The Art of Retirement…Finding the right volunteer fit

We began our three-part series about volunteering last month by considering the personal benefits of volunteering for the volunteer. They included benefits to your mental and physical health, opportunities for social connection, adding structure to your routine and feelings of accomplishment and contribution.
In this issue, we will explore ways to discover what types of volunteer activities might be the best fits for you. What level of involvement do you seek?
What are your motivations? What roles appeal to you? What causes and populations inspire you?
And finally, in September, I plan to share information about specific volunteer activities in our own area. If you are an agency or organization seeking volunteers, please email me at with information you would like me to share about your opportunities and who to contact for more information. Thanks!
First, what level of involvement do you envision? Ask yourself how much time you want to commit. Define your availability. Do you prefer to work on a specific project (like a fund-raising event) or prefer to show up each week at a particular time to help? Sometimes it is best to start small. You can always expand but cutting back is often harder.
Next, examine your motivations. Here is a list of some of the reasons people volunteer. Which ones apply best to you?

  1. Be engaged.
  2. Have fun
  3. Feel needed
  4. Socialize with people who share my interests and values
  5. Give structure to my day/week
  6. Stimulate my mind
  7. Have meaning in my life
  8. Feel productive
  9. Be part of a team
  10. Develop new skills
  11. Help others
  12. Remain healthy and active
    Then consider, what roles appeal to you? You may be drawn to contribute in way that leverages your past experience, or you may want to stretch and try something completely different. Even if you don’t know what you want, you probably have a good idea of what you don’t want. Which of these roles appeal the most to you?
  13. Direct service: working directly with those in need
  14. Advocacy: speaking out for those in need
  15. Teaching/coaching/mentoring
  16. Shaping policy
  17. Fund-raising
  18. Taking a leadership role
  19. Program design and management
  20. Communications/Marketing

Take time to consider who you want to help. What organizations share your interests and ideals? What groups or causes inspire you? Here is a partial list just to get you started: working with children, improving literacy, assisting senior citizens, supporting healthcare causes, protecting the environment, building trails or working in community gardens, registering people to vote, helping to feed hungry families, building homes for the homeless, volunteering in a hospital, staffing charitable events, or caring for animals in local shelters. Putting all these pieces together will help you find the right volunteer setting for you. This bit of self-examination can help assure that you are spending your valuable time doing something fun and worthwhile. Stay tuned next month for a list of specific opportunities in our area.

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