July 5, 2010; Source: America Magazine | Like much of individual charitable giving, a large proportion of volunteering, perhaps the lion’s share, is faith-based. Full-time volunteers for the Mercy Volunteer Corps receive a stipend of $210 a month, more than half of which going to groceries, plus housing and health insurance. They believe in—and through their volunteerism—adhere to a lifestyle of “simple living, community, social justice and spirituality.”

There may be many potential volunteers interested in faith-based volunteer programs like MVC’s, but according to the Catholic journal, America Magazine, the number of faith-based programs is declining due to the recession. America Magazine says that “half of all faith-based post-graduate volunteer programs are run by religious congregations,” a figure that is down by one-fifth over the last 14 years.

For example, the Providence Volunteer Ministry in Indiana will close down as of July after 22 years of programs. Others will follow. We take note that the typical MVC volunteer isn’t a stipended resume-polisher, but a belief-driven representative of his or her religion. While the federal government probably has to steer clear of volunteer programs with a heavy religious overtone, making them poor candidates for AmeriCorps-type funding, there is no question that some of these faith-based volunteer efforts are focused on making their communities better with in-depth community-based 24/7 activism.

The religious denominations may need to consider putting their dollars toward these faith-based volunteer programs in the future to make up for their possible ineligibility for some government funding programs.—Rick Cohen