Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Comparison of Service-Learning and Employee Volunteering Programs

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Comparison of Service-Learning and Employee Volunteering Programs

Article excerpt


Volunteering is on the rise in the United States. About 61.2 million people in the United States, representing 26.7 percent of the population, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2005 and September 2006 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007). Volunteering has rebounded to a 30-year high today--rising by more than 32 percent over the past 16 years--after declining between 1974 and 1989 (Corporation for National & Community Service [CNCS], 2006).

At the same time, an interesting new trend that involves purposeful volunteer activities is developing in both education and business practices simultaneously. Increasingly since the last decade, many colleges and universities have been encouraging a pedagogical approach known as service learning, in which structured community service activities are incorporated into the curriculum (Bowen, 2005; Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). Volunteerism and community service are the vehicles for service learning. Not surprisingly, therefore, college student volunteering increased by approximately 20 percent between 2002 and 2005--from 2.7 million to nearly 3.3 million students (Dote, Cramer, Dietz, & Grimm, 2006). Students participate in two kinds of volunteering: "regular" volunteering (volunteering 12 or more weeks a year with their main organization) and what Macduff (1991) termed "episodic" volunteering (volunteering fewer than two weeks a year with their main organization). They volunteer in a variety of organizations: religious, educational or youth service; civic, political, professional, or international; hospital or other health; social or community service; sport, hobby, cultural, or arts. A marked increase in episodic volunteering since 1989 is driven largely by teenagers (67.9 percent are episodic volunteers) and adults ages 45 to 64 (57.7 percent are episodic volunteers), the two groups with the largest increase in the sheer number of volunteers serving 99 or fewer hours in a year (CNCS, 2006).

Similarly, corporations increasingly have been encouraging their employees to contribute their time and skills to volunteer projects with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions in their communities. Both service-learning and employee volunteering programs, are gaining momentum, the former as a means of instructing students in the lessons of civic responsibility and the latter to fulfill a corporation's mission of social responsibility. College student volunteers are more likely than the general adult volunteer population (27 percent to 23.4 percent) to be episodic volunteers (Dote et al., 2006).

Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,100 college and university presidents, supports service learning and civic engagement by providing a wealth of resources, including a consulting corps, profiles of successful programs, toolkits, and conference information (Campus Compact, n.d.). For its part, the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College runs an annual conference on employee volunteer programs (Center for Corporate Citizenship, n.d.).

Business Strengthening America (BSA) is a campaign in response to President Bush's 2002 State of the Union speech in which he asked Americans to increase their level of volunteerism. BSA encourages businesses to include volunteerism in their corporate social responsibility activities. In particular, BSA encourages companies to partner with nonprofits, especially with ongoing volunteer activities as opposed to one-time activities (Business Strengthening America, 2007). Likewise, the National Service Corps, or AmeriCorps, provides assistance mainly through education institutions, in the areas of education, public safety, health, and the environment (Witte, 1998). AmeriCorps supports such efforts at universities through the Learn and Serve America grant program sponsored by CNCS.

Both service-learning and corporate employee volunteering programs fill a void left by the failure of government at all levels to provide the extent of social services needed in society. …

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