The prestigious Stanford Center for Longevity, published a report, pre-COVID-19, on why volunteering rates were declining. The top three reasons were given: people said that they lacked time to participate, others said that they weren’t aware of volunteering opportunities, but the third reason completely captivated me: “No one asked me to.”
Indeed, 80 percent of the individuals polled said they were never asked. The findings were also clear that those who volunteer are not necessarily older people with nothing to do, but much younger people who should have plenty to do. Many of those volunteers, it seems, are volunteered by their companies; what you might call a peer-pressure participation response.
Overall, volunteering is way down, and it is hardly a mystery as to the why. We are seemingly busy. That is true. People aren’t aware that they can participate in many activities, and apparently, many more are waiting to be asked.
Inside The Numbers
The question of “participation” needs a lot more of a basis than three “reasons.” It needs context. The Bureau of Census, “American Time Use Survey,” was published in 2018 from 2017 data with more than 26,000 Americans responding.
The survey found that the average single person spends about 5.6 hours per day on leisure activities and sports. Married couples spent about 5 hours a day each. “Leisure time” does NOT include texting, emails, or phone calls.
The following statistics are shocking. I have taken this, in its entirety, from 2019 data found in Digital Information World. You may be interested in seeing your group:
“People aged 16 to 24 spend the most time on social media – 3 hours and 1 minute daily…55-64-year-olds’ average time on social media is 1 hour and 13 minutes. Adults of aged between 25 and 34 use social media for 2 hours and 37 minutes each day…35 to 44-year people spend 2 hours and 4 minutes of social media time, and finally, the average time spent on social media for 45 and 54 is 1 hour and 39 minutes.”
If we don’t have enough time to participate in what I might call “the betterment of society,” it is not due to lacking time? Based on the above data, I will let you decide.
Don’t Ignore It
As to the “not being aware” of volunteering opportunities, it may be necessary to throw the second penalty flag. In my younger days, more than a few years ago, using ancient tools such as the Yellow Pages, telephone, newspaper, and word-of-mouth, I knew people who volunteered (in no particular order) to be candy stripers, baseball coaches, scouting leaders, food bank workers, grass cutters for the elderly, veterinary assistants and teacher’s aides.
We have the internet, of course, and I can find volunteer opportunities ranging from teaching English as a second-language to restoring historic buildings to giving clothes to the homeless. If I can think of it (within reason), I can probably volunteer for it.
Finally, we come to my “favorite” reason people give for not participating in life, whether volunteering or merely doing anything, and that is “no one asked me.” Let me turn it around a bit too, “I didn’t ask anyone.” It’s about motivation. Was there ever a more famous presidential quote than, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?”
America, it seems, has lost its motivation. Studies from Inc. magazine to Psychology Today talk about our lack of motivation and participation. “We” may not like the government, but many of us won’t vote to change it; we may hate the pollution in our local waterways, but we are waiting for someone to ask us to clean it up; we may hate the plight of the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged, the homeless, or the disenfranchised, but many of us, it seems, are waiting to be asked.
Who, exactly, is supposed to ask us? How will they find us? And, once they do, are we waiting for them to plead with us to participate?
The point to this blog is to challenge you to make an effort, not an excuse. Whether your heart is telling you to mentor a student or volunteer at a ministry that helps people with food and clothing, there is a tremendous power to reach out, allow others to see who you are and jump in with both feet. Volunteers are love in motion.