Giving Back – Volunteering in Retirement: What is Appropriate Over 50, Over 60?

Will Volunteering Involve Tasks That I Want To Do?

Sure we can all give back by volunteering for some worthy cause, but more often than not the tasks are not something we want to do.  Volunteering can become something we hate and all our good intentions go down the toilet.  Why are we given cleaning and washing up tasks?  Why do we have to sit in an empty hallway directing very few people to a doorway on the next floor?  Were we given ‘age appropriate’ tasks or are these jobs the only volunteer work they offer?  Maybe these are welcome tasks to some, but for me, they are torturous and I won’t last five minutes doing them.  I want to leave the physical type work to those younger and/or to those who like doing these things.  For me, I want volunteering activities that will let me use my brain, and my professional experience.   I knew I had to figure out how to do this.  So far nothing I’d been offered, at a number of charities here in Thailand and in Canada, were task that I wanted to do.

Find an Organization You Believe In And Want To Support

I love cats.  All my life I’ve loved cats, why I’ve even called this Website and Blog the Happy Cat, I live at Happy Cat Villa Omm and I’ve always had a cat.  Volunteering for an organization that involves cats is something that is absolutely perfect for me.  Here on Koh Lanta there is an animal rescue centre called Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW).  They provide a sterilization clinic and animal rescue service.  I visited the centre and was thrilled with the wonderful work they do.  I remember, before LAW was here, the terrible condition of the animals on the island.  It was completely over-populated with cats and dogs, most of which were sick, starving and injured.  Now things are very different as the cat and dog populations are being controlled through sterilization, and there is somewhere to bring sick and injured animals.  The centre is very popular on the island with Trip Advisor putting it as the 1# attraction on Koh Lanta and in the top ten attractions in Thailand.

I very much wanted to help LAW by volunteering in some way that would help them, as well as find something I would continue to do.  I tried to figure out how I could best help them based on my professional background in business consulting.  I visited the centre again and observed the operations with a critical eye, like I would have done in my professional career.  I saw a lack of attention to the many visitors, especially the opportunity cost of many missed donations.  I also saw a lot of scrambling as the volunteers running the centre where overworked and very tired with all the tasks required each day.   With my background in business, the offered tasks of walking dogs, cleaning cages or sweeping leaves were a waste of my abilities and tasks that I did not want to do. But these were the only volunteering tasks they were offering.  I could clearly see they needed serious financial advice, strategic planning and major fundraising initiatives.  I decided I had to do something.  As I’m not shy nor afraid of my abilities, and very much wanting the help, I met with the founder of LAW.  I discussed my observations, made recommendations and suggested how I could help LAW.  She was very appreciative of my offer and told me that she was in desperate need for financial advice and strategic direction.  That I had come to LAW at the right time!  My goodness!

My Volunteering is Successfully Contributing to the Organization

That was a little over a year ago and a lot has happened since them.  I’m very involved with the financial planning and reporting at the centre.  I’ve designed many spreadsheets that are used for recording and tracking expenses, donations, adoptions and volunteers.  I helped them hold a Run/Walk for the Animals at Christmas time when the island was bursting with tourists, which has now become an annual event with the 2nd one scheduled for this coming December 27th.  I’ve revamped how they handle the thousands of tourists that visit each year, with the creation of a hosting job to welcome visitors, a small shop to sell LAW merchandize, and the necessary refrigerator for selling cold water and soft drinks.  I know I have made a substantial contribution to LAW and I feel fabulous about my efforts.

And I’m making cat bookmarks.  Surprisingly making the bookmarks is my favourite way to give back.  My goal is to donate $1,000 CDN to the centre through the sale of the bookmarks.  They are sold for 100 Thai Batt each in the small shop, which means I need to make 275 of them.  I’ve already made about 100, with over 60 sold in the 2 months that I’ve been doing them.  It’s low season now and there are few tourists on the island.  Once we are into November there will be close to a thousand visitor the centre and growing each month through the winter.  I’m sure I’ll reach my 275 goal by mid-winter.  Will I continue making them once I reach my goal?  Right now I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll have to find something new to do, and get another goal.

It is odd that with all the good work I’ve done involving organizing the centre’s finances, putting in place plans for growth over the next few years, and organizing the shop and hosting activities, my favourite and most satisfying effort is crocheting cat bookmarks.  I do enjoy the work I do regarding the financial side of the centre; it is definitely intellectually and emotional satisfying.  I’m using my professional expertise, exercising my brain and seeing excellent results.  However, while I do enjoy this work, I love making the cat bookmarks.  You see I love to crochet and I love cats – it just makes sense!  If I had to give up all that I do, except one thing, I’d continue making the bookmarks, even though this would not be the best option for LAW.  But that’s not a decision I have to make.  I am happy to continue making my 275 cat bookmarks as well as thrilled in my role as a financial advisor.

We Need To Do Something We Enjoy When Volunteering

I think doing something we enjoy is of critical importance when volunteering. We need to do something we enjoy.  This will keep us at it, doing the work and making the effort.  If we don’t enjoy it, we won’t do it for long.  Volunteering isn’t easy.  Often the volunteering activities are not up to us, it’s what the organization needs.  Most large charities are very well organized with all jobs and task identified and work distributed accordingly to the staff and volunteers.  It isn’t often that an outsider can go in and make suggestions.  But you can try.

Approach an organization that you want to help and suggest that you review some area of their operations based on your background and knowledge.  Make sure that it won’t be any bother for them, that you won’t cause them any extra time nor work.  Do your analysis and assess what you find.  Prepare a presentation of your findings and provide it to them, in person or in a report (or both).

Do you have any recommendations for them?  Is there anything you can do, utilizing your professional expertise, to help them?  And, is there anything you can do that you would love to do?  It is entirely possible that while your assessment identifies many areas that can be improved, you aren’t interested in those volunteering tasks.  This is perfectly okay.  Your assessment itself has contributed to the organization and you’ve used your expertise to help them.  Maybe at the end of all this, you’d really like to make lunches, or bake some pies every Sunday.  It’s all good!  You’re volunteering and doing something you want to do.  This isn’t rocket science at all – since you like what you are doing, you’ll continue to do it.

It Is Important To Determine Your Best Volunteering Activities – 2 Questions to Ask Yourself

To sum this all up, to find success in volunteering in retirement and/or over 60, ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What organization do I want to help? and then ask:
  2. What would I enjoy doing for them?

Take your time to answer the first question.  You may have a list of organizations that you’d like to work with. This is super.  For each organization, figure out how you can best help them?  Assess their operations, their marketing or another area based on your expertise.  Figure out what they need from volunteering.  Does what you enjoy doing align with what they need?  Find an organization that works best with how you want to help.  If one doesn’t work out, try another, there are so many charities in need of help.  Most importantly, don’t get suck volunteering for an organization that you may like, but doing something you don’t enjoy.   You need to both like the organization, and enjoy your volunteering, for successful volunteering.

It’s all good!




2 thoughts on “Giving Back – Volunteering in Retirement: What is Appropriate Over 50, Over 60?

  1. I like the idea of not limiting yourself to existing volunteer opportunities. You identified a need and set out to fill it! Congrats on all the good work so far and yet to come.

  2. Well, Congratulations in doing something you like for the benefit of Cats.
    In Ottawa, the Ottawa Humane society does the work. But many folk, like yourself, come up with their own way to help the animals. Now, Maybe you could suggest the book mark crochet thing to the Ottawa Humane society. I am sure they would sell like crazy!!! I myself do not crochet . I am too busy at this time taking care of my Alzeimer mom, but maybe later i can learn to crochet by having someone teach me. I will see about this this winter season.

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