Favorable legislation can provide a foundation on which volunteering can grow. For example, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was signed in 2009 to triple the number of service volunteers to 250,000 in programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The Older Americans Act helps fund efforts to expand volunteering such as trainings, grant programs that develop model programs and resource centers such as the Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative.

How You Can Help

If your state or region is considering similar efforts, you can help by informing the dialogue among lawmakers and citizens interested in supporting volunteering. Provide specific results from the volunteer programs with which you’ve worked, and put the issue into perspective by sharing research.

For ideas on how to take part in advocacy, visit ServiceNation.

Advocate

Members of Congress are now back home and campaigning in their districts until the elections on November 6. This is the perfect time to go to their events and engage them directly. Tell them you’re a voter. Then, ask: “Will you support federal funding for national service programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps?” These questions — and these conversations — matter.  Help Service Nation build a case that national service programs are essential to our communities. Send your stories, interactions, and most of all, pictures to info@servicenation.org  

Think Globally

Research can help policymakers comprehend the number of people who volunteer already—and the vast scope of what volunteers can accomplish. One example comes from the Global Volunteer Measurement Project, which collects data on volunteering. It concludes that if all the volunteers in the 37 countries studied comprised a country, that country would be the eighth largest in the world. And all those volunteer hours? They would equal 20.8 million full-time jobs.

Act Locally

You also can research recent patterns of volunteerism in your area to gain an idea of what your community might support, via Civic Life in America. Share suggestions for how states can increase volunteerism, such as by lowering barriers of cost and transportation to volunteer events and by encouraging state employees to volunteer. Or be ready to explain volunteerism’s benefits to state economies.

While global research can convey the extent and power of solutions that volunteers can provide, the local angle makes it seem achievable and real to community members who can help start programs.

Resources