Memoirs of a Skilled Volunteer
As I retired I was looking forward to more time to read, travel, craft, visit family, workout, experiment with new recipes, etc. etc. While I was not going to miss the day-to-day grind and stresses of the workplace, I knew that I would miss the people connections, new challenges and sense of accomplishment that also came with the job.
So, I immediately decided to look for volunteer opportunities.
I like variety, but most of my volunteer work builds on my professional skills. My professional titles included home economics and health education teacher, counselor, school-to-work coordinator, and grant writer. Habitat homeowner curriculum development, financial literacy mentor, nonprofit volunteer management trainer, event planner/team leader, are all examples of volunteer positions that have just seemed to be natural fits.
However, it came as quite a surprise to me that the transition to volunteer was not as simple as I had imagined. It was quite a blow to my ego and enthusiasm when I applied to nonprofit organizations and received no reply back. This continues to be a common issue. I also have to admit that I am somewhat picky. I only apply for those opportunities that appeal to my interests and match my skill sets and availability. In other words, I am the average skilled volunteer. I am looking for opportunities that allow me to use my skills and be viewed as a professional, to have flexibility and input. I prefer opportunities that are short-term, time focused, and project specific. I do put considerable time into the volunteer work I do, but much of the time is on my own schedule and frequently from my living room. Recently, travel costs have become an issue, so gas cards and stipends are an additional consideration and incentive .
I’ve gained tremendously from my volunteer work—new friendships, expertise, contacts, and challenges I enjoy. I’ve also gained income as some of my volunteer work has transitioned into consultant work. I am proud to give of my time and skills to help meet needs and solve community problems. I also try to give financially, but generally my donations go to those organizations that use my skills and with which I’ve formed a connection. That also fits the profile of the “average” volunteer .
As a “baby boomer” (no—don’t call me a “senior citizen) life continues to be stimulating, fun, and varied. Right now I need to finish this blog post because my dogs are waiting for their walk and I have a new recipe ready to try for tonight’s dinner. Tomorrow I’m completing a webinar presentation for another nonprofit. I’ll probably work on that as I watch the Today show while wearing yoga pants and a t shirt. Join me-- volunteer!