Volunteer involvement is central to the success of all the programs and services offered at Olbrich. Volunteer responsibilities and commitments differ with each activity. In general, volunteer opportunities fall into one of three categories:
Year-round Volunteer Opportunities
Seasonal Volunteer Opportunities
Special Event Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer Activities & Benefits
Event Volunteer Opportunities
Friendly, energetic volunteers welcome visitors to Olbrich. These ambassadors answer questions about what's happening at Olbrich, accept money for Conservatory admissions and other sales, and explain Olbrich's history, mission, and membership details. Smiles, communication skills, dependability, and a desire to heighten our visitors' experiences are the only requirements. Volunteer greeter shifts are scheduled daily from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 to 4 p.m. Greeters work two or more shifts monthly.
The Schumacher Library is an outstanding horticultural library specializing in resources appropriate for our region. Volunteers work with our Horticulture Librarian to help answer plant questions from visitors and help patrons use library resources. Training is provided. A desire to provide quality plant information and computer skills are required. Shifts are scheduled daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 to 4 p.m.
Growing Gifts Shop
Everyone who comes to Olbrich Botanical Gardens passes through the Growing Gifts Shop as they enter and exit. It's a very busy place that is full of must-have merchandise. Part-time staff members work with the help of volunteers to assist customers in the gift shop, operate the cash register, and help with restocking, unpacking, and marking new items. Beware: volunteers are some of the shop's best customers! The Growing Gifts Shop is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Conservatory Early Birds
Have you ever wondered how the staff manages to get the Conservatory ready for visitors by 10 a.m. each morning? It couldn't be done without the help of volunteers who assist the staff from 7:30 to 9 a.m. by picking up leaf litter, feeding animals, sweeping, and generally helping to clean the Conservatory. Volunteers work two shifts each month.
Conservatory Greeters and Conservatory Docents
It's all about the visitors! Conservatory volunteers provide a pleasurable and educational experience for the Bolz Conservatory visitors by sharing information about the tropical plant and animal collections. All new volunteers start as Conservatory Greeters. Those who chose to 1) learn more about the plant collection and tropical environment, and 2) develop higher level interpretation skills, advance to become Conservatory Docents. Introductory training is offered 6 times throughout the year; ongoing in-service training is provided monthly. Volunteer shifts are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Adult Education Programs
Throughout the year Olbrich sponsors dozens of lectures, workshops, walks in the Gardens, and children's classes. Volunteers serve as program hosts and assist with set-up, registration, and logistics.
Youth Education Programs
Youth and family education programs are a great opportunity for children to learn about plants. From toddlers to teens, for families or school groups, classes and programs are organized by age and include age appropriate hands-on learning activities designed to engage a child's natural curiosity. For each class or program, volunteers are needed to assist with interactive learning activities, greet and register participants, and help with class set-up and clean-up.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens depends on the talents of many community members who commit to helping the gardens through fundraising, Olbrich Botanical Society Board participation, outreach to the community, and management of entire segments of events or activities.
Volunteers with clerical skills help staff as needed in our offices. Volunteers help fold, stuff, and label mailings, answer phones, compile membership renewal mailings, and help with other important tasks that are required to keep our operations, events, and gardens running smoothly.
Special Event Volunteer Opportunities Year-round
Explorer school Program
To promote an understanding and appreciation of plants, the Explorer Program offers an exciting and meaningful educational experience for grade-school students (Kindergarten-3rd grade) using living plant collections and hands-on activities.
The Explorer Program begins in the Atrium with a large group introduction. The group is then split in half. One group stays in the Atrium for hands-on activities at stations while the other group is led on a tour of the Bolz Conservatory or the outdoor gardens. After 30 minutes, the groups switch and the station activities and the tour are repeated.
Volunteers partner with staff to provide a high-quality learning experience. The Explorer program is offered to school groups in February, April, May, October, and November. Training is provided.
Outdoor Garden Greeters
Garden Greeters are stationed in the outdoor gardens on weekend, June through September, to welcome and orient visitors. Their job is all about offering a healthy dose of Midwest hospitality. No plant expertise is required. Training offered in spring. Volunteers work two 3-hour shifts monthly.
Outdoor garden Docents
Do you have an interest in sharing your love of gardens with others? Garden docents provide a pleasurable and enjoyable educational experience for visitors in Olbrich's Thai Garden and Herb Garden. Docents share the history of Olbrich Botanical Gardens, information about the design of the gardens, and basic plant information. In the Thai Garden, docents also share information about the Thai sala and cultural interpretations of the garden elements. An intensive docent training is provided in spring. Volunteers host visitors in the garden Friday through Sunday, from June through October. Shifts are 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Join the horticulture staff on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays for a weekly shift to pull weeds, mulch, prune, plant, deadhead - all the fun things that keeps the gardens growing and beautiful. Volunteers must be able to handle light physical activity, including bending, lifting, kneeling, and tolerate some weather fluctuations. Volunteers must commit to a weekly crew from 8 to 11 a.m. from April through October. "Spring only" crew members work from April through June.
