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AARP Bulletin Survey on Volunteering

The purpose of this brief poll was to examine similarities and differences in volunteering among adults age 18 to 49 and 50+.

Key findings include:

  • Two in three respondents (66%) reported volunteering over the past year. Specifically, fewer than 10 percent reported volunteering only through an organization; one in six (17%) reported volunteering solely on their own—independent of an organization; and four in ten (43%) reported volunteering both through an organization and on their own.
  • Volunteers age 50 and older were more likely than their younger counterparts to give their time both through an organization and on their own.
  • Among volunteers under age 50, half reported focusing their volunteer efforts on children and youth; volunteers age 50 and older focused principally on seniors/elderly (39%). Neighborhood and community members, however, were also a top focus for both age groups (36% and 32%, respectively).
  • The volunteers reported a variety of reasons for giving their time in service to others; chief among them is “making a difference on a cause they care about.” This was a very important reason for volunteering by just over three in four respondents—overall and across the two age groups examined.
  • Still, about a third of respondents reported that they did not volunteer over the past year. The reasons most frequently cited for not volunteering was not being asked to volunteer (41%) and being concerned about the time commitment (40%).
  • Having health or physical limitations also was a frequently-cited barrier to volunteering among those age 50 and older (47%); not knowing how to get involved or where to begin was a top-cited barrier among those under 50 (42%).

Data were gathered by a random-digit dial telephone omnibus survey from October 27-28, 2012, of 1,002 respondents aged 18+. For more information, contact Alicia Williiams at 202-434-6186.