At Your Service? Volunteering and National Service in 2020


Rebecca Nesbit is an assistant professor of nonprofit management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research interests include public policy, volunteering and civic engagement, and nonprofit studies.

Jeffrey L. Brudney is the Albert A. Levin Chair of Urban Studies and Public Service in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University. His major fields of interest are public management, nonprofit sector studies, and research methods and statistics.


This article evaluates the potential of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 to raise the level of volunteering and national service in the United States, particularly among young people, and its implications for public administration in 2020. The act would increase service-learning opportunities and national service placements substantially. Research suggests that participation in these activities is associated with increased volunteering, civic and political engagement, and interest in a career in government or nonprofit service, especially among African Americans and Hispanics. These results hold considerable promise for the practice of public administration in 2020. The authors find that their effectuation depends not only on increasing federal service programs significantly and continuing growth in funding, but also on addressing important challenges, such as the ability of public policy to increase volunteering, volunteer management capacity to support these efforts, the role of volunteering in addressing pressing social issues, and reaching disadvantaged populations.