How to find great volunteer opportunities in Dane County

Dane County has a multitude of good nonprofit organizations. In order to meet their fundraising goals, many host galas, celebrity dinners, and other types of parties that bring supporters out to enjoy a time of giving.

My husband, Dave, and I have had the pleasure of attending a couple of these functions recently, and I’ve come away from each event proud of the caring and supportive people in our community. Our area is full of remarkably giving people ready to stand up and help the organizations that serve those in need.

Years ago, when our business was designing a Volunteer of the Day Award with the help of United Way of Dane County’s Voluntary Action Center and WIBA AM, we were happy to discover that Dane County boasts a tremendous number of volunteer opportunities. It’s no wonder that when folks retire in our community, they can find many meaningful ways to occupy their time.

United Way now has a Business Volunteer Network that acts as a resource partner for companies and employees who want to develop and coordinate workplace volunteer efforts. Through this source, nonprofit agencies and business volunteers work together to create results for the Dane County community.

A recent nonprofit fundraiser gave me the opportunity to talk with some business friends who, while they are very busy in their careers, still find time to be active volunteers in the community. And recently, a customer who works in a challenging job told me how he manages to find time to volunteer at Olbrich Gardens to share his passion for working with plants.

Plenty of work goes into raising the funds needed to support all the nonprofit agencies in the area, so these groups depend on volunteers to do everything from administrative tasks like addressing, stuffing, and sending event invitations to working registration tables at their events.



One of the events I attended recently was the United Cerebral Palsy Celebrity Banquet and Auction at Blackhawk Country Club, where Dane County celebrities, business VIPs, and UW student athletes worked as servers and drink runners to earn tips that added to the organization’s take for the evening. The energy and enthusiasm these folks showed while working for the cause created an atmosphere of fun and excitement. What a great way to volunteer.

Lily’s Luau, held each January to raise funds for epilepsy research, encourages its volunteers to dress up in Hawaiian garb, including grass skirts and leis (some with long johns underneath), which accentuates the island theme and helps get attendees in the mood for island fun.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation holds its dress-up gala in the spring. Its silent auction offers wonderful buys along with good opportunities for volunteers to get out and get auction items.

Dane County has so many great opportunities to help. To find the right place to volunteer, call United Way’s Volunteer Center at 608-246-4380 or email the center at

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