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Passion Meets Purpose: 6 tips on volunteering in retirement

Retirement is a time of transition, a period where individuals have the freedom to explore new passions and contribute to the community in meaningful ways. Volunteering is an excellent opportunity for retirees to stay engaged, make a positive impact, and maintain a sense of purpose in their post-career lives.

On July 25, we were joined by 3 Hively members as part of a panel on “Finding volunteering opportunities in retirement” who found rewarding volunteering opportunities during their retirement and discussed key tips and advice for others seeking similar endeavors. Tony G., a non-fiction writer and public policy specialist with experience on Capitol Hill and an Embassy, has rewarding experience in tutoring/mentoring children in low-income parts of Washington, DC.

Candace L., a former School Principal, has been actively contributing to the community by baking cakes for children in foster care via For Goodness Cakes and tutoring English to students in Ukraine via ENGin Program.

Tony B., a former Social Worker, dedicated his time working part-time and volunteering at Yellowstone National Park last year, embracing the chance to work and live in the great outdoors.


1. Harmonize Volunteering with Personal Values and Skill Sets

All three retirees stressed aligning volunteer work with personal values and skill sets. Candace found her calling through VolunteerMatch, a platform that connects volunteers with organizations seeking their specific skills and interests. She united her baking passion with aiding foster children through For Goodness Cakes, and leveraging her experience as a School Principal to tutor English. Tony B's love for national parks led him to Xanterra’s "Helping Hands'' at Yellowstone National Park. Writer Tony G saw potential in improving writing proficiency amongst children in need. By syncing with their values and talents, they found deeply rewarding experiences.

2. Set a Goal for Yourself as Well!

Understanding one's motivation for volunteering is crucial to maintaining a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Candace's goal was to avoid isolation during retirement by engaging in regular activities, while Tony G aimed to connect tutoring with long-term writing proficiency. Tony B. knew he wanted to spend time outdoors. These clear intentions guided their path to well-suited opportunities.

3. Look and Listen for Where the Need Is

Tony G. was driven by a desire to help where there was a genuine need, particularly in the field of education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Tony G. started out by tutoring children to improve writing skills, he discovered that mentorship was perhaps the most important need among the children he was working with. As a result, he adjusted his focus to mentoring, seeing the significant impact it had on young lives. For Candace, her involvement with ENGin was timely as the war in Ukraine broke out. She quickly seized the opportunity to make an impact. Tony B. learned that National Parks are always looking for volunteers around the summer-time when college students leave to go back home.

4. Start Slow and Local

You may have the urge to jump right into a full-time volunteering opportunity post-retirement, but Candace underlines a gradual start. Avoid committing to a specific organization for the first 6-7 months of retirement. Settle in, establish your routine in this new chapter, and take time to identify the most appealing opportunities. Tony G. suggests exploring local organizations in your interest area before bigger commitments. For example, Tony B dipped into environmental volunteering with Green Newton before committing to an extended opportunity at Yellowstone National Park.

5. Treat Finding Volunteering Opportunities Like a Job Hunt

You’ll find that volunteer positioning often mimics job hunts. Candace prepped for interviews, and Tony G. updated his resume to a “functional resume” highlighting specific skillsets. Tony B. emphasized the need to follow up and show that you're genuinely interested. If you submit an application, also reach out to the HR department of the organization (if there is one) and start talking to people.

6. Balancing Volunteering with Retirement is Essential

While volunteering fuels, it also consumes energy. Tony B highlighted the importance of managing energy levels while maintaining a balanced schedule. Tony G. explained that it may feel overwhelming at first with all the time available and the seemingly endless ways you can contribute, but it's important to take your time finding the right fit. Candace agreed, and her advice was to do one thing a day.

The experiences of our panelists, Tony G., Candace L., and Tony B., shed light on some key considerations volunteering in retirement. Now, it's your turn. Have you considered how your values and skills could contribute to your community? What are your aspirations for retirement and volunteering? As you embark on this journey, we hope the insights shared here can serve as valuable guideposts in finding the perfect fit for your retirement volunteering path!


We also learned a great deal from the other participants in the discussion who shared various resources and opportunities. Explore a few of the highlights below - for more ideas, take a look at our full knowledge base!

Volunteering for children/students

Online job boards to explore part-time opportunities

Volunteer for government affiliated organizations

Volunteer for scientific/medical research as participants

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