One of my happy memories early on in my career was working with a volunteer while I was at Homeless Solutions. She was a whirlwind of energy and in her role as my Administrative Assistant, she kept me organized and focused. She was a role model of professionalism and dedication to the mission. It so happened that she was around 85 years young at the time. Without volunteers like her, our fledgeling organization might have never gotten off the ground.
Not surprisingly, I have seen many of the best and brightest staff and volunteers within the charitable sector coming from the older crowd. Baby boomers are moving into "encore" careers at a growing rate according to a report from the Met Life Foundation entitled Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey. The New York Times has also noted the trend in a recent article (click here). Charities should seize the opportunity to take advantage of this trend.
As discussed previously on this blog, attracting and retaining good employees is frequently a challenge for charities. However, this “new” pool of workers may be able to help solve this long standing problem. Many of these individuals are either unwilling or financially unable to stay at home. So instead of working as greeters at Wal-Mart, they decide to do something that will satisfy their desire to make a difference while bringing in some extra cash, and perhaps some decent benefits. As a result, they are turning to the charity sector to seek out such opportunities, with positive results for the organizations and workers alike.
These individuals come equipped with significant real-world experience, proven skills, and perhaps most importantly, a determination to work. Frequently, they’ve already proven themselves in previous careers, so at least some of them can put their egos aside and are willing to do whatever it takes for the organization to be successful. Of course there is much to be said for employees who build their careers in public charities, but there is room for all types of people in our organizations. In the face of limited financial and talent resources, this is a win-win strategy for a charity to have access to more experienced talent without paying top dollar for it. And if the economy continues on this trend, there may be more and more retirement age workers who find they can no longer afford to retire, leading to even larger numbers of encore career seekers in the future. If your plan for an "encore" career includes volunteering your talents with a charity, then be sure to check out our Guide To Volunteering.
Note: The catalyst for this week's blog is my colleague Emily Navarro. Emily wrote a good portion of this entry and located the survey from the Met Life Foundation. She is not just a good writer, but a thoughtful person in general. Thanks!