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Good news for people who love bad news

June 16, 2010

When I read that 2009 saw the biggest increase in volunteers since 2003, the skeptic in me said it was probably because the recession meant lots of bored, unemployed people out there needed something to do with themselves.

Apparently, that’s not the case.

According to a report released yesterday by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Americans spent

AmeriCorps member and alum volunteers

100 million more hours volunteering in 2009 compared to 2008 and the number of volunteers increased by 1.6 million to 63.4 million.

Those are big numbers, and it turns out it’s not necessarily because all the jobless people were looking for something to do; it turns out the rate of volunteerism among the unemployed is low. (Although I recommend volunteering as a way to show off your skills get leads on jobs in the nonprofit sector.)

Americans are charitable people, and with the economic downturn meaning fewer monetary donations, volunteering turned out to be a great alternative to writing a check. And those volunteer hours have a serious dollar-value: a whopping 8.1 billion hours equivalent to about $169 billion.

The increase is probably also due in part to the emphasis President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have placed on service and volunteerism.

As a volunteer, it’s extremely uplifting to be a part of what has become a grassroots, nationwide movement with wide-reaching impact. I think it speaks to the awesome power individuals have to make a difference, because it shows we’re each contributing a small part of a larger whole.

Want to volunteer but not sure how to get started? Check out this guide to finding a volunteer gig that’s right for you.

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