Volunteer hours generated nearly $123 billion in economic value according to national service agency Volunteering and Civic Life in America research 

WASHINGTON, DC – AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, today released its Volunteering and Civic Life in America research, the most comprehensive data on American volunteering and civic engagement assembled. Based on a survey conducted by AmeriCorps and the US Census every other year, the research includes data on volunteering through organizations, informal helping and other civic behaviors.

According to the research, Americans contributed countless hours to their communities through formal and informal volunteerism between September 2020 and 2021 during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 51 percent of Americans, or 124.7 million people, informally helped their neighbors at least once in the past year. Additionally, more than 23 percent of Americans, or 60.7 million people, formally volunteered with an organization, giving more than 4.1 billion hours of service with an estimated economic value of $122.9 billion.  

“AmeriCorps’ newly released Volunteering and Civic Life in America research underscores that we are in a defining moment of our time. While we saw the first ever decline in formal volunteering with organizations, we also saw that despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact, Americans support to their neighbors remained steady and tens of millions continued serving their communities,” said Michael D. Smith, AmeriCorps CEO. “Whether volunteering one time or long-term, Americans can make a tremendous difference, and I am more confident than ever before about the power and potential of service to meet the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Formal Volunteering

Through local nonprofit and community-based organizations, Americans are afforded new ways to engage with their communities and foster a sense of constructive action, civic participation and belonging. Volunteers support American schools and shelters, hospitals and hotlines, food banks, and civic, nonprofit, tribal and faith-based organizations across the country.

Formal volunteering involves helping others through organizations. Below are the 10 states with the highest formal volunteering rates in the country in 2021.

State  2021 Formal Volunteering Rate 
Utah  40.7%
Wyoming  39.2% 
Minnesota   35.5% 
Maine   34.9% 
Washington, DC  34.2% 
South Dakota  34.2% 
Nebraska  33.9%
Kansas  31.5% 
Montana  31.1%
Missouri  30.5% 

Informal Helping

Despite the devastating impact of COVID-19, Americans continued to serve each other and their communities – giving their time and talent to help others at a time of unprecedented need. They helped neighbors by doing favors like watching each other’s children, running errands and other activities to lend a hand.

Informal helping involves assisting others outside of an organizational context, including doing favors for neighbors. Below are the 10 states with the highest informal helping rates in the country in 2021.

State  2021 Informal Helping Rate 
Montana  68.8% 
Nebraska  66.4% 
Maine  65.0% 
Delaware  63.9% 
Vermont  63.9% 
Minnesota  61.9% 
Utah  61.6% 
West Virginia  60.5% 
Iowa  60.3% 
Pennsylvania  60.1% 

Metropolitan Areas – Formal Volunteering and Informal Helping Rates

View formal volunteering and informal helping rates for the 12 largest metropolitan areas in 2021.

Metropolitan Area Formal Volunteering Rate Informal Helping Rate
New York Metro Area 19.4% 43.6%
Los Angeles Metro Area 15.1% 41.7%
Chicago Metro Area 27.6% 54.6%
Dallas Metro Area 18.8% 43.0%
Houston Metro Area 20.1% 48.5%
Washington, DC Metro Area 27.9% 46.8%
Philadelphia Metro Area 28.7% 57.8%
Atlanta Metro Area 19.6% 40.8%
Miami Metro Area 14.0% 35.5%
Phoenix Metro Area 25.4% 47.4%
Boston Metro Area 25.4% 57.9%
Riverside Metro Area 9.0% 44.2%

Volunteering and Civic Engagement in America complements a large body of other AmeriCorps’ research demonstrating a substantial return on investment of national service for both the government and the communities served, and improved employment outcomes and mental and physical health benefits for those who volunteer. AmeriCorps will release additional analyses of Civic Engagement and Volunteering Supplement data in the coming months.