10 Steps to Finding the Best Volunteer Opportunities in Retirement

Thinking about finding the best volunteer opportunities in retirement?  Looking for a new direction after starting retirement and leaving a career can be difficult.  Seniors considering a new volunteer opportunity will find that it's a great way to get out into your community, give back and keep in step with the current social scene.  It's important to determine what you want to do.

I started a new volunteer position this year at my local senior center helping seniors with housing issues.  It hopefully fills a need that I noticed and is something I developed and presented to the director of programs there.  I hope to build it into a worthwhile community service.  But right now, I'm just having a good time meeting with seniors and helping them to solve their current housing problems.  I'm sharing with you here part of the process that I went through to find my volunteer opportunity.

To start, it helps have a specific purpose by asking yourself what role are you seeking and what do you want to do.  Here are 10 steps to follow that will lead you to finding your best volunteer opportunities:

1--What to look for: What are your strengths and what do you like to do that can be applied to the task? People skills, organizational skills, management and other jobs that are broadly appreciated are the place to start your list. Many organizations don’t require experience and skills specific to their work because they can train their volunteers.

2--What to avoid: What aspect of your previous career or life do you want to avoid. Don’t repeat past experiences that made you miserable, even if you are well qualified. Look to other venues that will open new doors to doing new things, rather than repeating old habits.

3--How long to do it: Do you want a long term ongoing job or a short term one with a goal and deadline? Some volunteer positions are year round, others are seasonal. Jobs with a big goal and deadline may be self-contained and terminate when the job is complete. Decide how often you can volunteer and how long you want to do it.

4--Who will you work with: do you want to work alone, with a team or as a leader? Usually volunteers have a supervisor, but sometimes there is a need for the volunteer to work alone towards a goal on ongoing process to assist the organization. Are you seeking a social environment with others or are you satisfied working alone?

5--What type of group or organization do you want to work for? Below is a list that groups opportunities by types to help you determine what areas you are seeking to volunteer for. Will you help someone or a group learn something new, assist with a goal, lead a tour, start a new project, organize a fund raiser, recruit people, make phone calls, greet people, work in the back to help with a project, serve or prepare meals, deliver meals, or work at a front desk to answer questions?  Start to fine-tune your search:

Ages you want to work with: infants, children, adults, seniors

People in need: people with health issues, stay-at-homes, families, workers, learning disabilities, literacy, rehab facility, health clinic, homeless

Organizations: museums, schools, animal shelters, arts programs, music programs, historical groups/tours, regional parks, tourists

Community: parks, housing, hospitals, chamber of commerce, preschools, grammar schools, high schools, colleges, sports, recreational facility, disaster prep, police volunteer, scouts, church, day care, elder care, senior centers

After going over this list, what organizations in your community offer the volunteer opportunity you want? Naming the top five organizations will help you to focus on your best match. Some organizations do not have a volunteer group, but could use one. Would you able to start a volunteer position from scratch? Consider making a proposal to that group stating in detail what you can offer them as a volunteer, being specific about your hours and job description.

6--What I can contribute? List your strengths that will be helpful in volunteering. What hobbies and previous experience can you apply?  Make the most of your past and build upon that when you look to volunteer. Emphasize this when you make your introductions.

7--Do I need training? Where can I get training for this position? Who can help me get started? Some organizations have training sessions that require extensive time and dedication, others do not. Try to find out what sort of training your chosen area requires. If you can, learn more about how the organization operates so that you have a good understanding of how they work and contribute to the community.

8--Who do I know doing this volunteer work? What advice can they give me? Try to start your search with a contact that can help you meet the right people. Sometimes an organization may have a volunteer contact listed on their web site, but often it’s nice to meet a volunteer first if you can.

9--Finally, polish off your list by deciding how many hours per week or month and what days you are free to volunteer. Also limit your locations by knowing how far you will drive.

10--One good way to get started is to contact your friends and family. If you think a group email would help, here is a sample to use when you start looking for a volunteer position.

 Hi Family and Friends, 

As most of you know, I recently retired from my long term career and am looking to begin volunteer work in the area of (what are you looking for). I am contacting all of you in hopes of finding an opening or training opportunity. It would be great if you’ll keep me and mind and let me know when you hear of anything. I would also appreciate referrals to people who might help me make a good volunteer connection. 

My Volunteer Goals: I would love to work in the area of (what do you want to do) at (list organizations). My best strengths for this are (what can you contribute and what you are best at). My hobbies and interests that relate to my volunteer goals are (what makes you a good candidate) 

My Qualifications: I am retired from (where did you work) between (dates for beginning and end). My work emphasized (what did you do best). During that time I (describe your responsibilities). I also worked between (dates) at (where) doing (describe your job). 

I would appreciate any help you may have for me as I make this exciting change in my life. If you know someone who may be able to help me find this position, please feel free to forward this email to them. Thank you for being part of my family and friends network. (be sure to include your phone and email)

With this self study and information finding exercise, you are sure to find a great new volunteer position where your time, energy and talents will be an asset.