LOWELL, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Associated Press is reporting a 7% decline in volunteerism, which is America’s largest drop since the census started tracking it in 2002.

The President and CEO of United Way of Northwest Arkansas, Jackie Hancock, said he was shocked to see Arkansas as one of the states leading the decline, with a 10% drop in volunteerism in the last five years.

After recently seeing large groups of volunteers help Little Rock tornado victims, he feels as though the decline doesn’t represent the heart of Arkansans.

Along with helping fill needs of NWA families, United Way supports other nonprofits with trainings and grant money. Through this work, Hancock said the problem he sees in NWA isn’t finding enough people to come out for an event, but rather finding volunteers who will commit to long-term leadership positions, such as board members.

“There are legal responsibilities that go along with being on a nonprofit board,” said Hancock. “There’s governance issues and all kinds of stuff. So it’s a pretty heavy lift when going from a volunteer at an event to being a board member.”

Hancock said it’s necessary for nonprofits to have qualified volunteers to fill these positions, and manage the organization’s finances, governance, mission and vision. So, United Way of Northwest Arkansas is setting up a board member training program in the next year.

If you want to help improve the state’s volunteer rate, it is National Volunteer Week, and you can check out the work being done in our area to see which nonprofit speaks to you here.