Volunteering is something a lot of retirees participate in all over the country. Food banks, companionship, mentoring youth, sports coaching, delivery of meals, the list is extensive. Many retirees go into volunteering with little or no real assessment as to what they’re really best suited for, or how their work life skills might transfer to this new and potentially rewarding endeavor. The desire to help others is great, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to get involved in most communities around the country. Heaven knows there’s a lot of need out there. But like any worthwhile undertaking, you should do a little homework before jumping in. The perception or expectations you have about volunteering may not match up with the reality. The last thing you want is to end up feeling burnt out, or guilty about discontinuing something you’re really not enjoying or deriving a sense of accomplishment from.
Rather than go into a situation with no real parameters or personal goals, it might be a good idea to set some realistic expectations with the entity you’re volunteering for. Ask probing questions. Find out what your options are, what time commitments are required, what are the responsibilities, how it fits with your strengths, etc.
A great way to avoid a bad fit for you is by asking yourself what’s going on in world that’s bothering you, or is there a cause that has personal relevance, things like an underserved community, an issue that you personally want to do something about. This will help you narrow down potential opportunities.
Robert Laura, a contributor to Forbes conducts Naked Retirement workshops around the country and offers these questions as a good way to find volunteer opportunities that fit you best.
Laura administers a quiz of sorts to volunteer candidates to try and unearth some volunteering perceptions.
It begins with a hypothetical, stated this way “A local organization is in desperate need of help. You’re touched and call to offer one of the following items. Which one are you most likely to provide?
- Money, food and clothing.
- Knowledge and other information
- Personal skill
- Physical labor
According to Laura, “It’s a pretty basic question, but it’s true intent becomes clear when I ask participants why they selected their answer. Typically, most respondents lack any real feeling or oomph. Often times, the answer du jour is, “Well, that’s what I’ve always done,” or “I’ll figure it out when I have more time.” The problem is too many people go into volunteering with only general assumptions or vague thoughts about how their work skills will transfer. They’re fuzzy on how rewarding, or in some cases unfulfilling it can actually be. In fact, not all forms of volunteering are fun, enjoyable or rewarding.” Forbes.
Beyond the personal human dynamics, there are physical, logistical and financial limitations you’ll face. Charites, non-profits, etc. are often underfunded, understaffed and in no time, you can feel like you’re not making the impact you thought you would. This is why setting goals, or limitations, is key to success. Don’t feel like you have to jump in on every task, or put in lots of hours to prove your worth. Every little bit does count, just manage your bits accordingly.
There are many worthwhile organizations and charities that would love to have your help, your experience and your time, just make sure it’s a good fit for you. The rewards can be amazing, the relationships you can create and foster might be some of the best you’ve ever had. The feeling of a shared mission and a clear role you play in that mission can really improve your quality of life. Now the only question is where to put your energy. There are many resources out there to help. A quick google search can net you all the information you might want. Good luck and keep up the good work.