updated 12/3/2009 1:17:32 PM ET 2009-12-03T18:17:32

The biggest reason to do volunteer work for a charitable organization is because you support the cause, but there are plenty of other reasons — including professional networking.

While 72 percent of people who volunteer do so to support the charity's work, and 69 percent say it's the right thing to do, 22 percent also aim to network while they're giving their time, according to a study released Thursday by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch.

Of that group, networking is more likely to be a concern for people under 35. About one-third of that age group said they are more likely to volunteer where there are networking opportunities, while just 14 percent of adults 55 and older said the same thing.

Other reasons cited for volunteering were: to meet an unmet need in the community (54 percent); to set an example for family or children (53 percent); to stay socially and physically active (46 percent), and to feel useful and needed (39 percent.)

The study found that 43 percent of Americans have volunteered in the last 12 months. Just 28 percent of the people who responded said they never volunteered.

Finding a volunteer match
Release of the study marks the start of an association between Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch. Visitors to the Web site of the donor-advised fund, http://www.charitablegift.org, will be able to search Volunteer Match's network to find opportunities for donating their time nationwide.

Holiday giving That should help potential volunteers get over one hurdle: finding an organization that can use their help. The inability to find the right nonprofit to match their interests or needs was a barrier to volunteering for 30 percent of the people who responded to the survey.

The mission and work of a charitable organization is the top factor considered by volunteers, at 61 percent, and whether its work is done in their community plays in 59 percent of the time. Being able to use specific skills is a factor 48 percent of the time.

The economic downturn has made volunteering time more appealing than donating money for 31 percent of those who responded. The recession has made 45 percent less likely to donate money at all.

The study also found that volunteers donate an average of 10 times more money to charity than people who don't volunteer.

The telephone survey of more than 1,000 people nationwide was done Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 by Harris Interactive.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments