By Julie Holdaway

Published in the Orange County Register on March 18, 2013

One in four of us volunteers some time for a nonprofit. Here's a look at life if we didn't.

Volunteerism is at an all-time high in the United States, with more than one in four of us helping out each year, according to "Volunteering and Civic Life in America," an online report created for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Michelle Nunn, chief executive at Points of Light Institute, a national group that connects volunteers with a variety of organizations, puts the 25 percent volunteer rate in human terms.

Nonprofits, Nunn said, would "cease to exist" without volunteers. Nonprofit services would be drastically reduced.

With that in mind, here are questions and predictions about how specific types of nonprofits would suffer if they had no volunteer help:

HUMAN SERVICES: Who would collect cans and food, pack boxes and serve meals to the hungry? Foster children would lose another layer of support. Would victims of domestic violence have a place to go?

HEALTHCARE: Our elderly neighbors would face greater isolation. Families with children in hospitals would have no place to stay. Health clinic care would decline significantly. Medical research would take cuts in areas such as diabetes, cancer and epilepsy. Blood banks would run dry.

RELIGIOUS PROGRAMS: Virtually every religion relies on volunteers as a core for community outreach and internal support.

EDUCATION: Tutoring and mentoring, particularly in economically challenged areas, would disappear. Parent groups no longer would provide books and include financial help. Art and science programs in many districts would be cut back or dropped entirely.

YOUTH: There would be no AYSO, Little League or Scouting.

ARTS: Public groups that provide music, theater and dance would go away. Even public libraries would be shut, or their hours would be cut back.

It is frightening to consider what would happen in times of disaster without the deluge of volunteer responders who show up when needed.

Without volunteers, there would be few or no boards. There'd be no fundraising events and galas that reach bot our hearts and our pocketbooks.

No animals would be rescued. No Fourth of July parades would be held. Crisis hotlines would fall silent.

Volunteers are vital to our community. It is important to note that volunteerism is at an all-time high. The one-in-four number (25.7 percent, specifically) suggest an opportunity: Nearly three-quarters of us didn't volunteer last year.

Look back to this space every Monday for tips, tactics and best practices for volunteer management and nonprofit growth.

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