Every year, the Taproot Foundation sees a big boost in volunteer applications in early January. We refer to it as the New Year’s Resolution Bump. We assume we are like a gym that benefits from holiday reflection and individual’s optimistic goal setting at the start of each new calendar year.
One of my unrealized PR goals has been to make “service” a common topic of New Year’s resolutions media coverage and “pro bono service” the feature of stories discussing resolutions within trade publications.
As a starting point, I dug a little this year to see if service is a common resolution. In my search I came across the annual Marist University Poll . Each December they ask American residents to share their resolutions for the next year, and they track the changes from year to year.
Here is what stood out to me in the survey:
- Service is not a common resolution. The combined resolution of “volunteer or donate time or money” was a goal for only three percent of people in the New Year. At three percent it tied with “work harder”, “get a new job” and “be kinder to people.”
The top choice was “lose weight” at 20%.
- “Volunteer or donate time or money” is 500% more likely to be a resolution for men than for women. Other research shows that 24% of men volunteer compared to 32% of women. The only other resolution with a similar gap was “work harder” which was cited by men 600% more often. Now that I am married with kids, I am inclined to say that this delta is based on the fact that women are already serving more and working harder. Men aspire to do as much.
- Resolutions about improving a respondent’s health, finances, weight or work were cited 82% of the time. In comparison, resolutions dealing with benevolent social interactions–“being a better person”, “volunteer or donate time or money”, “be kinder to people” and “increase family time”–were collectively only goals for 12% of Americans.
My thoughts and opinions
Reading this data makes me wonder if it would do any good to have service be a bigger part of resolutions. Do people keep their resolutions? If service was a common New Year’s resolution, would this make it more likely to happen? Or might it relegate service to a list of things Americans feel guilty about and thereby decrease the joys of doing it?
John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton has studied the effectiveness of resolutions. He found that 71% of people kept their resolutions for two weeks, 64% for a month, 50% for three months and 46% for six months.
That isn’t a bad result. If we could double the number of Americans who cite “service” as a resolution (from three to six percent) and within six months 46% of them were engaged in service, that would be a big boost in the number of Americans serving.
Perhaps 2009 will be the year that I finally realize my own annual New Year’s resolution to make pro bono service a common topic of New Year’s resolution articles. The first step will be to find a PR executive who made “pro bono service” their own resolution for this year and can help make it happen. Know anyone?