June 15, 2010; Source: Washington Post | In a year in which charities have struggled to raise money, one thing that didn’t go wanting were the numbers of people willing to volunteer. According to a study released this week, the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) said the number of volunteers climbed by some 1.6 million in 2009 over the previous year. It was the biggest one-year jump since 2003.

All told, more than 63 million Americans—or nearly 27 percent of the U.S. population—donated more than 8 billion hours, or the equivalent of $169 billion. “Folks throughout the country are looking around their communities, seeing people in pain and turning toward the problems, not away from them,” said Patrick Corvington, chief executive of CNCS. “It’s an important shift: Folks want to get engaged, want to make a difference.”

Among the factors credited for the unexpected jump in volunteering: President and Michelle Obama’s very public push for public service; and CNCS’s website, which makes it easier for people to find volunteer opportunities as well as for organizations to recruit people willing to give their time, and of course, people out of work using volunteering as a way to gain skills, experiences and contacts that could help them land a future job.—Bruce Trachtenberg