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A World without Volunteers

  This is a guest blog post from Reed Sandridge.  Sandridge lost his job in 2009 and did the unthinkable - he started giving away $10 a day to complete strangers!  He captured the story of every recipient at  A frequent writer and speaker on volunteering and micro-philanthropy, Sandridge lives in our nation's capital.


What would happen if all volunteers ceased to give of their time starting tomorrow? I was thinking about this question this morning and it is a scary scenario. We often take for granted the benefits we receive because others take their time to serve, but stop for a minute and think about a world without volunteers. How many people would die? How many would go hungry or become ill? The ramifications would be catastrophic.

When I was a child we had a house fire. Thankfully the local volunteer fire department showed up in something like three minutes from the time the call was placed. According to a 2010 study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 71% of all fire departments in the U.S. are staffed by volunteers! They go on to report that in 2010 there were more than a million fires responded to - that's more than one every 24 seconds. All totaled they caused more than 3,100 deaths in this country. I shutter to think what these statistics would be if two thirds of those departments didn't exist.

According to the American Red Cross, volunteers account for more than 97% of their workforce. Last year alone, they helped 4.4 million people through disaster preparedness, response and recovery activities. They protected 63 million people against measles, HIV/AIDS and malaria. They reconnected 4,240 families separated by international war and disaster. You can't help but wonder how many of those feats never would have happened without volunteers showing up to give of their time?


The list goes on and we haven't even begun to think about the men and women who serve in our military forces. Every person that volunteers is creating benefits for countless others. The Corporation for National and Community Service reported that in the U.S. last year 62.8 million adults volunteered a total of 8.1 billion hours. According to  Independent Sector, this translates into nearly $173 billion of economic value to communities throughout the country by supplying them with services that would not have been provided without the help of volunteers. $173 billion is a staggering statistic. That's more than the GDP of Costa Rica, Ecuador and Iraq combined!

As we start to look forward to 2012 I encourage you to evaluate your own commitments to service. I used to think that I volunteered a lot. After my year-long journey of volunteering every week in 2011 I am convinced that most of us can do more. There are countless ways to give your time - be creative and have fun!

Photo credit by Lou Angeli Digital

Miss a post by Sandridge?

Post 1: Giving During Desperate Times:

Post 2: Breaking Down the Barriers of Self-Centeredness:

Post 3: Volunteer on Your Next Vacation:

Post 4: 5 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Decide Where to Give Money:

Post 5: Changing Trends in Volunteering in America:

Post 6: Volunteering Overseas: My Recent Adventure to Ireland:

Post 7: Ireland: The Best Place in the World in Which to Grow Older:

Post 8: Are you a Philanthropist? Maybe

Post 9: AARP Stepping Up Commitment to Volunteerism

Post 10: Cable Companies Helping to Increase Volunteering Rates?

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