Why do we volunteer? How many volunteers are involved in Scouting and what do we do?
A 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report notes that
- 64.3 million people volunteered last year
- 29.9% of women and 25% of men in the U.S. volunteered.
- 35 – to 54-year-olds were the most likely to volunteer.
- Persons in their early twenties were the least likely to volunteer
- The volunteer rate of parents with children under age 18 (33.7 %) is higher than the rate for those without children (24.1%).
- 42.4% of volunteers were college graduates compared with 18.2% of high school graduates.
- Volunteers spent a median of 51 hours on volunteer activities.
- Among volunteers, 41.9 percent became involved after being asked to volunteer.
- About the same proportion (41.6 percent) became involved on their own initiative.
Statistically a likely volunteer is a college-educated mother between the ages of 35-54.
The B.S.A. reports* a total of 1.047,038 adult volunteers in 2011:
- 424,944 Cub Scout Leaders
- 496,398 Boy Scout Leaders
- 22,924 Varsity Scout Leaders
- 58,566 Venturing Leaders
- 44,206 Council Leaders
The rations of Scouting volunteers to the youth they serve:
- The average troop has 21 scouts and 13 adults – around 2 scouts per volunteer
- The average pack has 34 cubs and 9 adults – around 4 scouts per volunteer
- The average crew has 13 ventures and 3 adults – around 4 ventures per volunteer
- The average council volunteer serves 64 scouts at all levels.
- There are roughly 23 unit-level volunteers for each council-level volunteer.
That’s the numbers. Here’s my opinions:
People volunteer because they have a personal interest in the work.
When we start volunteering our interest is, more or less, focused on our child’s participation. Eventually we become more willing to work on behalf of the other children and families involved. Some folks move on to address organizational concerns and become more involved with broader initiatives beyond those of their pack, troop team, or crew.
Most volunteers stop volunteering when their personal interest is no longer relevant to their work; in Scouting this may be when their children are no longer involved. Some stay on because their interests have evolved. I don’t consider one more meritorious than the other, it’s just an observation.
I think we ought to think about the fact that there are fewer and generally less experienced volunteers at the Cub Scout level and each serves about twice the number of Scouts that we do at the troop level. I think that packs would benefit from a lot more help from those of us at the troop level.
The Labor Statistics report points out that half of us volunteer because we are asked, and half because we decide to do so on our own. It’s always worth asking someone to volunteer.
* Learning For Life programs are not included in my calculations, only what the B.S.A. identifies as ‘traditional Scouting units’; packs, troops, teams and crews.