After a decade of severe austerity measures and cuts in spending on public services, volunteers are the ones in our country that keep the libraries open and maintain public gardens. Yet despite an ever-growing need for citizens to lend their private time to a good cause, the number of volunteers in the UK has stagnated since the turn of the century.
What really astonishes me, however, is the distributional shift in the various age groups among volunteers. Whereas the number of volunteers below the age of 45 has increased in the last years, the share of people between the ages of 55-64 has dropped by 7%. How come that particular people in their fabulous fifties have evidentially ceased to stop supporting good causes?
Find what you’re passionate about
I am a big proponent of volunteer work. Not only does it do a whole lot of good for our communities, but it also has a beneficial effect on the person giving their time. In fact, I know quite a few people whose volunteer efforts had a much bigger impact on them than they had ever imagined. Supporting others and doing something meaningful that is appreciated makes us feel good about ourselves and gives us a sense of purpose.
Although I applaud anyone who gets involved in some good cause, I especially consider the ages between 55 and 64 to be an ideal time to formally volunteer. First of all, that’s because you are most likely still employed and can lend your professional and life experience to the cause. Secondly, starting a project or joining one before you retire can soften the harsh and abrupt watershed which is often perceived by new retirees when their work routine is lost.
There are various ways in which to get involved, yet for many people, getting started seems to be the hardest part of all. If you’re one of those people, I hope I can give you some incentive here.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
Whatever you do and wherever you do it, it is imperative that you pick an issue that is close to your heart. Whether it’s working with teenagers, assisting the elderly or helping animals or the environment – you should get on board with whatever you feel compelled to do and have an honest interest in. If you are hesitant about which cause to pick, you can go to do-it.org and search their database for local volunteer opportunities in your area. Your nearest church can also be a good point of reference.
Join an existing cause
Not everyone will be guided by a burning passion that leads them directly to their personal choice of issue, and that’s totally fine. In fact, most people start out in some form and grow into it progressively. Or they may find that their time and efforts are better served elsewhere and decide to help in other ways. To start out, I’d therefore recommend joining an already existing cause you can identify with and test the waters.
Give yourself some time to figure out the extent of your personal involvement. Don’t force yourself to take on too much too soon and end up feeling overwhelmed. It is also crucial that you allow yourself some time to find the right role for you. You don’t have to be on the forefront of the cause – every kind of work within a club or organisation is important and appreciated.
If you have the time and energy to connect your volunteer work with travel, there are wonderful opportunities abroad to help out people in need. Read up on it here to find out what to consider and how to get happening.
Start your own club
Let’s say you are very serious and committed to an issue which isn’t covered by any organisation in your area? So start your own! There are plenty of ways to do it, but I’d recommend you to go about it step-by-step and consult various guidebooks or helpful websites that give you all the essentials.
Once the framework is set in place, the most important task is to recruit new members and attract sponsors. Get the word out and raise awareness for your cause! How? Start printing a club magazine or brochures through companies such as print24 in order to inform existing and potential members about your organisational activities, or organise fundraising events.
Too much? Start small and slow
If all of the above feels too much for you at this point, don’t scold yourself. You don’t have to formally sign up to a good cause in order to help others and do good, let alone start your own charity. Your help is certainly needed and appreciated, no matter how much or how little you are able to give. Ask your family and friends if you can help them out in some way, or contact your local church to see if you can volunteer from time to time in the community.
What’s most important is that we simply do it and not shy away from opportunities because we feel too busy, too inexperienced or too lazy. People our age have much to give and a lot to gain by helping out others in need. Let’s get on board today!