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Specific skills run the gamut from coaching to mentoring, web design, writing and accounting. “Volunteering can be a stepping stone to other opportunities,” said Betsy Werley, director of network expansion at, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people over 50 make a social impact, and former executive director of The Transition Network, a national group for women over 50 in transition.

Your goal might be to land a paid position at a nonprofit or to use the volunteering time to ramp up your skills and knowledge so you can ultimately launch your own social enterprise.

Just ask Barbara Bradley Hagerty, author of the great new book about midlife, , and a former NPR correspondent.

When Hagerty and I attended the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging’s Purposeful Aging Summit in Los Angeles last week, she brazenly told the participants that when she took her golden-yellow lab mix Sandra Day to a nearby hospital volunteering to visit patients, “I found it utterly boring and difficult.

The board work has offered me intellectual engagement, makes me feel my expertise is valued and has an impact on the organization at some level. They were: serve on one of the local group’s committees; obtain speakers or create a program; manage the group’s presence on the umbrella organization’s website; volunteer at the group’s community service events and speak one-on-one to young alums looking for career guidance. Check out websites geared to skill-based volunteering.

A few excellent ones where you can find appropriate nonprofit opportunities: Volunteer,,, (for professionals), and Taproot (for pro bono work).

The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time.

I’ve been a member of two alumni boards: one at my high school, Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, and the other at Duke University. I quickly received an email from the one of the Forum leaders with a list of five suggestions that could be useful for you in volunteering with an alumni group locally, too.

“If you are new to volunteering, look at it as dating,” said Werley.

“You’re not getting married to the organization.” Kerry Hannon has covered personal finance, retirement and careers for The New York Times, Forbes, Money, U. News & World Report and USA Today, among other publications.

has a searchable map that shows encore programs around the country.

Typically, you can filter through prospective volunteering assignments based on a cause, what you’re good at and time commitment.

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