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Volunteering Up Amid Tough Economic Times

February 8, 2010

Historically February is the toughest month for nonprofits to recruit volunteers and volunteer leaders. However, throughout the past year, Americans have answered President Obama’s call to service like never before and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there was a significant increase in the number of volunteers and the volunteer rate in 2009.

According to the BLS report, 1.5 million more Americans volunteered between September 2008 and September 2009 than did in the previous year. Approximately 63.4 million people, or 26.8 percent of the population, volunteered through or for an organization in 2009 compared to 61.8 million in 2008.

“In this time of economic distress, the need for service and volunteering is more critical today than ever before, and Americans are responding,” said Stephen Goldsmith, Board Chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “We’re seeing a compassion boom across this country, where communities are banding together and neighbors are reaching out in service to others. It is truly the generosity of the American spirit at its best. The need is great, the momentum is strong, and potential is unlimited for ushering in a new era of service in America.”

President Obama called on all Americans to make volunteering and community service part of their daily lives this past spring, and since then, support for the Corporation’s service programs has skyrocketed among the public – AmeriCorps applications have tripled and a record number of Americans joined together to serve on the first-ever annual 9-11 Day of Service and Remembrance and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in 2009. The agency leverages more than five million volunteers across the country, leads President Obama’s national service initiative, United We Serve, and oversees, a website that enables people to find local volunteer opportunities, share their story of service, and design and execute their own service projects.


The report is based on a survey of approximately 60,000 households collected by the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics in partnership with the Corporation. These data will be used to produce the annual Volunteering In America report in the summer that details volunteer trends nationally, in every state and for major metropolitan areas.

Below are the top-line results of the BLS “2009 Volunteering in the United States” report. Click here for the complete report.


o        The volunteer rate of women increased from 29.4 percent in 2008 to 30.1 percent in 2009, while the volunteer rate for men, at 23.3 percent, was essentially unchanged.  As in previous years, women volunteered at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, education levels, and other major demographic characteristics.

o        From 2008 to 2009, those employed full time showed a large increase in their volunteer rate — from 27.8 percent to 28.7 percent.  This was led by women employed full time, with an increase of 1.4 percentage points in their volunteer rate.

o        The volunteer rate among unemployed men increased from 17 to 18.2 percent, while those unemployed showed no significant change overall.

o        By age group, 35-44-year olds and 45-54-year olds were the most likely to volunteer. Their volunteer rates were 31.5 percent and 30.8 percent, respectively, in 2009.

So head to your local HandsOn Action Center and sign up for a volunteer opportunity this month… your soul will thank you!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 2:54 pm

    Wow, these are impressive numbers…and they’re very uplifting for the nation’s non profits! It’s great to see that we’re turning to service for redemption during our toughest times.


  1. Serve Rhode Island- Volunteer Update « All Things AmeriCorps

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