Volunteering in Minnesota

September 6, 2011

Recently, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released their report on volunteerism in the United States.

Yet again, Minnesota ranked 3rd in the nation for rate of volunteerism, while for the fifth year running, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area ranked number one among large cities. In 2010, 1.6 million Minnesotans volunteered over 189 million hours of service. With these great, and increasingly impressive statistics, that reflect Minnesotans willingness to volunteer there time, the question arises, why Minnesota?

Are Minnesotans just more altruistic? Is the “Minnesota Nice” stereotype true? Or is there something else affecting our outstanding volunteer rates? Mary Quirk, Interim Executive Director of MAVA, told MinnPost that “we have a good structure for volunteerism here,” noting Minnesotans remarkably high educational attainment and relatively low commute times(click here to read the article!).

CNCS offers an in-depth picture of why the volunteerism rate in Minnesota is so high. They highlight seven characteristics of Minnesota that encourage volunteerism:

  1. Where foreclosures are higher, rates of volunteerism tend to be lower.

Minnesota’s most recent foreclosure rate was 1 out of every 960 homes that was foreclosed on. The national average is currently 1/611. (realtytrac.com)

  1. Volunteerism rates are likely to be higher in communities where there are more nonprofits per capita.

The national average is 4.55 nonprofits per 1,000 residents in a community.Minnesota averages 5.72 nonprofits per 1,000 residents. As Mary mentioned Minnesota’s structure for volunteerism is well established and there are many opportunities and places to volunteer.  (volunteeringinamerica.gov)

  1. As rates of home ownership increase, rates of volunteerism tend to increase. Conversely, a high percentage multiunit housing tends to correspond with a lower volunteer rate.

With this measure CNCS attempts to measure an individual’s “commitment and attachment to their community.” The national home ownership rate for 2010 was 68.9 percent, while the state rate for Minnesotawas much higher at 74.9 percent. Along the same lines, the percentage of multiunit housing nationally was 32.7 percent in 2010, while in Minnesota it was only 21.2 percent. (quickfacts.census.gov and volunteeringinamerica.gov)

  1. As rates of higher education rise, the rates of volunteerism also tend to rise.

Nationally, 85.3 percent have received their high school diploma or GED equivalent, while 27.9 percent have received a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Minnesota, however, 91.1 percent have received their high school diploma or GED equivalent, while 31.2 percent have received their bachelor’s degree or higher. (ers.usda.gov/statefacts/mn.htm and volunteeringinamerica.gov)

  1. High poverty rates are associated with lower rates of volunteerism.

The national poverty rate in 2010 was 14.3 percent, while Minnesota’s poverty rate was lower, around 10.9 percent (2009 data). However, it is not known whether high rates of volunteerism lead to lower rates of poverty, or if higher rates of poverty lead to lower rates of volunteerism. (ers.usda.gov/satefacts/mn.htm and volunteeringinamerica.gov)

  1. High rates of unemployment tend to correspond with lower rates of volunteerism.

The national unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in 2010, while Minnesota’s unemployment rates the same year hovered between 6.9 and 7.8 percent. If you are looking to engage job seekers as volunteers in your organization check out MAVA’s toolkit.

All of this information can be found at volunteeringinamerica.gov, which includes data from all 50 states, information about informal volunteering, and statistics about national service programs.

With a variety of factors working in its favor, Minnesota maintains high rates of volunteerism in all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. So, what do you think? Why do so many Minnesotans volunteer? What makes Minnesota such a great place to donate your time and talents?

Kat Southard

Member Outreach Coordinator