United Way Volunteer Opportunities Utilize Wisdom and Experience


When Larry Todd was asked why he decided to serve as a pro bono volunteer manager, he said, "I gained extensive knowledge and skills over the course of my 40-year career as an educator and school administrator in California. Now I put those skills to use in King County."



"Who does not like 5-year-old people?" asks Volunteer Reader Ken Peterson. Ken most certainly does. Since January 2011, he has spent one hour each week at Harmony Early Childhood Education Center in Renton. As a father, grandfather, and experienced Scoutmaster, Ken knows children. A semi-retired pharmacist, he found the Volunteer Reader Program when he was "looking for opportunities to be helpful." Each week he brings books from his home to share with Harmony's 4- and 5-year-olds, adding variety to the center's collection of books.


Dori Gustafson, a six-year volunteer with United Way's Free Tax campaign, says her heart went out to struggling single parents and new immigrants working to overcome linguistic barriers and provide for their families. When United Way launched Bridge to Basics, Dori jumped at the opportunity to connect those same hardworking families to life-changing public benefits like basic food and healthcare.


United Way Free Tax Prep volunteer Belinda is a retired grandmother of three (with one more on the way). Belinda keeps busy with reading (she has more than 3,000 books on her NOOK), voiceover work, freelance graphic and web design, continuing education, and service as president of the Rainier Community Center Advisory Council. She prides herself in "keeping up on those issues that impact [the community] and acting accordingly."

At United Way of King County, we know volunteering is how a range of services in our community are delivered and supported. And with today's tough economy, nonprofits have to do more with less. The role of volunteers has never been more important. But did you know there are health and other benefits for the volunteer? This is especially true for older adults, who can lower their risk of depression, enjoy better physical health, and increase their social interactions by volunteering.

United Way believes everyone can play a role in building a better future for all. We bring together a huge number of volunteers, including people who volunteer directly with United Way and people we connect with other organizations. No matter what your skills or interests, there is bound to be a volunteer opportunity that fits you.

Connect to a wide range of organizations

Mobilizing volunteers is vital. United Way of King County maintains the area's largest online database of volunteer opportunities at hundreds of local organizations, parks, and schools. Whether you're interested in volunteering from your home, participating in a one-day project, or getting involved in something longer term, you will find a variety of ways you can volunteer with local organizations through the United Way of King County volunteer database.

Volunteer to strengthen volunteerism

Equally vital is helping nonprofits use volunteers well. Drawing on our expertise in volunteer management and deep community connections, United Way is bringing extra focus and resources to the work through a successful, expanding program called the Volunteer Impact Partnership (VIP).

Our key partner, a management support organization for nonprofits called 501 Commons, leverages the professional skills and talents of more than 75 volunteers to deliver two programs:

  • Join the new VIP Manager Corps, a team of pro bono volunteer managers committed to serving at least 10 hours per week for 6–9 months. VIP managers are trained and placed with organizations that can benefit from additional staff support to build organizational commitment, capacity, and competency around volunteer engagement activities. The program provides an optional stipend of $1,200 to help offset travel and other incidental expenses.
  • Become a VIP 360 Volunteer Consultant and provide assessment and planning support to help groups create the organizational culture and infrastructure for expanded use of volunteers. VIP 360 consultants learn about volunteer management best practices and then support organizations in implementing them. Interested in volunteering as a consultant with VIP 360?

VIP 360 consultants come from a variety of backgrounds and experience. Shirley Bishop has 34 years of professional experience in non-profit administration and as owner of an association management company. Bob Quick has a 35 year career in information technology and operations management. Burton R. (Bud) Green has served others as a public relations, advertising and marketing consultant for more than 35 years.

For more information about volunteering through 501 Commons, e-mail Jan Burrell (jan@501commons.org).

Give young children an equal chance to succeed

You can also volunteer on a United Way of King County program. One opportunity is United Way's Volunteer Reader Program, which fields more than 180 trained volunteers to read aloud one-on-one each week to more than 1,400 kids in 36 pre-schools and Head Start programs throughout King County. The Volunteer Read Program fosters a love of reading, gains in vocabulary, and higher readiness for school. Volunteer Readers commit to giving at least one hour, once a week, for at least six months at locations throughout King County. For more information, click on the link above or e-mail Danielle Holing (dholing@uwkc.org).

Feed a child's body and mind

Nearly 99,000 students in King County receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. But Washington state ranks 40th in the nation for participation in the Summer Food Service Program. This means only a fraction of those 90,000 children are eating healthy meals during the summer.

United Way is expanding the number of sites where summer meals are available. Volunteers play a key role in getting the word out to eligible families. Some sites also have opportunities for children to keep up their reading skills. If you would like to be notified about summer meal opportunities in your area, e-mail Lydia Albert (lalbert@uwkc.org).

Connect families to benefits they need

Bridge to Basics is a United Way volunteer program that helps people in need connect to benefits like food stamps and utility assistance. Last year it served 4,000 people. As a volunteer, you would be trained to connect community members with the resources they need and help with applications for a variety of support services and programs.

Help hard-working, low-income families

United Way's Free Tax Preparation Campaign trains volunteers to prepare taxes for low-income families and individuals, helping them secure the benefits and credits to stay financially stable. In 2012, the Free Tax Prep campaign served 14,400 people and returned $20.7 million to the community. There are also opportunities to help with customer intake, signing up eligible families for public benefits or interpretation services. For information about volunteering during the next tax season, e-mail EITC@uwkc.org.

Author Liahann R. Bannerman directs the United Way of King County Volunteer Center. United Way of King County is one of three sponsors for Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County.