Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some good organizations or websites for locating interesting volunteer opportunities? I’ve been doing some volunteer work since I retired last year, but most of the jobs I’ve tried haven’t been very fun or satisfying.
For many retirees, finding a volunteer opportunity that meets your interests, utilizes your talents and fits your availability can be challenging. To help you find some interesting and satisfying volunteer opportunities, here are some tips and online tools that can help you search.
Volunteering is a great way for retirees to make a positive contribution to their community and stay actively engaged, not to mention it’s good for your health too. But how can you find the right opportunity for you? Start by asking yourself some basic questions like: What types of organizations or activities are you interested in? What kind of skills can you offer a volunteer organization? How much time are you willing to give? What do you want to gain from your experience (for example, meet new people, learn new skills, help those in need, exposure to a particular issue)?
Once you get a general idea of what you’d like to do, there are dozens of volunteer websites that can help you search for different opportunities in your area and virtually.
Most sites work like search engines that let you choose an area of interest and type in your ZIP code or city and state. The sites will then give you a list of opportunities that you can check into. Depending on your interest and expertise, here are some top websites to help you get started.
General volunteer sites
To find a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in your community that serve causes like children, animals, seniors, education, health, the arts and more check out sites like VolunteerMatch.org, Engage.PointsofLight.org, IdeaList.org and UnitedWay.org.
Retired volunteer sites
If you’re interested in opportunities targeting older adults and retirees, some good options include AARP’s CreateTheGood.org, along with AmeriCorps Seniors (AmeriCorps.gov/serve/americorps-seniors), which matches retirees with community projects and organizations that need experienced volunteer help.
AmeriCorps Seniors offers three different programs: RSVP, which has a variety of volunteer activities with flexible time commitments; the Senior Companion Program that brings together volunteers with homebound seniors who have difficulty with day-to-day living tasks; and the Foster Grandparent Program that matchers volunteers with kids in the community that have exceptional needs.
Niche volunteer sites
There are also a number of niche websites to help you look for specific types of volunteer opportunities in your area. For example, to find natural and cultural volunteer opportunities in places like national and state parks, see Volunteer.gov. If you’re interested in emergency preparedness and disaster response volunteer services, try Ready.gov or RedCross.org. If you have a knack for construction or have an interest in learning about interior design, see Habitat.org. Or, if you’re interested in longer-term volunteer opportunities check out AmeriCorps.gov and PeaceCorps.gov/50plus, which offers three-month to two-year programs in the U.S and abroad.
Professional volunteer sites
If you have expertise in areas like business planning and development, marketing, communications, finance, fundraising, web and graphic design, or writing and editing there are sites like Catchafire.org and TaprootPlus.org that can link you to volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations in need. Or you can help entrepreneurs and small business owners through the SCORE.org volunteer mentoring program.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.