Nonprofit 411: Untapped: Talented Boomers Ready for Encores at Nonprofits.

By Bruce Frankel, Communications Chair of the Life Planning Network and author of What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life

frankelNo lament is more familiar at nonprofits facing reduced funding support and soaring demands for services than the one that begins, “If only we had money we could hire someone who …”


The encore movement, fueled by a surging number of aging baby boomers rejecting traditional retirement in favor of seeking jobs in which they can make a difference, has the potential to change that. And a growing continuum of organizations in Massachusetts would like nothing better than to help.

Consider ReServe, the latest program trying to help older professionals to find meaningful work at nonprofits and government agencies. Since its launch in Boston three months ago,  ReServe — sponsored by nonprofit JVS locally and thriving in six other U.S. cities  — has been swamped by some 300 eager older professionals looking for meaningful opportunities. Of those 120 with advanced experience in marketing, communications, IT and development and more have been accepted into the program.

There is, however, an obstacle to the encore enthusiasm: finding enough positions at nonprofits. “We can’t keep up with the demand. That is now the challenge,” says Carol Greenfield, ReServe program director.

Hiring Reservists, as they are called, seems like a no-brainer. They are paid $10 an hour plus another $5 an hour to help defray the program’s administrative costs. In turn, they bring knowledge and experience that nonprofits could not otherwise afford — talent that can leverage a modest investment to far greater value. “If nonprofits have a short-term need to get something done and are short on money, this is the way to bring in talent,” says Greenfield.

Operation A.B.L.E.’s Midternships program offers a different model. It helps jobseekers who are underemployed, unemployed trying to re-enter former fields or transition to new ones with a four-week unpaid internship. In exchange for the chance to transfer or refresh skills and test out jobs, employers get the support of potential employees as they try them out without cost or risk.

Two other programs, The Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center and the Mature Worker Program, of Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, serve minority communities. They train unemployed  participants, 55 or over, with in-demand skills. They place them in a variety of community service assignments with a goal that the participants will eventually move to jobs that pay more than minimum wage.

On the purely volunteer side of the spectrum, two venerable programs, SOAR 55 and ESC New England, provide high-level volunteer consulting teams with specialized skills to help nonprofit clients succeed. ESCs volunteer consultants give consulting help each year to some 100 organizations, from start-ups with budgets under $50,000 to established organizations with budgets exceeding $15 million.

SOAR 55, part of a national network of volunteer organizations and locally sponsored by Newton Community Service Center, mobilizes, trains, places and supports people 55 and over to strengthen the capacity of local nonprofit and public organizations. Because its volunteers go through an intensive 62-hour training course, it only accepts individuals who are not looking for full-time paid work.

“These are amazing resources for nonprofits when work needs to get done. Grabbing talented individuals … at no or below-market wages is a real boost for nonprofits,” says Doug Dickson, president of Discovering What’s Next, a nonprofit that provides support for new ways of thinking about life and work after 50.

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Related Organizations and Contacts:

ESC New England, Bethany Kendall, 617-357-5550 info@escne.orgt. 617-357-5550, info@escne.org
Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center, Kun Chang, Tel: 617-357-0226 or 1-800-410-5288, email: info@gbcgac.org
Operation A.B.L.E.  Volunteers and Midternship, Mark Gyurina,617-542-4180, ext. 128
Mature Worker Program, Urban League of Eastern Massachusets, JancQuie Cairo-Williams, 617-442-4519, djcairowilliams@ulem.org
ReServe, Carol Greenfield, ReServe Greater Boston, 617-795-1943, Cgreenfield@jvs-boston.org
Retirementjobs.com, http://www.retirementjobs.com/employers/ – A website linking plus-55 job seekers with age friendly employers.
SOAR 55, Jan Latorre-Stiller, 617-969-5906, ext. 120, jlatorre-stiller@ncscweb.org