Thinking differently about volunteering in retirement

By Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant

As we prepare for retirement, it’s not uncommon to wonder about how to meaningfully contribute to the people and community around us. It’s about being community-minded and having the opportunity to impart knowledge and expertise to those who may benefit from it.

One of the first things that come to mind when we think about serving our community is volunteering. So what does (and can!) volunteering look like?



I know that one of the first options that springs to mind for so many people when the word ‘volunteering’ is mentioned is ‘Meals on Wheels’. Without a doubt this is a wonderful cause and an invaluable services which enables so many older people to remain independent and in their own home, but I also acknowledge that there are many who dismiss it as an option because it doesn’t seem too exciting – often because it’s what their mother did and her mother before her. And they want to break the mould!

So if it’s not Meals on Wheels, what else can volunteering look like? If, during your career you have amassed great skills, experience and expertise and the question that you may now have is ‘how can I contribute to my community in a more interesting way or in a way that best utilises my skills’?

The great thing is that there are so many ways to volunteer your time and effort, you just need to challenge the traditional notions of what volunteering looks like. Rather than suggesting specific causes, the following shares three different approaches to volunteering. I hope the ideas below get you thinking!

Become a board member of a local not-for-profit

Diversity is a hot topic for the not-for-profit sector at the moment and by that I mean that organisations are working to ensure that those making their strategic decisions accurately reflect the demographics of those they represent. In the past, not-for-profit boards have often comprised incredibly well intended but not always sufficiently qualified people. The research also shows that the the composition has been heavily weighted towards men. With the right skills and experience, this could be an opportunity for you! Thinking about a cause that is close to youconsider - do you fit their target group, do you have experience in working in the governance, strategic or grant and funding space, or are you an expert in their field? There could be an opportunity to approach a not-for-profit and seek election to their board. Worried that you don’t know enough about governance and the role of board members – there is training available and you can do an online search to learn more.

Volunteering your skill set

Similarly, when we think about volunteer work, we automatically think about transaction tasks like preparing meals or answering phone calls. What about if you could put your specific skill set to good use – e.g. offering your marketing skills to promote the cause, your financial skills for book keeping purposes, HR skills advising on their staff and volunteer policies and procedures? Find a cause close to your heart and approach them to see how you might be able to contribute.

A lady I worked with was a nurse and was a member of the hospital team that received the first patient ever to be transported by one of the Australian emergency response helicopter services back in the day. In retirement she is going to be a tour guide at one of their airport bases! How cool is that?!


Event based volunteering

If the idea of volunteering every Tuesday makes you squirm and feel locked in, have you ever thought about event-based volunteering? Rather than a week in-week out contribution, a burst of activity for a couple of months might appeal to you more. What this would mean is that after a flurry of activity,  the rest of the year is yours to take off and travel or do whatever you choose. This is something that my neighbour does – she volunteers for the Noosa Long Weekend Festival.


Volunteering is a fantastic way to stay connected to the people and world around you in retirement. If you are considering a retirement that involves volunteering, take the time to reflect on your skills, experience, expertise and passion and identify a cause that may most benefit from your contribution and in a manner that suits you and your lifestyle. The best match may not be with the first not-for-profit you approach and so don’t be afraid tocontact a number of causes, explore the volunteering opportunities available and find the right fit for you. It’s out there waiting for you to seize it!

In planning for a holiday we always think “we need to go there” and “we should see that” but when Day One of our holiday arrives, we draw a blank…What were all of those things we were going to enjoy? In the busyness of life they’ve slipped our mind.

Don’t let this happen to your retirement. Download the My Retirement Planner and start capturing those ideas and inspiration so that you’re ready to step into retirement with gusto!

Source: volunteering-in-retirement