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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Study Reveals Springfield Area Volunteer Participation, Demographics

Dan Prater
Bart Anders/KSMU

Roughly 55,000 volunteers dedicated more than 155,000 combined hours to service projects in Greene and Christian Counties. That’s according to 2015 data compiled by Drury’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership.

The Center’s Special Advisor Dr. Sarah Smith and Executive Director Dan Prater presented the survey results on campus Tuesday.

“We wanted to inform community leaders of the importance of (volunteerism) and the work that is being done,” Prater said. “If you are a for-profit company, you really ought to be doing civic engagement.”

The 30-page report is a follow-up to the Center’s 2014 Nonprofit Impact Report. In addition to the volunteer figures, this new report highlights community service goals, focus areas, and trends. It analyzes formal volunteering, or more easily documented assistance given to a nonprofit, civic, public or government entity.

Of the 2,350 individuals issued a survey, 896 responded. The Center for Nonprofit Leadership also sent heard back from 125 organizations.

Smith says that women represent 72.9 percent of individual volunteers and the majority of volunteers are between the ages 40 and 50.

“If I had to give you a snapshot of who is a typical volunteer in the Springfield-metro area, I would say she is a woman, 40 years or older, she has a college degree and she has a household income of $50,000 or more,” she said.

The study revealed that men, on average, tend to volunteer for longer periods of time then women and that the average volunteer gives 15 years of service.

As of this year, volunteerism in the area has an economic value of $43.5 million annually.

On average, the study found citizens volunteered 30 hours a week. Officials say, however, that in order to keep pace with current demands an additional 7,800 volunteers are needed.

Smith notes that most minority volunteers do so informally, and are therefore underrepresented in the study. That’s due in part to how organizations target volunteers and a lack of awareness for minorities that may be interested in helping. She called for expanding communication with and to volunteer groups and organizations.

Smith also responded to volunteer misconceptions. She says over half of those that get involved have full time jobs.

“There is a stereotype that it is only retirees (who volunteer) and when people retire and have time on their hands they go volunteer. Or, unemployed individuals who are trying to get hired or fill their time before they get hired,” Smith said.

Survey respondents believe the most popular volunteer activity is special, one-time events and the most important is serving as a board or committee member for a nonprofit organization.

According to a 2014 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Missouri ranks 17th among states with 1.3 million volunteers.