Volunteer tour guides welcome adult groups and lead them on guided tours of the outdoor gardens. Tours are usually one hour long and are usually scheduled on weekdays. Tour guides also lead Guided Garden Strolls, informal 45-minute tours that are free to the public on Sundays from June - September. Training is provided. Tour guides are expected to sign up for at least two tours each month from May through September.
Seasonal Volunteer Opportunities Year-round
Olbrich's Plant Sale with the Pros
Many hands make light work. About 200 Olbrich volunteers help make Olbrich's Plant Sale with the Pros in early May a success. Volunteers help with greenhouse work, pot plants, set-up and take-down the sale area, check-in fellow volunteers, greet shoppers, assist shoppers with plant selection, work in the plant holding area, confirm prices and cashier, and load cars and direct traffic. Shifts vary - there's a job for everyone!
Olbrich Home Garden Tour
Volunteer greeters and garden guides welcome visitors at selected local gardens. The Olbrich Home Garden Tour in mid-July is popular with visitors because volunteers make it easy to learn about the creative ways homeowners have used plants to landscape their gardens.
Olbrich's Blooming Butterflies
During this special event, visitors experience the wonder of strolling through a tropical forest on a search for free-flying butterflies. Live butterflies emerge from chrysalises daily in the Bolz Conservatory. It is a great adventure for all ages. Volunteers are needed seven days a week for three-hour shifts as:
Welcome visitors before they
enter the building, give Olbrich Botanical Society members their free tickets,
sign-up new members, and give children free frozen custard coupons.
Butterfly Education Volunteers
at the learning stations in the lobby and at the hatcheries in the Conservatory.
Volunteers rotate through the shifts, getting a chance to see every aspect
of the education display. Training is provided.
Welcome visitors as they enter the visitor center, and using a hand-held clicker, count all visitors as they enter.
Welcome visitors at the entrance to the educational exhibit, take visitors' tickets and stamp their hands, sort and bundle tickets at the end of the shift.
Provide a brief educational introduction to visitors as they enter the conservatory and promote a respectful enjoyment of the butterflies in their natural environment.
Outdoor Garden Greeter
Welcome visitors as they start the Butterfly Passport Walk in the outdoor gardens.
After the event ends, butterflies remain in the Conservatory for the rest of their natural life. Butterfly Bodyguards welcome visitors in the Conservatory and make sure no butterflies escape from their paradise. (This is a U.S. Department of Agriculture requirement.)
Olbrich's Holiday Express
Each December, Olbrich hosts about 20,000 visitors during Olbrich's Holiday Express - Flower and Model Train Show. Volunteers welcome visitors to this display of miniature trains chugging among beautiful flowers and holiday trees, help provide light refreshments for visitors, and welcome visitors as they enter the Bolz Conservatory.
On-call Special Event Volunteers
Throughout the year Olbrich hosts other events that usually only require 5 to 20 volunteers. These volunteers set up and assist at member preview parties, decorate for events, and provide advance help with Rhapsody in Bloom. On-call special event volunteer positions are perfect for those who need flexibility and don't mind behind-the-scenes work.
How to Volunteer
Special Promos & Activities for Volunteers
When you become an Olbrich volunteer, you're part of a great community and can socialize, make friends, and get volunteer-exclusive offers!
Volunteers can try out bike sharing!
As a celebration of summer volunteers and members of Olbrich, we're reaching out to everyone on our email list to offer an opportunity to sign up for this summer's BC25 Challenge and to take the Wisconsin Bike Fed's "Share and Be Aware Pledge" for slowing down and making safe roads for everyone.
Want to get up to 2 free months of B-Cycle membership?
Signing up for the BC25 Challenge will enable you to get a promotional B-Cycle membership, giving you direct access to B-Cycle bikes. With these bikes, you can take up to 60 minute trips between stations around Madison. (There's a station in Olbrich's parking lot!)
Get a city bike map, or use the "B-Cycle Now" App, and log 25 B-Cycle trips before the end of August to earn another free month in September!
To participate in this promotion and receive a free membership for August, please e-mail your name, phone number, and e-mail address to:
Zac Barnes, South-Central Regional Director, Wisconsin Bike Fed
Participating volunteers can pick up their free membership pass at Olbrich on Tuesday, August 9.
It will be waiting with your name on it at the Greeter Desk.
Have more questions? Zac will be at Olbrich on August 9 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (in the Conservatory) to answer your questions about bike sharing. He'll also be at the Olbrich B-Cycle Station on Wednesday, August 10 from 3-5 p.m.
Wisconsin Bike Fed wants to make it easy for volunteers to come to Olbrich and to see other gardens around Madison using the safest, most efficient, and most enjoyable transportation. Accept the BC25 Challenge, get to know bike sharing, save some money, and have fun! Visit www.MadisonBCycle.com for more info.
Also remember that we also celebrate Bicycle Benefits here at Olbrich!
Volunteer Potluck - September 19
Yum! Don’t you love potlucks with friends so you can try other people’s cooking? Volunteers, and their friends and family, are invited for dinner on September 19 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Bring a dish to share, plate/utensils/cup, and your appetite! It would be great fun if you bring a dish using a recipe in the Olbrich Volunteer Cookbook! Purchase one in the gift shop for lots of great recipes!
RSVP for the potluck to Marty at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-246-5807.