As we transition into the later stages of our careers or step into retirement, many of us seek new avenues to find purpose and fulfilment. Volunteering is a fantastic way to stay active, give back to the community, and find personal satisfaction. But with so many opportunities available, how do you choose the best type of volunteering for you? Here are some strategies and reflective questions to help you find the perfect fit.

Launa Brooks, Chief Officer at Community Action Malvern & District, shares her extensive experience in managing volunteers:

“I have been involved managing volunteers for over 30 years and I have really seen a change in volunteering. In the good old days we would write our role descriptions and try to mould people into those roles. Though there are still many traditional things we need support for such as admin and receptionists here, we appreciate that people bring new skills to the sector and we can diversify and adapt so volunteers feel that their skills are used…as long as that does not take away from our mission or purpose. (We only have so much energy!)

We have also learnt to be flexible around people’s availability, many of our volunteers travel or look after grandchildren too which we adapt around.”

Launa’s insights emphasize the evolving nature of volunteering, highlighting the need for flexibility and the value of diverse skills.

  1. Assess Your Interests and Passions

Volunteering is most fulfilling when it aligns with your interests and passions. Think about what you love doing and how you can apply that to help others.

  • What activities or hobbies have brought you joy throughout your life?
  • Are there causes or issues you feel strongly about?
  • What skills have you developed that you enjoy using?

  1. Consider Your Skills and Experience

Your professional background and life experience are invaluable. Many organizations look for volunteers with specific skills.

  • What professional skills have you acquired that you can share?
  • Do you have experience in leadership, mentoring, or training others?
  • Are there particular fields or industries where you feel most knowledgeable?

  1. Evaluate Your Availability and Energy Levels

It’s important to choose a volunteering role that fits your lifestyle and energy levels. Some opportunities require a regular commitment, while others are more flexible.

  • How much time are you willing to dedicate to volunteering?
  • Do you prefer a structured schedule or something more flexible?
  • What is your energy level like, and how much physical activity are you comfortable with?

  1. Think About the Social Aspect

Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and build social connections, which is especially important as we age.

  • Do you enjoy working in a team or do you prefer solo activities?
  • Are you looking to make new friends or expand your social circle?
  • Would you like to work with people of certain age groups, such as children, peers, or seniors?

  1. Identify Your Desired Impact

Consider the kind of impact you want to make. Different volunteering roles contribute to the community in various ways, from direct service to advocacy.

  • Do you want to see immediate results from your work, or are you comfortable with long-term projects?
  • Are you interested in hands-on activities, or would you prefer behind-the-scenes work?
  • What type of change do you hope to contribute to your community?

  1. Explore Different Types of Volunteering

Here are some common types of volunteering to consider:

  • Direct Service: Working directly with people in need, such as mentoring, tutoring, or providing meals.
  • Advocacy and Awareness: Promoting causes, lobbying for change, or raising awareness about important issues.
  • Administrative Support: Assisting non-profits with office tasks, event planning, or fundraising efforts.
  • Skill-Based Volunteering: Using your professional skills in areas like accounting, legal advice, or IT support.
  • Environmental Volunteering: Participating in conservation efforts, community gardening, or clean-up projects.

The Role of a Trustee

In 2023, there were over 921,000 trustee positions at registered charities in the UK, and Launa Brooks highlights that “…one role we are always keen to promote is that of Trustee, which I think is not fully understood by many. We need professionals to look at what we do, scrutinise and advise, such as HR or financial professionals. So if someone would rather advise than be hands on there is a great role there.”

Samantha Palmer’s role as Volunteering Manager at Community Action Malvern & District is to match people wanting to volunteer with the many varied volunteer opportunities there are across Malvern and surrounding areas. She also believes that many people are unaware that trusteeship is open to them:

“Think of a trustee as being similar to a board member. Trustees oversee the management and administration of charities and community groups, ensuring that the organization’s needs are met, policies are in place, and legal requirements are fulfilled. Most trustees volunteer around 30 hours a year, so it can be an ideal option for those with limited time.”

To learn more about the role of a trustee, visit The Essential Trustee: What You Need to Know, What You Need to Do – GOV.UK.

  1. Test the Waters

Before committing to a long-term volunteering role, try different opportunities to see what feels right. Many organizations offer short-term or one-time volunteer opportunities that can help you get a feel for different roles.

  • What type of volunteering have you enjoyed most in the past?
  • Is there a new area you’re curious to explore?
  • How did different volunteering experiences make you feel?

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right volunteering opportunity can be a transformative experience, providing a sense of purpose and connection. By reflecting on your interests, skills, availability, and desired impact, you can find a role that is both fulfilling and meaningful. Remember, the best type of volunteering is one that resonates with you and enhances your well-being while benefiting others.

Happy volunteering, and may you find the role that brings you joy and fulfilment!

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