AP, July 27, 2008
Blame it on the traffic. Or the number of new immigrants. Or the allure of the beach. Whatever the reason, Miami has secured the bottom spot—No. 50 among major U.S. cities—in new rankings of the percentage of adults who volunteer.
Nationally, the volunteer rate fell in 2007 for the second year in a row, to 26.2 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is releasing its report Sunday. It showed Miami with a volunteerism rate of 14.5 percent, replacing Las Vegas in last place among major metropolitan areas.
To be fair, the study found 620,000 volunteers were recruited in Miami last year, more than 60,000 over the previous year. And many local nonprofits say they have more volunteers than ever. But there’s no denying how far Miami lags behind other cities, particularly No. 1 Minneapolis-St. Paul, with a 39.3 percent rate.
The study notes that Miami’s poverty rate and average commute times are slightly higher than the national average, while other factors influencing volunteerism—home ownership and education level—are slightly lower.
On the bright side, the report concluded that “volunteer intensity” is increasing, with 34 percent of volunteers contributing more than 100 hours of service in a year—the highest rate for that category since 2002.
On the worrisome side were mounting concerns that economic woes—including high gasoline prices and job insecurity—would be deterrents for some would-be volunteers.
By region, the Midwest had the highest volunteer rate at 31.1 percent, followed by the West at 26.1, the South with 24.7 and the Northeast at 23.4.
By state, Utah had the highest rate, 43.9 percent, followed by Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska and Montana. Nevada had the lowest state rate, 17.7 percent; Florida and New York were the next lowest.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., were the highest-ranked big cities, while New York City and Las Vegas were the lowest-ranked after Miami. Among 25 mid-size cities, Provo, Utah, came first with a 63 percent rate—the highest of any jurisdiction in the report.
The high volunteer rates in Utah and several of its cities are attributed in part to civic-mindedness among the state’s many Mormons, but Bill Hulterstrom, president of the Provo-based United Way of Utah County, said other factors also were at work.