Friday, August 29, 2008

LOCAL: Philadelphia Volunteerism Rated 39th Out Of 50

(previously published here at

Only 25.1 percent of Philadelphians aged 16 and older volunteered in 2007, according to a report released yesterday by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a public-private partnership that oversees three federal service programs: Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America. This measurement puts the city in 39th place among the 50 major U.S. cities ranked in the annual study.

The Volunteering in America report has Philadelphia's rate at a little below the national average of 26.2 percent, which has declined for the second straight year. Overall, the report notes that 60.8 million Americans volunteered in their communities in 2007, giving 8.1. billion hours of service worth over $158 billion.

Pittsburgh fared a little better in 11th place with 32.1 percent of its residents being logged as volunteering last year, while New York City ranked 48th, with a 17.1 percent volunteerism rate.

Headcount statistics aside, Philadelphia is "far, far ahead of the national average in terms of the number of charitable organizations in the region," said Phil Arkow, marketing and communications officer of The Philadelphia Foundation.

According to a study done by Johns Hopkins University and the Pennsylvania Association for Nonprofit Organizations, there are about 20,000 nonprofit groups in the five-county Philadelphia area, with 9,000 of those in the city limits. These include everything from grassroots neighborhood organizations to the University of Pennsylvania.

"It's [also] been estimated that 27 percent of non-government jobs in the city and 15 percent of these jobs in the five counties are [with] nonprofit employees," Mr. Arkow added. "Nationally, communities are only 6.9 percent of non-government employees."

The decline might be attributed to what CNCS director, Robert Grimm, refers to as "the leaky bucket" of volunteerism, which describes a rapid turnover - how nationally, one in three people who volunteer in a given year do not continue their service the following year.

Economic pressures are cited as a possible negative factor affecting volunteerism rates, but the increase in "cross-sector" support for service learning and social responsibility programs in businesses and schools, as well as the growth of volunteer-oriented baby boomers may help raise service rates in the coming year.

Heather J. Chin can be reached at

©The Evening Bulletin 2008

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