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The Dream Lives on in 63 Million

The Dream Lives on in 63 Million

Last year 63 million Americans took time out of their daily lives to volunteer for nonprofit organizations.  The data crunchers who calculate these kinds of things report that if their work were translated into dollars it would equate to billions in wages.

Just think of a 63 million-person workforce with a multi billion-dollar budget.  That would be one powerhouse of a business.  It is hard to imagine the person that could launch and sustain that kind of enterprise.

Research points to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service as a catalyst for some of these incredible volunteer numbers.  The Day of Service started in 1994 to honor Dr. King.   A single man’s vision and the movement he inspired have generated a catalytic response to service.

Once again on January 18, 2016 millions came together to volunteer and honor the legacy of Dr. King, who never stopped asking the question, “What are you doing for others?”

I think the website summed it up best, “The MLK Day of Service is a moment to work together to fulfill King’s vision for a better America – it’s a day “on” instead of a day “off.”

Of course not all 63 million volunteer on the MLK Day of Service and not everyone limits their volunteer efforts to just one day on the calendar.   But many nonprofits report that the Day of Service introduces people to countless volunteer opportunities and scores of volunteers turn their one-day experience into a longer, more consistent commitment.  In many cases these volunteers become financial donors to the organizations as well.

Nationally, when persons of influence participate in the MLK Day of Service it can shed light on a little known nonprofits mission.  Just ask the nonprofit leaders of the sites that the First Family of the United States visits every year what the exposure does to their volunteer and donor base.  The first site President Obama visited in 2008 still sees the impact of his visit 7 years later.

Although the day receives a great deal of national attention, the magic happens at the local level in communities and neighborhoods. When I visited the VolunteerMatch website there were 331 volunteer opportunities available near   Southwest Florida and those were not exclusive to the MLK Day of Service.

And you don’t have to be POTUS (President of the United States) or FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) to influence others to get involved.  Many report they participate in volunteering because a friend, co-worker or acquaintance encouraged them to participate.  Knowing this should inspire each of us to reach out to those we know to join us in our volunteer efforts or ask our colleagues and friends where they spend their time volunteering and join them.

It is a great chance to keep Dr. King’s dream alive and join the ranks of the 63 million trying to change the world through service.


About the SWFL Community Foundation

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants. Want to be part? It all starts with a conversation. Please call (239) 274-5900 or visit




Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More