Many prospective retirees picture themselves leaving a paying job and using their free time as a volunteer. But finding a volunteer position suitable for a retiree may not be as easy as we anticipate.
Retirees are not alone in their desire to help others. Some 62.8 million Americans volunteered a median of 52 hours in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual hours spent on volunteer activities ranged from a low of 40 hours for the 16 to 34 age group to a high of 96 hours among volunteers age 65 and over. Given these statistics, don’t assume that your ideal volunteer position is waiting for you to fill it. Before targeting a volunteer position, consider some of the practical aspects.
Ask yourself why you are volunteering. Without that self-knowledge, you may have difficulty finding a position that fits your volunteer goals. We all have different volunteer motivations, which can include giving back to the community, improving your own life circumstances, making new friends, or simply adding new meaning to your life.
Seek a volunteer job that you will you be good at it. Do you have skills or experience suited for the position? Will you be able to function inside a particular volunteer organization and structure? Do you have empathy for others? Without honest answers to these questions, both you and the volunteer organization may be disappointed.
Will your commitment match the need? When selecting a volunteer position, be certain that the intensity, hours per week required, and duration of the work is suitable for the time you are able to give. While you are retired, you may not want a full-time job as a volunteer.
A good place to start looking for a suitable volunteer gig is to ask your friends and colleagues in your community. You can expand your search using Internet sites that act as clearing houses for volunteer opportunities. Here are some organizations that can help you find volunteer activities.
- The federal government sponsors and operates Serve.gov, which features a volunteer opportunity search engine using interests and location.
- VolunteerMatch is a non-profit service that allows you to search for volunteer positions by location and keywords.
- Idealist.org is a project of Action Without Borders, a nonprofit founded in 1995 with offices in the United States and Argentina. This is an interactive site where people and organizations can locate opportunities and supporters.
- Points of Light promotes the Hands On Network where you can search for volunteer opportunities, also by location and keyword.
- AmeriCorps is a federally sponsored volunteer organization with a variety of different community outreach programs.
- AARP operates a Create the Good program, including a volunteer search engine for the 50+ crowd.
A well thought out plan and search for a volunteer position that suits your retirement lifestyle and personality will benefit both you and the organization or individuals you are donating your time to.
Mark Patterson is an engineer, patent attorney, baby boomer, and author of The Failsafe Retirement System. He blogs on matters of personal finance and retirement planning at Tough Money Love and Go To Retirement.