Volunteering: Good for the Community, Good for Your Health 

In previous articles, we have addressed the importance and benefits of volunteerism. We’ve provided and still recommend our readers to check out the state’s Volunteer Delaware 50, a resource to match your interests with a local event or organization. 

However, it has been pointed out that finding a good match is not easy. So, how do you find that optimal match? 

Some research on the subject revealed several recommendations. The bottom line seems to be this: do some introspection with yourself first before you commit to something that may turn out to be a disappointment. Here is what we found. 

Know first what it is that you have to offer. Consider that carefully, and what it is that you want to share.  

Then consider your purpose. Perhaps it is that you want to share your compassion for a particular cause that may have affected you in the past. Maybe it is a skill, or maybe you simply want to meet new like-minded people, or both. Volunteerism should be enjoyed in retirement. You deserve it. 

Be realistic about your availability. Before you overcommit – a common reason for volunteer burnout – decide first and make it clear to the organization how much time you are willing to spend each week or month. And be clear about your flexibility or lack thereof. 

In addition to your purpose, it is recommended that you think about your motive. In other words, consider whether it is a local organization you want to support now that you live in Delaware, or maybe it’s volunteering for a national grassroots cause.  

Also consider the road less traveled when you conjure up an image of volunteerism. Maybe you’d like to establish or become a leader within your alumni association. Or get involved with a committee or special interest group within your neighborhood or congregation. 

The next step is then to reach out. Find out more before you choose. Like window shopping first. 

There is a multitude of resources available on the internet. Here are a few: 

Volunteermatch.org, a giant in the volunteer world where you can (as its name implies) find a good match for your inspiration. 

Idealist.org provides an extensive listing of volunteer positions, and you can filter the search by local, regional, national, etc.  

TapRootPlus.org places skilled workers or retirees with nonprofits on a pro bono basis. 

Serve.gov is the “senior” division of AmeriCorps. You may be surprised at the variety of volunteer opportunities this behemoth organization has. 

When you’ve narrowed your list of potentials, request an interview so you can be clear about your intentions and learn more about the expectations your organization has of its volunteers. This point seems to be stressed quite emphatically by experts on volunteerism. 

Finally, commit with caution. As Betsy Werley of volunteer-driven Encore.org suggests, “If you are new to volunteering, look at it as dating. You’re not getting married to the organization.” 

Most of all, make it worth your while, and someone else’s smile. 

Bridget FitzPatrick 

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