“The work of volunteer groups throughout our country represents the very heart and soul of America. They have helped make this the most compassionate, generous and humane society that ever existed on the face of this Earth.”
The above is a quote from President Ronald Reagan.
When I think of this quote, I think of Santa Clarita Valley and the community spirit that we have here.
Our valley consistently is within the top 50/100 places to live in our nation. We consistently place well in ranking for being a safe city, for being a friendly city and for being a city that is pro business.
Why is Santa Clarita Valley so highly rated?
It’s because we are Southern California’s best-kept secret.
It is because of our citizens, our people.
And it is because of our community spirit, fostered by our valley having multiple nonprofits and volunteer opportunities.
When you volunteer, you get a sense of pride, a sense of purpose and a sense of place.
A study by Western Connecticut State University shows that:
• Volunteering increases self-confidence.
• Volunteering combats depression.
• Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy.
I moved to our valley in January 2012 with two suitcases and not knowing anyone really. I built a whole life here from joining community organizations, nonprofits and volunteering.
When I speak to other volunteers, they tell me that they get a boost to their quality of life and well-being.
For young professionals, volunteering can be a great way to pick up life skills needed to get ahead. It can show an employer how you can lead and work with others and how you can show initiative.
For an aspiring business owner, running a nonprofit event, learning how to budget and market an event can be key skills.
Volunteering can also help combat loneliness, boost self-esteem and help someone feel more rooted within their community.
Gallup recently conducted an online survey with nearly 16,000 respondents that showed 1 in 5 working Americans rate their mental health as fair or poor.
This equates to workers being four times more likely to have unplanned work absences. Gallup projected that this equated to 12 days of unplanned absences per year.
This adds up to an economic impact of $47.6 billion per year for our economy, basically half the budget of the U.S. Department of Education.
It isn’t just the economic impact. A study from the University of Iowa showed that teenagers who volunteered had 31% fewer arrests and 39% fewer convictions.
So if we want to grow our economy, if we want to support American workers, if we want to improve the nation’s mental health and cut crime, then we need to support and grow schemes for people to volunteer and engage with nonprofits.
Three ideas spring to mind.
I am not a fan of increasing bureaucracy or regulations, especially for small businesses, but we should work with small-business groups and chambers on how we can encourage workers to volunteer. Volunteering can be a great way for cost-effective team-building events.
Workers cannot deduct the value of their time on their U.S. tax forms. Is this still the right thing to do? We allow for donations to 501c3 nonprofits to be tax-deductible but why not the time spent?
Third, we should consider the Conservative policy in the U.K. When the Conservatives went into government in 2010, they implemented National Citizen Service. NCS was modelled after AmeriCorps here but the crucial difference is that NCS is more grassroots-led. The U.K. government projects a return of investment of up to $3 for every $1 spent vs. the AmerCorps model of $2 for every $1 spent.
As Republicans we instinctively know that community should be at the heart of everything we do.
We should, just as President Reagan did, celebrate our volunteers and nonprofits and, as we build our policy platform for the elections in 2024, back our volunteers and nonprofits to truly make America the “most compassionate, generous and humane society that ever existed on the face of this Earth.”
Neil Fitzgerald is an international nonprofit leader having served in the U.S., U.K. and globally for various nonprofit and charity boards. Neil served as a conservative council member in the U.K. and as a campaign manager. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.