Wondering how you might contribute when you retire? Here are over 100 options. The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. It is meant to get you thinking. It is meant to help you find something that will make your heart full. It is meant to help you find the most rewarding work of your life.


  1. Help kids learn to read
    1. Volunteer at your local elementary school
    2. Join Reading Partners
    3. Be a Vista Volunteer (America’s domestic Peace Corps)
    4. Start or support Reach Out and Read at your local clinic. (Healthcare providers “prescribe” reading and give kids books.)
  2. Be a Foster Grandparent
  3. Coach or assist at an after-school activity (e.g., sports, chess, gardening, arts)
  4. Lead a club (e.g., Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H)
  5. Mentor a child
  6. Sew school uniforms for children in Haiti through Volunteermatch.org
  7. Help kids learn geography
  8. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister (they really need Big Brothers)
  9. Be a pre-school classroom helper


  1. Help your home-bound neighbors
    1. Offer to pick up groceries when you get yours
    2. Share extras from your garden
    3. When making dinner, prepare an extra plate and deliver it
    4. Plan times to get together
    5. Bake cookies, then deliver a small plate, wrapped with a bow
    6. Do their yardwork
    7. Walk their dog
  2. Deliver Meals on Wheels
  3. Drive people to appointments
  4. Lead exercise classes at a senior center
  5. Help people write their memoirs
  6. Teach art at a senior center


  1. Train Fido to be a therapy dog
  2. Foster a cat or dog
  3. Begin training a service dog for an organization like Can Do Canines
  4. Volunteer at an animal shelter or rehabilitation center
  5. Volunteer for an organization offering horse therapy for children, like We Can Ride
  6. Walk your neighbor’s dog


  1. Write a book to draw attention to an issue
  2. Teach your art (at a school, prison, community center, or to the neighborhood kids)
  3. Be an Artist in Residence at a national park
  4. Volunteer at a community radio or TV station
  5. Join a choir or community band
  6. Start your own band
  7. Play music for people in hospice
  8. Make your art—paint, knit, quilt, embroider, bead, sculpt, carve, weave, whittle, weld—and donate your work for fundraisers
  9. Usher for concerts or plays
  10. Offer your graphic design skills to a nonprofit
  11. Photograph events for nonprofits
  12. Create greeting cards for your local hospital to sell in their gift shop


  1. Grow flowers; every week give bouquets to others who could use the beauty
  2. Grow food; share the excess with food shelves
  3. Become a Master Gardener (offered in many states, here is the Minnesota program)
  4. Become a Master Naturalist (offered in a few states, here is a link to the Minnesota program)
  5. Monitor bird nesting
  6. Teach snowmobile safety
  7. Welcome visitors to state or national parks. Find opportunities at Serviceleader.org
  8. Help maintain the Appalachian Trail
  9. Maintain a neglected cemetery
  10. Pick up trash while on your walk
  11. Volunteer at a public garden, arboretum, or zoo
  12. Find cool stuff to do related to America’s natural and cultural resources at Volunteer.gov
  13. Be a citizen scientist. Collect data on weather, water, birds, insects, etc.
    1. In Minnesota
    2. Worldwide at Earthwatch or listed in Wikipedia
  14. Excavate an archeological site
  15. Help a neighbor with yardwork

Civic Organizations and Issues

  1. Join the League of Women Voters
  2. Join the Lions, Elks, Rotary, or Kiwanis
  3. Work for a political party
  4. Run for office
  5. Join an environmental group
  6. Advocate for a sustainable climate
  7. Work against human trafficking
  8. Serve on a nonprofit board
  9. Start a nonprofit to support something you believe in
  10. Raise money for your library
  11. Be a docent at a museum
  12. Run for your local school board
  13. Join Vista, America’s domestic Peace Corps
  14. Serve on the board of your county’s senior services


  1. Invite a group of friends to help build a Habitat for Humanity home
  2. Repair items for your local furniture donation nonprofit
  3. Collect, repair, and donate used bikes
  4. Maintain canoes and gear for Wilderness Inquiry
  5. Buy a fixer upper, redo it, sell it, donate some or all of the profit


  1. Share your expertise with small businesses through SCORE
  2. Start a business that gives away proceeds, like:
    1. Finnegans beer
    2. Tom’s shoes
    3. Thistle Farms
  3. Help a nonprofit with fundraising, branding, research
  4. Be a virtual volunteer through Volunteermatch.org


  1. Become a deacon, or spiritual director
  2. Become a contemplative
  3. Places of worship often need volunteers to sing in the choir, usher, teach, make or serve food for funerals, maintain the property.
  4. Places of worship often organize ways to help in the community—working at food shelves, volunteering at hospitals.


  1. Stock your local food shelf
  2. Be a culinary instructor. Teach families how to eat healthy meals on a budget http://www.extension.umn.edu/family/health-and-nutrition/partner-with-us/cooking-matters-mn/volunteer/
  3. Make and offer food samples at your farmers market as a way of introducing people to healthy foods. Contact the market manager.


  1. Take blood pressures at your place of worship
  2. Guide visitors in your local hospital
  3. Volunteer at a free clinic
  4. Walk or run in a charity event
  5. Transport blood for the Red Cross
  6. Volunteer for National Senior Games (Senior Olympics) events
  7. Start a pickle ball (or hiking, biking, bowling, etc.) club
  8. Be a coach (or official or trainer) for Special Olympics
  9. Work to stop the stigma of mental illness through NAMI


  1. Drive your RV to a Habitat for Humanity build site
  2. Help conserve pink dolphin in the Amazon with Earthwatch
  3. Work on an organic farm through Wwoof
  4. Take volunteer vacation. There are lots of organizations that plan these, including Global Volunteers
  5. Join Peace Corps Response. Not ready to commit to the two years required by Peace Corps?  Peace Corps Response connects experienced professionals with shorter-term projects.
  6. Join the Global Health Service Partnership to address the shortage of health care providers
  7. Are you an executive? Check out The International Executives Service Corps (IESC)
  8. Attorney? International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP)
  9. Skilled in finance and economics? Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC)
  10. Skilled in farming, agribusiness, community development? ACDI/VOCA and CNFA
  11. An engineer? Engineers Without Borders USA, EWB-USA


  1. Chat with people online to help them learn English through Volunteermatch.org
  2. Help an adult learn to read
  3. Help immigrants learn English as a second language (ESL)
  4. Go back to school, learn something new, share that
  5. Serve on a Native American reservation
  6. Try to bring out the best in each person you meet
  7. Smile
  8. Help newcomers assimilate
  9. Give a caregiver a break
  10. Be a volunteer tax guide through AARP
  11. Document local history by recording interviews
  12. Reenact history for your local history center
  13. Help maintain a nonprofit’s website
  14. Do office work for your favorite nonprofit
  15. Volunteer to continue doing a part of your job that you love
  16. Mentor someone in prison or the child of someone in prison
  17. Help run a book sale for your local library
  18. Coordinate volunteers for your favorite organization
  19. Be a bell ringer for the Salvation Army


There are thousands of things to do when you retire. What will you do?

I’m not affiliated with any of these organizations, so do your homework. Guidestar.org and GreatNonprofits.org are good places to find out more about particular organizations.