Did you know that April is National Volunteer Month? Volunteering gives us an opportunity to contribute to our community in a profound and personal way. Since Santa Barbara has the second-highest per capita of nonprofits of any county in California, we have wonderful opportunities to volunteer for whatever causes peek our interest.

One of the greatest aspects of volunteerism is that there are so many different ways to do it. Most nonprofits couldn’t do their work without their loyal, hardworking volunteers.

The first page of a quick Google search for volunteer opportunities in Santa Barbara included: American Red Cross, Hospice of Santa Barbara, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Outdoor Volunteers, Santa Barbara Zoo, County of Santa Barbara, Volunteer Match and Alpha Resource Center. With nearly 2,000 nonprofits in Santa Barbara County, you can be sure to find just the right ones to inspire your own volunteer activities.

A lot has changed since President Richard Nixon created the first National Volunteer Week in 1974, and volunteering is on the rise. Since 1989, the number of people who volunteer has increased by 60 percent. Older Americans from the baby-boom generation are 40 percent more likely to volunteer than the same age groups were in 1989.

According to a new report from Independent Sector, the estimated average value of a volunteer hour was $22.14 in 2012. The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group releases a dollar estimate of the value of volunteer hours every year as a way to acknowledge the work of volunteers across the country. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 64.3 million Americans volunteered in 2011, its highest level in five years. These individuals gave approximately 7.9 billion hours of service time worth $171 billion.

“Volunteers continue to be vitally important to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in this country,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “The value of volunteer time is a reminder of the immense contributions of volunteers to our organizations and our communities.”

Even the federal budget supports the importance of local volunteerism. The Office of Management & Budget reports, “With the number of Americans engaged in volunteering having reached its highest point in five years, many nonprofits could benefit from management practices to handle this influx of talent. The budget proposes to support nonprofits’ ability to recruit, retain and manage this talent through a reactivated Volunteer Generation Fund. In order to help secular and religious nonprofits leverage volunteers in support of national priorities, the budget provides $10 million for the reactivated fund, more than double the 2012 level. By reactivating the program as the George H.W. Bush Volunteer Generation fund, we also honor the legacy of service of the 41st president of the United States, who helped to elevate volunteerism and pioneered important work in civic participation both during and after his time in office.”

Ask your favorite nonprofits how you can volunteer your services. They will welcome you with open arms, and you will feel good about making a significant difference in our community.

— Cynder Sinclair, Ph.D., is a local consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137, or cynder@nonprofitkinect.org. The opinions expressed are her own.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or cynder@nonprofitkinect.org. The opinions expressed are her own.