From working in an animal shelter or in a food kitchen, to becoming a docent or tour guide in a museum, volunteering likely means something different to just about everyone. Making the decision to volunteer in your retirement years might be easy, but what about the type of volunteer work you’ll do?
Here are five tips to help you find your ideal volunteering gig:
Decide where and how you want to make a difference.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, it’s important to put yourself first. What interests you? What are you passionate about? A big incentive for many people, and what keeps them coming back, is what they get from the volunteer work. Look for a volunteer opportunity that lets you discover and learn as much as possible about your passions. This will help position you to seek out organizations that fit your interests.
Know what you have to offer.
Many organizations welcome volunteers with no specific skills as long as they’re willing and open-minded and ready to get the job done. However, nonprofits are also seeking individuals who can help them in specific areas, like fundraising, public relations, event planning, finances and other areas. When you reach out to an organization of interest, mention the skills you’ve honed throughout your career. But don’t tie yourself to your past work experiences. Perhaps you’ve spent your life teaching children but you’re ready to tackle a new challenge, say building homes with Habitat for Humanity. Find a way to mesh your experience and strengths with a new challenge to avoid any burnout.
Get your feet wet through short stints — maybe an hour a week reading to preschoolers or a few hours a week at the food pantry. Even short experiences can be just as meaningful as a long-term commitment. Figure out what interests and fulfills you before committing to something that’s long term.
Consider your availability.
Being a volunteer is a commitment. So, before you get started, consider how many hours you’re available each week or month. Some organizations are looking for individuals who can help out full-time, others maybe just a few hours a month. If it’s going to be too time consuming, you’ll be at a high risk of burnout.
Don’t forget taxes.
Did you know your volunteer efforts can help out at tax time? You can’t deduct anything for the cost of your donated time, but you can generally deduct the out-of-pocket costs for your volunteer efforts. Be sure to keep accurate records of what you spend.
Volunteering is a great way for retirees to make a positive contribution in their community and stay actively engaged. Once you’ve thought through some of the above tips and have a general idea of what you’d like to do, there are dozens of volunteer websites that can help you search for opportunities in your area. The federal government operates Serve.gov, which provides an overview and an opportunity finder. The AARP can also help match retirees with its Create the Good program.
Retirement is your time to live life the way you’ve always imagined and however you choose to give back to your community, your Farm Bureau agent will be there to keep your retirement strategy on track.