A step-by-step plan for finding good fits for you.
Have you ever volunteered?
I meet with a lot of recent retirees who are passionate about their charity work. In fact, it inspires me to hear about the joy it brings them.
So who’s volunteering, and why?
First, retirement has evolved. Baby Boomers are seeing to that. And by “evolved” I mean the people we advise day-in-and-day-out very much want to retire and maintain the diversity of experiences that they enjoyed while working.
It’s not about slowing down so much as it’s about having options and pursuing goals.
And because today’s retirees are seeking ever-more creative ways to spend their time and stay active, a lot of people demand that a healthy dose of volunteerism be a part of their post-career equation.
Volunteering Can Cure What Ails You
You’ll often hear this from me, but retirement is full of both big and small adjustments that may not always be easy. I wish it could be a seamless and smooth transition for everyone, but once you stop working it may take a year or even three to find a comfortable pace.
In that vein, it’s definitely been my experience that many of the people who adjust to retirement the fastest are people who volunteer.
And why not? There’s certainly a lot to like about it. That’s because volunteering can:
- Get you out of the house
- Expand your social circle
- Teach you new skills
- Put you in touch with different generations
- Offer an antidote for loneliness
- Require you to be physically active
- And, it can improve the existence of the people you serve
In short, volunteering adds meaning and purpose to life.
One thing that I’ve learned is that it can be a bit difficult to get started. Meaning, if you don’t organize and narrow down the search for your ideal volunteer fit, you could find yourself hitting some walls.
You don’t need that. Want to organize and streamline the process? Here’s what you can do.
First, decide what type of volunteer opportunity you want.
Let’s say you’re at or near retirement. You’ve saved well, so you don’t necessarily have to work (though working at something you’ve always wanted to try could be a big part of this).
To begin searching for the ideal volunteer fit, emphasize what you want to get out it.
That’s right. While you should be commended for wanting to give back, you may quickly burn out if you rush into a situation that isn’t a good fit for your skills and temperament. Choose something you’ll enjoy, not something that’s going to send you home at the end of the day feeling defeated or frustrated.
So, what appeals to you? Do you want to:
- Guide children?
- Serve as a tutor?
- Coach or referee sports?
- Visit with patients in hospice?
- Mentor young professionals?
- Help people who are down on their luck?
- Adopt a beach or park?
- Work as a docent in a museum or botanical garden?
Are the wheels beginning to turn?
Second, decide how much time (and energy) you have to give.
Hours per week. Obviously, there are no shortages of people or nonprofits that are in need. But I still recommend that you initially create a “hard” cap for the number of hours you’re willing to offer. 5-10 tops. Err on the conservative side. You can always add more later.
It’s very common to get excited about something this important and end up over-extending yourself. That’s because being a world beater and a doer are traits many of us admire. (To a point, that is.)
Just remember, being Superman takes a toll. Throughout life, our careers constantly stressed our balance. But retirement is your chance to reclaim that ground and create the healthy balance we all desire.
Third, finding the ideal place to volunteer.
Sometimes, easiest works best. You may live near an elementary school that will welcome you with open arms. You may have a charity you’ve donated goods (or even cash) to for years.
But if you’re looking for an entirely new experience, or you want to gain entrance into a world that you just can’t seem to find the door to, here are some tried and true websites that should help get you on your way.
Websites for volunteer opportunities: 
- Serve.gov (The federal government operates this one.)
- AllforGood.org (Provides resources in every area.)
- Volunteermatch.org (Sophisticated site with 120,000 opportunities.)
- Animalhumanesociety.org (For the animal lover in all of us.)
- The AARP’s Create the Good Program (aarp.org/giving-back/)
There are almost as many useful sites as there are opportunities. And, the best part is, they’ve all gotten more user-friendly just over the last few years.