20 tips for a happy retirement. #15 – Volunteering

Many organisations would not be able to exist or go about their good work without the help of volunteers, so as a result there are thousands of volunteering opportunities available.


Get started as a volunteer – This from SAGA

You may have more spare time now you’re retired, but before you commit to volunteering, think about what you want to do, and why you want to volunteer.

Have you skills you can share with others, or is this a chance to learn new ones?

Keeping the finances for a small charity

Would you like to make new friends and socialise with other volunteers with a similar interest?

Perhaps you want to give something back to your local community, or get involved in a worldwide project.

Is there a specific charity or cause close to your heart, or do you just want to help out anyone in any way you can?

And would you be able to commit regularly, say a few hours every week, or is it more likely to be on an ad hoc basis ?

Whatever works for you, there will be groups and organisations who will welcome you as a volunteer. So start now.

How to become a mentor

Look for volunteering opportunities locally

If you’re keen to volunteer locally, contact groups such as the Woman’s Institute or your parish church.

Perhaps there is a ‘be a friend’ initiative set up, where you can visit a neighbour who is housebound and simply enjoy a chat and a cup of tea.

Read your local paper too and look for upcoming events. Parks and gardens need bulb planters at certain times of the year. Councils often appeal for volunteers to help clean up local beaches or rivers.

Local charity shops are also a good starting point. You don’t need to serve customers; instead you could sort out and price stock, specialising in books, for example, or be a driver and collect items from nearby homes.

Visit do-it.org.uk, a website that makes volunteering easy. Pop in your postcode and a list of local opportunities appear. Theatre usher, decorator, mentor – take your pick.

How to volunteer with your dog

Speak to other volunteers

If you know other people who volunteer, ask them about their experiences. You may hear about challenges they face (it can be distressing watching others suffer), but one message rings loud and clear – it’s very rewarding.

For inspiration, read accounts from volunteers or watch a video online. Guide Dogs for the Blind, Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, among others, have ‘meet our volunteers’ sections on their websites.

Dilemma: My widowed friend wants to volunteer abroad

Go online

All charities and good causes know the importance of volunteering and many have dedicated pages on their website, explaining the opportunities available, as well as the support volunteers will receive.

It’s worth taking a look at volunteeringmatters.org.uk. Previously known as CSV (Community Service Volunteers), the UK’s volunteering and social action charity has a retired and senior volunteer programme (RSVP) for those aged 50 and above. Local groups drive people to hospital appointments, knit clothes and soft toys for needy children, and manage allotments.

Nine great ways to volunteer online

Give volunteering a try

Volunteering is a gift that only costs you time, but it makes such a difference to other people’s lives.

Not everyone can commit regularly, but even if you get involved once a year to hand out refreshments at a charity fun run, or you bake cakes at home to raise money for a world crisis, it all helps.

All you need to do is ask if you can volunteer. The answer is guaranteed to be yes!

40% older people engage with voluntary work. 20% help out with two charities, 10% with three and 5% with 4 or more charities.

Men are most likely to volunteer their services to health charities or local football clubs, with women likelier to help children’s charities or lunch clubs.

The vast majority (83%) of the volunteers said they help because they believe charity work is important. Half of those polled said it helps them as they enjoy having a purpose in life. 3% of those questioned said that volunteering gives them the time they need away from their partners and some because they miss the company of others and find it hard to the days. Many people may believe that retirement is an opportunity to sit back and relax but on the contrary, thousands of older people are committed to helping as many people as they can whether in the local community, the wider afield with national charities or even abroad.

Many grandparents with grandchildren living locally will be involved with their childcare either formally or informally. This is often an arrangement where everyone is a winner. However it’s not all sweetness and light and Grandparents can feel taken advantage of and worn out with feelings of ‘…I thought we’d put that all behind us!’ Others would love to have more involvement but due to circumstances of geography etc. don’t have the opportunity.

  • Collecting, serving, preparing, or distributing food.
  • Fundraising or selling items to raise money.
  • Engaging in general labour, like helping build homes or clean up parks.
  • Tutoring or teaching – Helping children to read etc.
  • Mentoring the youth – sometimes less threatening than adults their parents age.
  • Collecting, making, or distributing clothing.

What might not be considered to be valuable skills to them, the older population has in abundance. A generation that read books for pleasure and did mental arithmetic without a second thought are hugely valuable resources in primary schools. Having played a sport at a reasonable level may help the local youth team improve, keep one fit as well as show those youngsters we’re not past it yet! Manual trades and DIY skills are seldom taught in school these days and fixing a chair, wiring a plug, repairing a tear in a jacket or baking a cake may seem second nature to you but many youngsters will not have these skills.


This article gives a great overview with good insight.  (USA)

9 Tips to Find an Ideal Volunteering Gig

Here are nine tips for finding a volunteer gig that works for you:

1. Know what you have to offer. Nonprofits are often seeking people who can help them in precise areas, like fundraising, PR and marketing, event planning and finances. Specific skills run the gamut from coaching to mentoring, web design, writing and accounting.

So think strategically about what the volunteer experience can do for you. “Volunteering can be a stepping stone to other opportunities,” said Betsy Werley, director of network expansion at Encore.org, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people over 50 make a social impact, and former executive director of The Transition Network, a national group for women over 50 in transition.

Your goal might be to land a paid position at a nonprofit or to use the volunteering time to ramp up your skills and knowledge so you can ultimately launch your own social enterprise.

