Why Don't the Unemployed Volunteer?

According to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployed people don't like to volunteer. Well, that may be jumping to conclusions-but the statistical fact is that the volunteer rate barely budged in 2009 despite numerous among us being unemployed.

In fact, the report states that "during the year ending in September 2009, 29.7 percent of all employed persons volunteered. By comparison, the volunteer rates of the unemployed (22.9 percent) and those not in the labor force (22.6 percent) were lower."

I'm not blaming the unemployed, since I know full well they have plenty to do despite their lack of employment. There are jobs to be searched for, networking connections to make, emails and phone calls to follow up on. If you do get work, even temporarily, you have to jump on it.

However, this cool graphic from the New York Times shows that the majority of an unemployed person's time is spent sleeping, watching TV, and doing household chores-with only a half hour given to job searching.

Personally, I had all good intentions of volunteering for a nonprofit during the holiday season-yet between freelance work and other projects (including dish washing) I never actually could carve out the time to do it. But I know that when I'm fully employed, I truly will have less time for charitable contributions-so why can't I do them now?

Have you had time in your job search to set aside a day and volunteer for a good cause? Why or why not?

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Why don't the unemployed volunteer? Well in my state, you have to file bi-weekly unemployment claims in which you are asked if you searched for work and are able to work. Taking a volunteer position would interfere with the job search and being able to work. In short volunteering could cause one to lose their unemployment benefits.

March 05 2010 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I got downsized (politically correct term now) in February of 2009. I looked into volunteering and most wanted time commitments. I was hopefull that I would find a job soon and didn't want to commit for 6 months or so as I was unsure if I would find work and have to disappoint the charity I was hoping to help.

February 09 2010 at 8:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is the most ridiculous article I have read beside the media saying that the unemployement percentage is dropping.......Come on, and stop being a jerk....these people, most with families are looking for jobs daily, and they are hurting too...some are losing everything that they have worked for their whole lives....why don't you, Gung ho article writer go out and volunteer enough for all of us.....In the meantime I gotta get back to looking for a job so I can make some money go I can purchase the gas to drive my car to BE able to go volunteer....Piss off!

February 06 2010 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why don't the unemployed volunteer? Since I am spending every waking moment either looking for a job or worrying about getting a job, I decided to volunteer at my local soup kitchen to get my mind off not having a job and help people. I was turned down because they had too many volunteers. Just what I needed more rejection. People don't understand this is not a vacation. It is devastating.

February 06 2010 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to loisj004's comment


I found your comment interesting. I'm doing research for a possible article on how it's difficult to find volunteer opportunities nowadays. Would you please contact me? sara_j_welch AT yahoo.com

May 19 2010 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why dont unemployed volunteer? Even unpaid work disqualifies you for unemployment benefits (New York State Labor Law) since you are unavailable during that time period to work. I would think the author would research this a little better since it could cost people their benefits.

February 05 2010 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The current crop of unemployed are NOT your run of the mill jobless. Many are highly educated and not ignorant to the politics of what is going on. Many have performed free or near free internships where they basically did do volunteer work. Are they supposed to volunteer for a lifetime? They may be worrying about meeting bills, losing their homes, and their medical and unemployment benefits. I think the
writer is underestimating the anxiety and depression that come along with unemployment. Being unemployed is not a vacation. It is devastation. Over-sleeping and vegging in front of bad TV can be symptomatic of this. While his advice may have some validity - people would feel better and society would benefit by volunteer work it unrealistic to expect this of the walking wounded. Massive numbers of fifty-somethings and young people have been unemployed for longer periods of time- years even, due by and large to corporate GREED. In an uneven playing field many simply refuse to any longer play the game. Some resort to deperate measures even suicide. Let the corporate CEOs and armchair accountants who stiffed people out of their livlihoods go volunteer. When you suck the life out of people you can't expect them to function normally.

February 05 2010 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to KC's comment

Absolutely. I agree. This article really makes me furious. Hopefully, the author Jen Doll, will get laid off. We will see how she feels then.

February 06 2010 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why don't the unemployed volunteer? Because it costs money to volunteer, hello! What a dumb question.

February 03 2010 at 1:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been unemployed since the end of December 2008. I volunteer at a local children's hospital a couple of times a week. It is something that I enjoy and it helps me to focus on someone besides myself and my problems for just a little while.

February 03 2010 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

my thoughts? depression would be one. poor management on the part of many non-profits would be another. I have observed some crappy behavior in non-profits that is very much like for-profits or guv'mint work. It's bad enough to put up with insanity and get paid for it/surely not worth it to endure it for free. So, message to those who use volunteers-1. Recognize I'm working for free & show your appreciation 2. Don't expect me to treat the volunteer work as if it were my full-time job/I do expect flexibility-remember, my service is presently free. 3. Consider finding a way to pay me for something I do or consider me if a paying position comes up. 4. Most importantly, recognize that I am a human being with value-do not give me mundane jobs if I am capable of much, much more - do not micro-manage me/if I can do the job in my own way and do it better, go for it - listen to my suggestions for workplace or process improvement/refer back to capabilities-I might see something you do not so talk to me about my ideas. I don't mind being a utility player-filling in whatever job needs to be done-that's a strength! but don't just use me as a 24 hour gopher - look for what i'm good at and utilize that or i will burn out and be gone very very quickly.

February 03 2010 at 9:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your all talk!!!! some day you well be in are shoesssssssss boy!

February 02 2010 at 4:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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