Spring into volunteering


April is a very busy month. If you have seen the pinwheels at the Capitol, they were placed there by FESS (Family Education Support Services) as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month (NCAPM). There are flags in downtown Olympia to remind us.

April is also Earth Month. Timberland Regional Library is showcasing specific items in its collection this month. Most importantly, April is also Global Volunteer Month. While nonprofits should celebrate their volunteers all year, if you are currently an active volunteer, your dance card may be starting to fill up. When I was a young volunteer coordinator, we only celebrated National Volunteer Week (which still happens next week, April 16-22). This month-long celebration of volunteers stems from an effort led by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, to celebrate the impact of volunteers at every level. Volunteerism and civic engagement are essential in every community. They can help create equity, strengthen communities, improve lives as well as build bonds across races, cultures, belief backgrounds, and experiences.

Volunteering in Washington State

AmeriCorps recently released the results of a 2021 survey about volunteering and civic engagement in America. The survey is done in partnership with the US Census Bureau every two years. The most recent survey looks at volunteering and civic behaviors between September 2020 and September 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research looks at national rates of organizational volunteering, helping others informally, charitable giving and more.

Washington Highlights

* 1,545,834 formal volunteers contributed 118.7 million hours of service through organizations worth an estimated $4.1 billion

* 25.0% of residents formally volunteered through organizations

* 97.5% of residents talked to or spent time with friends or family

* 55.3% of residents informally helped others by exchanging favors with their neighbors

* 70.6% of residents had a conversation or spent time with their neighbors

* 25.0% of residents belonged to an organization

* 55.1% of residents donated $25 or more to charity

Volunteer Quiz

Think you know everything about volunteerism? Then check out this quiz on volunteering from AARP. The results may surprise you!

Volunteer Opportunities Are All Around

During this month-long celebration, nonprofits usually focus more on recognizing their current volunteers than recruiting new people. However, with the change in the seasons, there are new openings, so here are a few to get you started.
The Tumwater Farmers Market is looking for volunteers for their market season, which runs every Sunday from June 12 – August 27. Two shifts are available, and volunteers may select their preferred time slot. Volunteer opportunities include assisting vendors with set up and tear down, music set up as well as assisting shoppers. High school students may receive their volunteer credits and all volunteers that volunteer for five or more market days will receive a Farmers Market T-shirt. For more information or to review open slots, click here.

  • Are you interested in monitoring to help track purple martin populations? From April to September, the Stream Team is looking for volunteers to monitor the nest boxes at East Bay in downtown Olympia. New volunteers will attend a short training on monitoring basics and bird identification, then commit to monitoring throughout the season. The training begins at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 13, on East Bay Drive at Marine Drive and Olympia Avenue. For more details, click here.
  • The Puget Sound Estuarium offers a wide variety of unique hands-on volunteer opportunities throughout the year. If you'd like to get involved with outreach events, Summer Shark Spree, or summer camps, make sure to attend the New Volunteer Orientation Training on Friday, May 19. For more details contact their Program and Volunteer Coordinator or register here.
  • The Jolt News – In case you were unaware, The Jolt is a nonprofit, and yours truly, as well as other columnists for this publication, are volunteers. So, if you have experience as a journalist and would like to report on an aspect of our community, there may be a spot for you! Contact our publisher for more information.
  • SERVE Washington is the statewide supporter of volunteer efforts. On their site you’ll find information on how to use Get Connected to find and promote local volunteer opportunities. Next week, if you are a volunteer or a member of a local nonprofit, you can highlight your volunteer efforts in their #NationalVolunteerWeek social media campaign, which also includes links to some useful articles and tips for recognizing volunteers. In addition, Serve Washington is hosting a special Salute to Volunteers Night when our Seattle host the St. Louis Cardinals on April 22 (we already have our tickets!).

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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