Volunteers Swarm to Help Seattle-Area Nonprofits
Increasingly, local volunteers are coming from the ranks of the unemployed. “The last orientation I had, about 75 percent of the room said that they had been laid off,” Kelly said.
Janice Williams, owner of JW Coaching, which advises adults typically age 50 and older on connecting with new volunteer and work opportunities, says she often recommends volunteerism to unemployed people because of the networking and skills it can provide.
But there are other reasons why the unemployed should consider volunteering, she said.
“It can be really isolating to do a job search. Volunteering gives a sense of fulfillment from contributing,” Williams said. “The therapeutic part is one that people don’t often talk about.”
Volunteers seem to be seizing on a broad variety of tasks. The Boys & Girls Club of King County, for example, often uses volunteers to serve as youth mentors. Last year, the group saw its volunteers increase 43 percent to 3,610.
At the United Way of King County, the largest volunteer coordinator in the area, people are pouring through the door. In January, the number of volunteers it helped connect with a nonprofit group climbed 85 percent to nearly 1,500. Last year, the agency reported a 41 percent increase in its volunteer ranks.
Liahann Bannerman, director of the volunteer center at the United Way, said volunteering could be a boost for workers turned job seekers.
“It can be really helpful to folks who are currently trying to get back into the work force,” she said.
While nonprofit groups welcome the surge in volunteering, some are wary that it will be short-lived. They also wonder whether nonprofits can accommodate all the volunteers who want to help.
“It is hard to create the kinds of volunteer opportunities more and more people want,” Bannerman said.
In January, Seattle Works had 350 new volunteer registrations, up nearly 70 percent from January 2008. “We certainly are seeing a remarkable increase,” said Alison Carl White, executive director of Seattle Works, a group that encourages professionals in their 20s and 30s to perform community work.