UNCW studies volunteers' economic impact
January 28, 2013By Jenny Callison
University of North Carolina Wilmington officials say that school-related volunteer activities result in a multi-million dollar economic impact on the community.
UNCW chancellor Gary Miller presented a report Friday during the school’s board of trustees meeting showing the extent and the economic impact of volunteer service by the university’s students, faculty and staff during the 2010-11 academic year. That economic impact, Miller reported, totaled more than $3.8 million.
It was the first time the university had done such a survey, officials said.
Roughly half of the estimated impact was the result of community service activity by students, faculty members and staff members. The other half was attributed to service learning projects – internships and other structured community involvement for which students receive academic credit.
In all, these community service activities took place at 1,532 sites during the reporting year. Nearly half those sites were located in New Hanover County.
Programs that focused on education accounted for 27 percent of the university’s outreach initiatives. Other activities included: social services (24 percent); arts and culture (15 percent); and health services (12 percent).
To determine the economic impact of that volunteer service, the study multiplied the hours served by $21.79, the nationally estimated value of volunteer time, according to the Washington, D.C.-based group Independent Sector, which describes itself as “a leadership network for nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs committed to advancing the common good in America and around the world.”
A major focus of UNCW outreach is the Hillcrest Community Campus, said Jenni Harris, assistant to the chancellor for community partnerships. Through a partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority, UNCW has established 22 programs in collaboration with Hillcrest residents, ranging from reading help and after-school activities to a community garden.
Miller said that nearly half of UNCW’s 13,000 students were involved in community outreach efforts. About 160 faculty members from 41 departments reported community outreach involvement, for a total of about 19,500 hours of service to more than 600 local, regional, state and national organizations. These faculty members held a combined 238 leadership positions in the organizations they served.
The report was compiled by the Chancellor’s Office of Community Partnerships, which was established in September of 2011.
To collect the data, Harris said, researchers used a software program that faculty members use to log their work and service activity, as well as Banner, a student software program that records for-credit internships. UNCW’s Student Affairs Office provided data on student community service hours.
“The data we collected from 2010-2011 will serve as a benchmark and allow us to track the university’s outreach efforts, identify new opportunities and develop partnerships to fill any service gaps,” Harris said. “This statistical information will help us work with community leaders and elected officials to generate ongoing support and enthusiasm for UNCW’s community partnerships.”
UNCW is working to improve its reporting structure, Harris added. In addition to enhancements to Banner and the faculty system, Digital Measures, the university plans to develop a reporting mechanism for staff members, whose volunteer activities are strictly self-reported at this point. The effort is timely, because the entire UNC system is beginning to look at the level of community engagement at each of its campuses.
“UNCW is becoming a model for the system because we already had systems in place,” Harris said.
For a full copy of the report, go to www.uncw.edu/partnerships.