Volunteerism Interest Increases Online – Obama Influence or Economy?

Following the spirit of service promoted by her husband’s administration, Michelle Obama recently opened the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco, speaking to the importance of volunteering. The First Lady announced a summer-long program — "˜United We Serve’ — stressing the importance of including civic service in lives of Americans. Despite the fact that the administration’s volunteer initiatives as still taking shape, we can already see some of the effects of this push online. Traffic to national service groups such as City Year, the PeaceCorps, the AmeriCorps, and Teach for America, have increased over the past six months since the 2008 election, and have seen double-digit growth over the past year.

Americans are also flocking to volunteer website dedicated to local, part-time opportunities. Volunteer information sites, such as VolunteerMatch.org, DoSomething.org, and 1-800-Volunteer.org have seen similar gains as well. DoSomething.org itself has seen traffic more than double since the 2008 November election.

The average time spent on these sites has also seen increases; despite occasional fluctuations, there has been positive growth in time spent online over the past year. In May,on average, visitors spent over seven minutes on the sites for Volunteer Match, City Year, the PeaceCorps — and nearly twice that on AmeriCorps.gov.

We should not, however, attempt to make a direct correlation between the Obama Administration and increase in UVs to suggest a new found civic duty by the American public. Fellow recent graduates can attest the current state of the economy has made the job hunt quite bit harder, and more of us are looking at alternatives to immediately joining the private sector. We can see this in online traffic patterns as well; for example, the trend in UVs for the AmeriCorps website follows a pattern similar to GradSchools.com over the past six months.