Despite Poor Economy, More Americans Do Volunteer Work

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Americans volunteered last year despite the worsening economy, according to a report released Tuesday by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Almost a million more people donated their time to causes in 2008 than in 2007, even though volunteer rates typically drop during economic downturns, according to the survey by CNCS, an independent federal agency that runs AmeriCorps and other programs. In all, 61.8 million people volunteered last year.

"Although things like charitable giving have gone down in 2008, the number of Americans who volunteer went up by almost a million," said Alan D. Solomont, chairman of the board of the national service agency. "What we think this represents is a real indication of America's civic values. People want to volunteer; they want to help their neighbors."

The biggest increase came among young adults: The number of 16- to 24-year-old volunteers rose 5 percent, from 7.8 million to 8.2 million. The number of applications to AmeriCorps, which puts people to work full time in nonprofit groups for a year, increased 217 percent over the past eight months.

Almost half of nonprofit organizations said they expect to rely more heavily on volunteers in the coming year, according to the study, which included data from the U.S. Census.

The Washington area's volunteer rate ranked ninth. The District, where 29 percent of residents volunteer, ranked 25th among the states. Maryland ranked 26th, and Virginia ranked 27th.

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