“If that’s you, you will need to be strategic and sign up for something that will have a result that can move you toward your goal,” said Werley. You want to find volunteering opportunities that will let you, for example, “complete an entire project, so you can say ‘Here is the project I led and what we accomplished,’” she said.

2. Consider your true purpose. Volunteering can be something you want to do “to add a dimension to your life,” explained Werley. “A number of people who are looking to volunteer are searching for community, being with other people, and are not as specific about the mission of the nonprofit,” said Werley. “If you’ve never previously volunteered, this is away to meet new people and get engaged,” she said.

3. Be realistic about your availability. If it’s going to be too time consuming or too much of a schlep to get there, your burnout factor will ratchet up. Trust me.

4. Decide where and how you want to make a difference. Do you want to devote your energy to a local nonprofit, where you can quickly see the fruits of your efforts and work alongside people in your community? Or spend your time on a larger national effort, perhaps a virtual one, where you’re working on your own via your computer with no face-to-face social interaction?

5. Reach out to alumni associations and faith-based networks. I’ve been a member of two alumni boards: one at my high school, Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, and the other at Duke University. The board work has offered me intellectual engagement, makes me feel my expertise is valued and has an impact on the organisation at some level. It has also allowed me to make new friends.

Recently, I reached out to Duke’s D.C. Women’s Forum to find out if there were more ways I could be involved close to home. I quickly received an email from the one of the Forum leaders with a list of five suggestions that could be useful for you in volunteering with an alumni group locally, too. They were: serve on one of the local group’s committees; obtain speakers or create a program; manage the group’s presence on the umbrella organisation’s website; volunteer at the group’s community service events and speak one-on-one to young alums looking for career guidance.

6. Check out websites geared to skill-based volunteering. A few excellent ones where you can find appropriate nonprofit opportunities: VolunteerMatch.orgIdealist.orgHandsonnetwork.orgCatchafire.org (for professionals), Serve.gov and TaprootPlus.org (for pro bono work). Encore.org has a searchable map that shows encore programs around the country.

Typically, you can filter through prospective volunteering assignments based on a cause, what you’re good at and time commitment. For example, at Catchafire.org, which is mostly virtual volunteering, you can choose from a one-hour phone consultation with a nonprofit needing advice to a two-month project.

7. Look for places that let you interview before committing. A conversation with a nonprofit honcho can give you a sense of the group’s agenda and needs so you can see if you think it’s a good fit. Conversely, the talk lets the group decide if it thinks you’ll be right for them.

The federal government’s RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) — one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over that focuses on using your skills — has a well-established interview vetting process to help make the volunteer effort a success for both parties.

8. Investigate local nonprofit matchmakers. “The local lens is a good one for people who aren’t quite sure but kind of want to get their feet wet,” said Werley. “Every big city has some sort of a connector for volunteer opportunities.” For example, there’s Metro Volunteers in Denver and NYC Service in New York City. (My Next Avenue colleague, Chris Farrell, wrote this great piece on finding a matchmaker to launch an encore career.)

9. Start with baby steps. “Each nonprofit has its own culture, and it might not work out the first time,” counseled Werley. “Treat it as a learning experience, and you will find out what you like and don’t like.” Commit to a short-term project and then, if you’re not finding the volunteering fulfilling, politely move on.

Volunteering overseas provides a wealth of personal and professional rewards, as well as the chance to make a real difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Yet so many older people see international volunteering as “a young person’s game”, suitable only for college students and those seeking adventure earlier on in their careers.

In actual fact, the majority of volunteers who pass through VSO’s doors tend to be much older, either in the later stages of their career or retired. The local partner organisations we work with look very favourably on these volunteers because of the incredible skills they’ve built up over their careers and the powerful impact they can have on programmes.

So the opportunities are there but why should you pursue them?

You have a lot to give

Volunteering allows you to give something back and make the most of the expertise you have developed over the course of your career. Similar opportunities can be hard to come by in retirement. VSO placements involve mentoring local colleagues, whether that’s in a teacher training facility, hospital or business, which can be extremely rewarding. Long-term placements also mean you get to see the powerful impact this can have, as services are improved and extended to those most in need.

You can take on new challenges

Volunteering is very much a two-way street and you get out of it just as much, if not more, than you put in. As you embrace a new culture and workplace, you take on a broader range of challenges than you would at home and learn to do more with less. What works in one context won’t necessarily be best for the society you’re living in and you’ll need to adapt and collaborate to find what will be. If the thought of lying idle during retirement scares you then this offers a fantastic opportunity to continue to learn and grow personally.

You’re in safe hands

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never volunteered overseas before. VSO provides all volunteers with a comprehensive support package and in-depth training to broaden your understanding of development issues and equip you with the soft skills required to thrive in your overseas community. Costs, including flights, accommodation and medical insurance, is provided and a monthly volunteer allowance is offered. We also have a global medical team who can advise and support you with any health or personal concerns you may have as an older volunteer.

Volunteering offers retired professional with the chance to give back and put their skills to good use.

The time is now

The final reason for volunteering overseas in your later years – if not now, when?  If you’re retired, you are likely in the best position to do so because your time isn’t consumed with the same work commitments, and likely family and financial obligations, as before. This offers more scope to embrace the life-changing experiences and unforgettable memories that volunteering overseas can bring.

Ready to start your volunteer journey?

Find out more about volunteering.


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