Phone:(703) 503-3384

Volunteer at OLLI

This page explains why OLLI continues to need volunteers, how members can help and what kinds of jobs are available. Information about volunteering is also provided in the Member Handbook (revised 2014); click the image below to view the PDF version of the handbook.

Click here or click the above image to view the Member Handbook (pdf).

Volunteering Is Important to OLLI

Some institutes make volunteering a condition of membership. We don’t do that. (It wouldn’t really be volunteering if we did!) But volunteering is central to our existence. Our bylaws sum it up: OLLI “is governed by its members and functions as an intellectual cooperative in which members volunteer in administration and as planners, instructors, organizational officers and committee members.”

There are three interrelated reasons why volunteering is important to OLLI—money, workload and teaching.

Simply put, it would cost you a lot more to be a member if OLLI had to pay for all its operations. Although we don’t have to do some things that a private college would (such as administer entrance requirements, give exams and award degrees), we offer programs that are comparable to those found in colleges. We get by with what is really a minimal membership fee because:

  • We rely on our members to teach or otherwise lead courses.
  • We don’t pay outside teachers and speakers.
  • Over 80% of the work of running the organization is done by member volunteers.

We do employ administrative help, a necessity as we continue to grow. In fact, almost half our budget goes to personnel costs, reflecting the well known fact that personnel costs are the major expense item in many organizations.

Quite aside from financial need, volunteering in an organization from which members derive so much enjoyment can and should be personally satisfying and rewarding.

Four other things should be said about volunteering:

  • You don’t need prior experience or expertise in a particular field, although this is always welcome and in a few cases necessary. Everyone has the talent to help in some capacity. If special knowledge is required, we can train you.
  • You should volunteer only for what you want to do.
  • Your time is valuable. We won’t ask you to put in more time than you can handle comfortably or serve longer than you can.
  • You should look on volunteer work as enjoyable and rewarding. If it isn’t, we are doing something wrong.

How Do I Volunteer?

OLLI committee chairs and Board members are always on the lookout for volunteers. Experience shows that the best way to get volunteers is the direct and personal approach. But you shouldn’t wait to be asked. Take the initiative.

After perusing the opportunities on the following pages, you may find a particular job that is attractive. Call the office at 703-503-3384 and offer your services. Or click on the link shown to view a list of key OLLI committees and program planning groups with names of people to contact in each area. Don’t be bashful! We need help—lots of it. View OLLI Committees and Program Planning Groups.

How OLLI-Mason Is Organized

To understand our volunteer needs, it may help to know a little about how OLLI is organized. We are a non-profit, tax-exempt organization with articles of incorporation and bylaws. Ultimate authority is exercised by OLLI members at the annual meeting at which the membership receives reports from the president and executive director, elects directors to serve on the Board of Directors and acts on any amendments that may be proposed to the bylaws.

The 18-member Board of Directors sets policies, approves budgets and oversees OLLI operations. It elects its officers—president, vice president, treasurer, secretary—and has established several units to oversee OLLI operations:

  • Audiovisual Support Committee: Support effective classroom environments by assisting in maintaining and improving audio visual and computer equipment
  • Development Committee: Plan and coordinate, in concert with the executive director and the Finance and Strategic Planning Committee, all short-term and long-range fund raising activities.
  • E-News Committee:
  • Facilities Committee: Develop plans and proposals for the Board of Directors to ensure that the facilities at all present and future OLLI campuses support the overall mission of OLLI 
  • Finance Committee: Oversee the financial policies and procedures of the institute to assure its fiscal soundness.
  • Governance Committee:
  • Instructors and Speakers:
  • Landscaping Committee: Provide an attractive, changing outdoor environment for the Tallwood campus in the area surrounding the buildings and parking lots.
  • Member Services Committee: Promote membership retention and satisfaction; provide certain member services at the Tallwood, Reston and Loudoun locations.
  • Outreach Committee: Provide appropriate communications outside of OLLI and to the community in order to create positive visibility and encourage membership
  • Program Committee: Serve as the forum for communication and information exchange by chairs of OLLI Resource Groups.
  • Program Planning Groups:
  • Publications Committee:
  • Special Events Program Planning Group:
  • Strategic Planning Committee (Policy): Develop short-term and long-range strategic plans for consideration by the Board of Directors
  • University Liaison Committee:
  • Website Committee:

The names, with photos and profiles, of OLLI key personnel are listed on our Organization page.

