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A Boomers’ Guide to Choosing Volunteer Opportunities

The face of volunteerism is changing. Challenging economical conditions, advances in technology, and boomers approaching retirement age are major influences on how non-profit organizations operate differently than in the past. There are many more people seeking help from service organizations, but there are also many more people who are volunteering.

These and other social trends inspired by boomers, such as the green awareness movement and flexible work schedules, are spurring the non-profit community to respond in pioneering ways. However, some boomers are finding that not all non-profits are ready for their services. The resources below can help boomers make informed choices about their encore careers as volunteers.

Today’s Volunteer

According to a five-year study by the Taproot Foundation, Corporate Baby Boomers and Volunteerism (PDF), there is an overlap in two demographics – baby boomers and corporate employees – that is defining a new kind of volunteer. These Corporate Baby Boomers (CBBs):


  • Consider service as a core value to be acted on continually
  • Seek clearly-defined and well managed volunteer opportunities
  • Want to see a good match between what an organization needs and how their unique skills and experience can help
  • Need opportunities that can be flexible and easily integrated into their schedules
  • Have an abundance of transferable skills in management, communications, and leadership


While certainly not all those retiring are corporate employees, many can relate to the above criteria as they consider entering the service industry. Boomers are expressing a strong desire to launch a new chapter in their lives that involves measurable social contribution. The kinds of contributions, though, vary greatly.

Today’s Volunteering Opportunities

As they consider volunteering post-retirement, most boomers want choices. They may consider very different kinds of experiences to be enriching:


  • Being part of far-reaching positive change
  • Keeping some kind of structure in their lives that gets them out of the house
  • Continuing work they’re good at but in ways that they find more rewarding
  • Simply giving back to their local community
  • Acting as their own “boss” or starting their own organization
  • Contributing online or in person
  • Feeling needed and purposeful
  • Working behind the scenes or directly with people in need
  • Pitching in occasionally when the call arises
  • Being part of a group or helping people one-on-one


Skills-Based Volunteering

A new kind of opportunity for volunteers is Skills-Based Volunteering (SBV), where expertise is offered for free to non-profits that need help to grow or maintain their services. It can also be called pro bono work or free consulting. Particularly appealing to entrepreneurs, this is a way to further develop expertise while giving back. For example, SCORE is a national network of business professionals (many retired) who volunteer their time to offer free advice to small business owners.

Corporations can also offer pro bono work to non-profits as a way of one organization helping another. Boomers who are looking to have extensive impact can propose SBV programs (like that of Deloitte) to their employers and other companies, or consider including an SBV program within their own business.

More information about Skills-Based Volunteering can be found on these sites:



Education and Certification

In order to hone their professions toward social good, and secure the kind of volunteer position that they prefer, prospective volunteers can pursue the Volunteer Leadership Certificate Program through HandsOn University Online, a partnership between HandsOn Network and the University of Phoenix.

College-level educational programs in Social Entrepreneurship and academic projects in social good can further equip boomers for an encore career in making a difference. The Taproot Foundation maintains a list of these kinds of programs.

Fields of Service

Formal and informal opportunities for volunteer service can be found or created in virtually any area of society. General categories include:


  • Working with animals and in the field of ecology
  • Protecting the environment and providing nature education
  • Contributing through civic service and community-based organizations
  • Promoting or participating in the arts and cultural activities
  • Teaching and inspiring
  • Implementing and supporting technology
  • Providing health care and human services
  • Educating about and providing public safety and disaster preparedness
  • Mentoring and leading children and youth
  • Working with seniors and the disabled
  • Providing relief and recovery in disasters
  • Participating globally through international service


Finding Specific Volunteering Opportunities

Those looking for available opportunities can check out the following websites:



This guest post was written by Ellen Berry. Ellen writes about a variety of college and career topics for braintrack.com and has contributed expert career planning advice to the website.