Giving Compass' Take:

Volunteerism in the U.S. is unfortunately on the decline, but individuals in both the public and private sector can play a critical role in increasing volunteer engagement. 

What are some potential strategies nonprofits can utilize to encourage more volunteering? 

• Read about how volunteering can help advance your career. 

As a former public sector leader now working in the social sector, I have witnessed the tremendous impact volunteerism has on American society—on both the people providing social services and the people receiving them.

These altruistic interactions often serve a broader purpose: They bond together neighbors and communities in a common cause, and enable us to see and appreciate each other’s humanity. When we recognize the humanity in each other, we lay the foundations of understanding, empathy, and compassion. These then form the building blocks of a healthy civil society in which citizens are more likely to focus on what unites us than what divides us. For these reasons, I firmly believe that everyone in the public and nonprofit sectors has a role to play in fostering volunteerism, and that engagement can pay dividends for all.

Social scientists have long noted that volunteerism plays a significantly larger role in American civic life than it does in other countries. In fact, Americans are 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than Germans. And yet, despite these statistics, they have begun to raise alarm bells about a decline in US volunteerism. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, volunteerism peaked between 2003 and 2005, when 28.8 percent of Americans reported having volunteered the previous year. Today, that number is 25.3 percent.

The nonprofit sector must reverse these trends and do more to increase the engagement of the communities we serve—particularly in the human services sector, which relies heavily on the support of volunteers to fill the gaps in federal, state, and local funding.

Read the full article about American volunteerism by Susan N. Dreyfus at Stanford Social Innovation Review