A report ranks Nebraska 6th in the country for the percentage of residents who volunteer. Those efforts not only benefit those in need, but the head of the federal agency in charge of volunteering and service says it also benefits the volunteers themselves.
Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, says they’ve studied the impact of volunteering on those who donate their time and energy.
“Here’s what we’ve found, especially with our seniors and older volunteers, it’s good for your health,” Spencer said. “You live longer, you have a reduced sense of isolation, you’re happier and you’re connecting with friends. So, there’s a personal benefit.”
People who are looking for work often find rewards in volunteer work.
“We also have research that tells us if you volunteer and you’re unemployed and looking for work, that you increase the likelihood of getting a job by 27%,” Spencer said. “If you live in a rural community, that likelihood jumps up to 55%. So, there are some benefits to get a job as well.”
The report states slightly more than one in three Nebraskans, or 34.8%, volunteered in 2013. Spencer notes the people who volunteer the most are working mothers.
“Which is really interesting because they’re the busiest people I know,” Spencer said. “But, they’re very connected to their community and schools. College students are actually volunteering at a higher rate than the national average as well. That’s encouraging for our young people.”
Utah ranked as the top state for volunteerism, while Idaho, Minnesota, Kansas, Wisconsin round out the top five. Spencer says there are a number of reasons why states with a lot rural communities tend to have higher volunteer rates.
“For example, low commute times…so, it’s easier to get around. There are higher densities of nonprofits, higher education levels, and high levels of home ownership. That could indicate to us that people are settled in to their community and they really care. They want to make sure their community is strong and vibrant and they want to help,” Spencer says.
Nationally, one in four Americans volunteered last year. The report found those between the ages of 35 and 44 had the highest volunteer rate, while those over the age of 65 spent the most time volunteering.
Overall, Nebraska saw more than 468,000 people volunteer during 2013, giving more than 58-million hours of service and contributing $1.3 billion to the economy.