Tom Young flat-out tells folks who are unemployed to get out and volunteer. After all, prospective employers just might ask: What else have you been doing while job hunting?

By the numbers

Overall, volunteerism rose last year after a drop the previous year. However, the Charleston area lagged behind state and national volunteer rates:26.8%Residents nationwide who reported volunteering last year.19.2%Charleston area residents that volunteered last year.73Charleston area's ranking out of 75 mid-sized cities nationwide. The Lowcountry also is last among South Carolina's metropolitan statistical areas.25.4Number of volunteer hours per year among local residents.34.1Number of volunteer hours per year for residents nationwide.U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2007 to 2010 data).

“You have to show that you haven't been idle,” said Young, who was unemployed himself and helped to organize the ReStart Career Development Community, which is run almost entirely by volunteers.

Philanthropy Week Events

Look for the top six winners of the Philanthropy Week “Thanks for Giving” essay contest Nov. 25 in our Faith & Values section. The top two winners will receive $1,500 and $1,000 respectively to donate to a favorite nonprofit organization or place of worship. The Coastal Community Foundation and The Post and Courier sponsored the contest. Other events this week include:TuesdayTrident Corporate Volunteer Council's quarterly meeting. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Features Brad Davis, Rick Hendrick Imports' executive general manager. More info: Community Service Awards will be presented at the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry. 6 to 7:30 p.m.WednesdayCenter for Women panel discussion. Philanthropists including Carol Fishman, Carolyn Hunter, Susan Romaine and Harriet Rigney discuss what they look for when investing in a nonprofit. Noon to 1:30 p.m. Harbour Club, 35 Prioleau St., Charleston. More info: for Humanity Build Day. Volunteers needed in East Cooper. 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. More info: Association of Fundraising Professionals will host its annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon. Noon to 2 p.m. The group will recognize outstanding philanthropists. Marc Chardon, president and CEO of Blackbaud Inc., will discuss the “imperfect storm” facing nonprofits today. More info: North Charleston Beautiful. 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers are needed to work in the Butterfly Garden at Park Circle in North Charleston. More info: Community Foundation's 2012 Donor Celebration. 5 to 7 p.m. The Riviera Theater at Charleston Place Hotel, 205 Meeting St., Charleston.Charleston Magazine's 2012 Giving Back Awards. 7 p.m. Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. More info: more information, go to or call 723-5736, ext. 120.

“People tend to want to volunteer more when they're unemployed. And we encourage them to do just that.”

As the Lowcountry's benevolent scene gears up for Philanthropy Week starting today and running through Nov. 18, some local nonprofits report seeing more volunteers this year. That may be due to the tepid job market, which has left more people with extra free time — and a new understanding of how it feels to be in need.

Philanthropy Week is a weeklong thank-you note to volunteers and donors.

The effort, which includes events and various campaigns, kicks off the old season of giving.

The Coastal Community Foundation, which manages endowments and coordinates local charitable giving, coordinates the week to recognize those who give back — and to encourage others to do so.

By at least one measure, they have more thanking to do this year. The nationwide volunteer rate rose last year by 0.5 percentage point to 26.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That followed a similar-sized decline in 2010 and is higher than the volunteer rate five years ago.

About 64.3 million people nationwide volunteered at least once between September 2010 and September 2011.

Some who are unemployed or have only found part-time work have turned to volunteering as a way to keep busy, network and give back while they experience firsthand the struggles many today face.

“There has been an uptick during the recession,” said Trident United Way spokesman Barry Waldman.

At the Lowcountry Food Bank, Volunteer Coordinator Mary Kate McLernon said the need for food is way up — but so are the ranks of volunteers. In 2011, the food bank recorded 4,200 volunteers. McLernon has welcomed about 200 more today than at this time last year.

The busiest time for giving and volunteering overall is always the last three months of the year because the holidays spread the giving spirit, McLernon said.

“There's this huge national consciousness that some people won't experience a Thanksgiving dinner. It tugs at their heartstrings,” McLernon said.

But many folks don't have dinner any night of the year, she added.

“We are very thankful to be well-supported,” McLernon added. “But the need remains well beyond the season of giving.”

And thankful as McLernon and other nonprofit staff are, the Charleston area's volunteerism rate was the lowest of any South Carolina area surveyed last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals hosts the week's anchor event, the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon and Awards, which recognize philanthropic contributions.

This year's events also include the Wonderific Community Service Award, which will be named Tuesday at the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry. The award highlights youth in our area who have contributed outstanding volunteer work and fundraising.

“All of the award finalists are outstanding kids who are making huge impacts in the Charleston community through their philanthropic missions,” said Tommy Baker, president and owner of Baker Motor Co. and presenting sponsor of the Wonderific award.

National Philanthropy Day is Thursday, but the local campaign extends for an entire week.

Reach Jennifer Berry Hawes at 937-5563 or follow her at