Ep 171: True Confessions of a Nonprofit Volunteer (with Eileen Opatut)

by Joan Garry

A very special guest joins me in this episode to share her journey from burned out realtor to ignited volunteer. Tune in to learn how to find volunteer opportunities that fuel you.


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The volunteer story you are about to hear is 100% true. I know because I am married to the storyteller.

In this episode, my wife, Eileen Opatut, tells us all about her quest to find meaning and purpose through volunteer opportunities.

Like many people, Eileen had her own personal Great Resignation during the pandemic. After a brilliant career as a television programming executive, she went on to become a five-star realtor. We’re talking about renovating and flipping houses and helping many folks land in a place they could call home.

As exciting as this all sounds, real estate didn’t fuel her soul. So what did she do?

She embarked on a quest to find more meaning and purpose in her everyday life and found what she was looking for in volunteer opportunities that ignited her passion for helping others.

Like many of you who listen to my podcast, Eileen is an overachiever — nothing she does is four-star. She’s had a remarkable television career, she’s passed her Medicare birthday, and she and I have been together for over 40 years. Today she joins us to share some sound advice that will help you find volunteer opportunities that truly fuel you.

Click play to learn:

  • What was Eileen’s approach to the volunteer hunt? What was her strategy for finding volunteer opportunities that were a good fit? (1:40)
  • How did Eileen use lists to find volunteer opportunities? (2:41)
  • How did Eileen go from being a burned out realtor to an ignited volunteer? (7:46)
  • Is there any nonprofit organization that simply doesn’t lend itself to volunteerism? (8:58)
  • How do volunteers recover from failure or bad fits? (14:58)
  • What are some key takeaways from Eileen’s volunteer journey? (38:13)
  • Any advice for nonprofit executive directors who work with volunteers? (​​39:45)


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About Eileen

Eileen Opatut spent 35 years working in the television industry. She headed up Production and Programming for the Food Network for many years, introducing new talent and concepts which changed the culture of food. She also launched Logo-TV, the first LGBTQ cable channel launched by MTV Networks. She also held Senior Level Executive positions at BBC Worldwide, National Geographic, and Nickelodeon. Ms. Opatut has Executive Produced numerous award-winning programs. She lives in Montclair, NJ with her wife, Joan Garry, with whom she has three grown children and a grandson on the way.