Volunteering in Retirement

There is no shortage of opportunities for those inclined to provide their time and effort for volunteering. These opportunities exist at every nonprofit organization for both retirees and younger generations.

Define opportunities

The first step is to work out what motivates you, what you want to do and when you will be available to do it.

Define your passion. Do a self-assessment to identify the causes or organizations that particularly interest and move you. Maybe it is the arts or health research or protecting the environment or helping the handicapped or working with children. Ask yourself, if money were not a factor, “What would I like to be doing all day?” It may not be an easy question to answer, as we rarely allow ourselves the luxury of even thinking along those lines.

Assess the type of work you might like to pursue. You may prefer using the skills you have already honed in your professional life. For example, an accountant could contribute by serving on the finance committee of a nonprofit. Alternatively, you may be more tempted to learn entirely new skills, such as developing your interpersonal or communication talents. Do you tend to see the big picture from a strategic point of view? Consider taking on a leadership role.

Don’t forget other benefits of giving back — to yourself. There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself while doing good. If you are a fan of the performing arts, you could serve your local concert hall by becoming an usher, while getting the chance to hear live performances.

You will still need to address your individual schedule. Be realistic about how much time you can give to volunteering. Many retirees take on part-time roles after they exit their full-time careers. Take into account all your commitments as well as any limitations, such as being uncomfortable with night driving.

Finding the right role

Most organizations offer different types of roles and structures for volunteering.

  • Boards. Some boards are very engaged and become involved in all elements of strategy and execution, while others maintain a more advisory role of support and counsel, leaving primary execution to the staff of the organization. Some meet monthly, others only a couple of times per year. Volunteers should discuss with the nonprofit the commitments involved in advance.
  • Committee work. If an organization holds an annual event or fundraiser, a lot of planning goes into the execution. For capital campaigns, a strong fundraising presence in the community or a marketing background could be a big plus.
  • In the trenches. Would you rather work one-on-one with people or fill a seat on a board? Many volunteers gain the most satisfaction from working directly with people. For example, Junior Achievement is a nonprofit initiative designed to teach young people about free enterprise and economics. JA also utilizes volunteers to teach programs to students in classrooms.

Take stock of resources

Resources like United Way offices and Points of Light volunteer centers can be found in every community. The former typically focuses on health and human services, while the latter offers a gamut of opportunities.

It is easy to research opportunities online using sites like VolunteerMatch and ISACA Engage. You might start by searching according to your areas of interest and geographical location. Such sites often provide everything you need, including a detailed description of an organization, contact information and even the amount of time you can expect to commit.

Another avenue is to join an established group, such as a local Rotary or Kiwanis Club or the AARP. Becoming a member of a group with a social component adds yet another fulfilling reward.

Your financial planner and other advisers may be able to help you match your individual skills and interests with a particular volunteer group. They can also help you explore how to allocate your time between retirement activities and volunteering commitments.

Reach out to Roz Carothers and her team at Triplett & Carothers to learn more.