Nearly 35 per cent of all Kiwis volunteer their time through an organisation or group1, with over 45 per cent of older adults aged 65-85+ participating in a volunteering activity.2 That’s not surprising: Retirees not only have more free time to serve their communities, but also have a lifetime of skills and knowledge to share.
For those new to volunteering, there are many reasons and some great benefits to giving your time.
The most common reason people give for volunteering is a desire to contribute to a good cause or to make a lasting impact in their community. Volunteering one’s time can feel more tangible than donating money or items. Working “on the ground” for a cause and seeing the results of your labour can be a satisfying and joyful experience.
Retirees may seek volunteer opportunities that give them a chance to develop an existing skill or knowledge. Expertise once used on the job can become stale if not regularly exercised. Volunteering can give retirees a chance to resharpen these skills. It can also be a great way to learn a new skill or gain expertise in a new area.
Meeting new people is another perk of volunteering. Lifelong friendships often begin by bonding over a shared passion or activity. Volunteers already have a shared interest in the organisation they work with or causes they support. This can be a springboard to building new friendships with people of different backgrounds and from other areas of the community.
Finally, volunteering can be good for your health! People who volunteer often experience an increase in happiness as a result of their altruism.3 Volunteering has also been shown to improve mental health and help extend one’s life.4
Finding a perfect match
Now that you’ve decided to volunteer your time, start researching organisations or activities that fit your interests and schedule. A good way to start is to list any charities, groups or causes that you admire. This can narrow down your search and help insure you find an experience you enjoy. Finding a volunteer role that suits your schedule can be easy. Charities often recruit for a single event, but plenty are looking for short- and long-term volunteers as well.
Many organisations list open volunteer roles on their website. Other sites, such as Volunteering NZ, SEEK Volunteer and Skills for Change, list open positions for multiple charities, much like a job search site. You may also want to update your CV. Roles requiring special skills or expertise will usually ask prospective volunteers to apply with a resume and references.
Ways to volunteer in your community
If you’ve searched the internet and still haven’t found the right role for you, try creating one! There are lots of ways you can get involved in your local community:
- Organise a clothing, food or toy drive
- Read to children at your local library, school or hospital
- Coach a local youth team
- Tutor students
- Prepare and serve meals to housebound people
However you choose to volunteer, giving back to your community can be rewarding. There’s always someone who could use a little help and you may just be the right person to get the job done!
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1. Department of Internal Affairs, Quarterly Volunteering and Donating Indicators
2. Stats.govt.nz, 2013 Census QuickStats about people aged 65 and over
3. ResearchGate, Volunteering predicts happiness among older Maori and non-Maori in New Zealand
4. Aging & Mental Health, Volunteering and Health: What Impact Does It Really Have?