Study: 1 in 3 U.S. Volunteers Serve through Religious Groups

A new study found that more than one-third of America's volunteer force served through a religious group.

The Volunteering in America 2009 report, the most comprehensive data ever assembled on volunteer trends and demographics, found that 22.2 million volunteers, or 35.9 percent of the total 61.8 million volunteers in the United States, served with or through a religious organization in 2008.

Volunteers who served through faith-based organizations were also more likely to continue serving year after year than volunteers of any other type of organization, according to the report, which was released Tuesday. Seventy percent of volunteers of religious groups continued to serve year to year.

Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, hopes the study will encourage non-profit groups to create new partnerships with faith-based groups focused on volunteer services.

"There are millions of volunteers who want to be a part of critical efforts from mentoring children to improving schools to helping their neighbors meet their basic needs," DuBois said in a statement issued by the White House. "The President has called upon all of us to join together in these difficult times, and this report highlights the possibilities of doing just that."

Although faith-based groups account for a third of U.S. volunteers, only about 15 percent of non-profit charities report partnerships with religious organizations.

Nicola Goren, acting CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service, observed, "Religious organizations are a key source of potential volunteers for nonprofit organizations."

"Nonprofits looking to expand their reach and impact may find it beneficial to work more closely with religious organizations in their communities, especially in these tough economic times," Goren said.

The study also found that while charitable giving dropped significantly, the number of volunteers has actually increased during the economic downturn. There was an increase of one million volunteers compared to last year.

Another survey released earlier this year found increased interest among American teens to volunteer. The Harris Interactive-conducted survey for the Christian charity World Vision found that more American teens were volunteering (56 percent) than getting a part time job (39 percent).

About 25 percent of American teens said they became more involved in charitable causes or organizations because of the economic downturn.

In total, volunteers donated 8 billion hours of service, which is worth an estimated $162 billion worth, according to the Volunteering in America 2009 report.

The Volunteering in America 2009 report is based on data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics through a volunteering supplement to the Current Population Survey from 2002 to 2008. Volunteers are defined as persons who did unpaid work through or for an organization.