities and community spirit. Communities should embrace and promote the benefits of volunteering. Charities need more than just donations, they need people, without people they fail to achieve their objectives.
Find a charity and volunteer, and not only will you help the charity but you might even find that you enjoy it, that you might meet some very good people and make a few new friends, and return communities back to where they should be, when they really were communities, with a community spirit.