Volunteer Opportunities

The following list of volunteer opportunities includes the major areas of ongoing needs. Some categories include jobs that are done by teams. Many tasks are needed only occasionally; others require an ongoing commitment.


Office volunteer
Serve as receptionist in the Tallwood office; make and answer phone calls, retrieve messages, handle inquiries, mail requested materials and otherwise assist the staff with clerical tasks as requested. Hours are 9:00 to noon. Volunteers may decide to work one or more days a month, choosing the days that fit their schedule. Training in equipment and written instructions for basic responsibilities are provided. This is a great way to learn about OLLI and meet new members.


Party assistants
Work with groups to arrange pot lucks, new-member welcome receptions and other social events, Assignments may include arranging for food, setting tables, arranging flowers, advertising, finding entertainment, designing programs or cleaning up. There are six or eight events each year at Tallwood and three or four at Reston and Loudoun.


Maintaining Social Rooms
Share responsibilities with other Member Services Committee members to maintain bulletin boards, bookcases (library exchange) and general ambiance in the social rooms at Tallwood.

Handymen and Women
Assist in making minor repairs or improvements in Tallwood buildings and equipment and in Reston or Loudoun equipment.

Join OLLI’s Dirty Knees Club and help maintain Tallwood’s gardens. Periodically water flowers or sweep or blow patio. In the spring and fall plant flowers and shrubs, trim branches and rake leaves. A green thumb is helpful.


OLLI-GMU Teachers & Moderators 
Many of our teachers and moderators are also OLLI volunteers. They enjoy sharing their knowledge, whether acquired academically, in a career, or as a hobby or special interest. Think about what course you might be willing to teach or moderate. Then talk with Kathryn Russell, our Program Committee chair. If you know someone who could present an interesting course or lecture, pass the information on to Kathryn.

Course Coordinators
Develop courses, find teachers and speakers, follow through while courses are in progress, contribute to curriculum development. General familiarity with college-level courses is needed; knowledge in specific academic fields is desirable but not necessary. Course coordinators need to attend 10 or more meetings a year and have the time to develop one or more courses each term.

Program Resource Contributors
Participate in occasional meetings to develop lists of courses that OLLI should consider offering in different academic areas and assist course coordinators in finding teachers, speakers and materials. Education or experience in a subject is desirable but by no means necessary. If you are interested in a topic or in observing how planning is done, then that is quite sufficient a reason to get involved.

Special Events Coordinators
Develop special events and serve as coordinator during the presentations or on bus tours, making sure that all arrangements are in order. General familiarity with special event opportunities in the geographic area is needed. Attend 10 to 12 meetings a year to help plan events and devote additional time required to develop one or more special events.

Class Liaisons 

Serve as a class liaison in a class that you are taking. The liaison gets the class started by introducing the instructor and making announcements. He or she assists the instructor by handing out materials, as needed, and alerting the staff if there are problems with A/V or other equipment.


Writers and editors
Work on OLLI publications, such as E-News, catalogs, email notices, and other materials, such as press releases, brochures, grant applications and substantive papers about OLLI. Writing and editing experience is helpful, but attention to detail and a desire to work with words are even more important. Word processing ability is desirable.

Work with editors of OLLI publications to assure quality productions.

Computers and Audio-visual Equipment

Audio-visual Assistant 
Help set up and assure proper functioning of audio-visual aids in classrooms at Tallwood, Reston or Loudoun. Detailed training is provided.

Technical Advisor
Help maintain office and classroom computers. Tasks may include loading software and configuring hardware. A good background in the technical side of computers is essential. Current OLLI experts can provide guidance.

Web Page Designer 
Design and maintain OLLI’s website, including posting the new catalog and course schedule each term. Availability of a personal computer and an internet connection for interface with the Mason server are essential.

Desktop Publishing Designers 
Design and format one or more of OLLI’s publications and other materials.