Letter: Volunteerism is vital



Each year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the state of volunteerism in the U.S. For the past decade, the number of volunteers each year has declined. As we await statistics for 2016, expected to be released sometime in February, I’d like to encourage you to explore ways that you can get involved in a nonprofit organization of your choice this year.

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million people volunteered in the U.S. in 2015, providing service worth an estimated $184 billion. Those statistics seem rather impressive on the surface. However, we can do so much better.

The facts show that only one in four Americans volunteered in 2015. Women volunteered more than men, with working mothers giving the most of their time. People age 65 and older gave an average of 96 hours during the year, while those between ages 25-34 gave just 32 hours each year. Married people with children volunteered more than single people, and the age group that gave the least to nonprofit organizations were millennials; only 18 percent of people ages 20-24 volunteered in 2015.

At Conner Prairie, we were fortunate enough to add 41 new people to our volunteer ranks last year, bringing our total number of volunteers in 2016 to nearly 500 people, including more than 100 ages 10-18 in our popular youth volunteer program. Combined, our adult volunteers gave 21,658 hours of their time. If it weren’t for our volunteers last season, we would have had to add 11 full-time staff positions at a cost of nearly $500,000, which we simply couldn’t do.

Our community’s nonprofit organizations need volunteers of all ages, interests and abilities. We rely on people who are committed to our mission, care about sustaining and enhancing our future and want to get involved in helping us reach others in deep, meaningful and life-changing ways. Nonprofit organizations seek experienced leaders from the for-profit world to serve on our boards, young professionals to help raise awareness and support, community leaders to help champion our missions and members of our communities to help implement programming and stage our special events.

On the heels of National Volunteer Week, which was April 23-29, it is an ideal time to think about how you can get involved with a nonprofit organization and how you can make a difference in the lives of others through volunteering. It’s my hope that you choose Conner Prairie in 2017. No matter what your age, background or life experiences may be, you have something to offer. Volunteering is extremely important to our organization. For you, it may be one of the most unique and rewarding experiences of your life.

Norman Burns
President and CEO, Conner Prairie