MN Fares Well in New Volunteer Rankings
Monday, January 30, 2023
New data on volunteering in the U.S. carries good news for Minnesota. Every other year, the independent government agency AmeriCorps works with the Census Bureau to track how many people are signing up for volunteer work.
The latest report showed Minnesota is among the top 10 states for formal volunteering, which includes helping others through nonprofits.
Michael Smith, CEO of AmeriCorps, said nationally, the nation saw a drop in this area, suggesting the effects of the pandemic were a likely factor. But he added there was good news, with informal volunteer numbers remaining steady.
"People continued to shovel the walks for their neighbors," Smith outlined. "They continued to ask their homebound neighbors, or maybe their immune-compromised neighbor, 'Do you need me to go to the grocery store for you?' "
Minnesota's formal volunteer rate for 2021 was 35%, third-highest in the country. It was also in the top 10 for informal help. Meanwhile, Smith hopes the nationwide drop on the formal side is only temporary because of shutdowns at the start of the pandemic. He added his agency will do more digging to see what exactly is behind some of the numbers.
The effects of the pandemic were felt in southwestern Minnesota.
Michelle Baumhoefner, executive director of Advocate, Connect, Educate of Southwest Minnesota, said part of their focus is finding volunteer opportunities for retired individuals, but noted they saw some people decline to return to their roles as the pandemic continued. She hopes the volunteer spirit in Minnesota will convince younger retirees to consider helping out.
"We owe it to our older generation and our younger generation to teach them how to volunteer and to engage with their communities," Baumhoefner asserted.
Overall, the report said more than 60 million people across the U.S. formally volunteered with organizations in 2020 and 2021. The number more than doubled when looking at people who helped their neighbors and community without any group affiliation.
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