Research on USA volunteerism excludes virtual volunteering

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that USA volunteerism rates declined by 1.1 percentage points to 25.4% in a year ending September 2013. BUT, the survey apparently had wording that left out virtual volunteering, which makes me question the validity of these numbers.

Here’s how BLS identified volunteering activities:

  • Coach, referee or supervise sports teams
  • Tutor or teach
  • Mentor youth
  • Be an usher, greeter, or minister
  • Collect, prepare, distribute or serve food
  • Collect, make or distribute clothing, crafts or good other than food
  • Fundraise or sell items to raise money
  • Provide counseling, medical care, fire/EMS or protective services
  • Provide professional or management assistance, including serving on a board or committee
  • Engage in music, performance, or other artistic activities
  • Engage in general labor, supply transportation to people

It’s 2014 and this is how BLS defines volunteering activities?! In these definitions, where do these typical virtual volunteering activities go?

  • Managing an online discussion group
  • Facilitating an online video chat/event
  • Translating a brochure from English to Spanish
  • researching subjects
  • creating web pages (designing the pages or writing the content)
  • editing or writing proposals, press releases, newsletter articles, video scripts, etc.
  • developing curricula
  • transcribing scanned documents
  • designing a database
  • monitoring the news to look for specific subjects
  • managing social media activities
  • tagging photos and files

Heck, where do volunteering activities like hackathons and wikipedia edit-a-thons go in BLS’s volunteering activity categories?!

How do we get the Bureau of Labor Statistics and others that research volunteering activities, like the Pew Research Center, to change their survey methods so that virtual volunteering activities and new forms of volunteering, like hackathons, get included in research about volunteering? Perhaps someone at each organization should buy, and read, The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook?

Also see this blog of suggestions for research about virtual volunteering, specifically.

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