By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., Executive Director, Colony Retirement Homes
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Fred Rogers
You worked so hard to get to the point of retiring. Wrapping up all those loose ends at work was exhausting! Maybe you took some time off, maybe you had a big trip in mind, or maybe you tried being a snowbird. But now you are wondering what is next. How are you supposed to fill your days? What do you do now that you don’t have to do anything? Evidence suggests that volunteering is a good choice, but what if I don’t want to walk dogs or I’m not part of a church?
There are as many ways to volunteer as there are people. One option is to help guide nonprofit organizations forward by serving on a board of directors. This idea probably sounds daunting to many people, particularly those who don’t realize what they have to offer. Yes, many nonprofits seek out lawyers or bankers. In my tenure, I’ve had several of both. Some were great. Some were ok. I can honestly say none were awful. But you know what trait my best board members share? It isn’t a particular education level or skill set, it is a willingness to help, an ability to listen, and a passion for the mission of the agency.
Nonprofit agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some organizations work with kids or the environment, others promote arts and culture. There are nonprofit banks, clinics, schools, museums, symphonies, trade associations, unions, veteran groups, homeless shelters, and many other kinds of agencies. Each of them has a board of directors. Some have a local board and a national board. Each board needs different skills and talents, and over time, their needs change. For instance, organizations that need to focus on fundraising might need someone who has experience in marketing. An agency contemplating renovations needs people who are in the trades. Chances are good there is a group that needs you and what you can bring to the table.
Many retirees look around either shortly after retirement or after they’ve been out of the workforce for a while. They doubt they have much to offer because their industry has changed so much, or they are not comfortable with technology. Often, that is ok. No one board member can have all the information, that is why a typical board has 10 to 15 members, bringing to the table enough knowledge to help guide the agency’s next step. Worried about your knowledge base? When we are looking for board members, one of the aspects we seek is someone who has ties to the community we serve. Everyone lives in a community. Maybe you have lived in the same house all your life, and maybe you just moved to the area for retirement. Both perspectives can be very important to the right board.
The role of a board is to advise and direct. Most times, there is no expectation of daily involvement. In most organizations, board positions are voluntary. We expect members to commit to attend a monthly meeting for about 2-3 hours. Each board member will usually also have a committee assignment (personnel, finance, buildings and grounds, and nominating). Committees meet as needed, just ask what is expected of you and make sure you are ready for that commitment.
Serving on a board is a win-win for many retirees. The board gets to benefit from your years of experience. You get the satisfaction of making your community a better place to live and you also get to keep your mind sharp in the process.
This year, make time, make a difference. Volunteer!