Geri Stengel

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Affordable High-quality Professionals Available to Non Profits, If You Know Where to Look

What if you, as a non profit executive, could hire a financial executive with years of solid experience to set up a financial reporting system including budgets, audits, bookkeeping, and year-end financial statements?

For $15 per hour.

Or a professional graphic designer experienced in brand development, from logo design to newsletter development? Or someone to plan your information technology upgrade, with networking and software plans? Or a grant writer to find new revenue?

For $15 per hour.

non profit leader, innovative, social responsibility, non profit executive, capacity building, baby boomers, retireesImpossible? No, it is very possible.

Jack Rosenthal, a retired Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and editor at the New York Times and president of the New York Times Foundation, has set up an organization called ReServe, aimed at those who want to serve again – baby-boomers are not the retiring kind – and non profits that need professional services.

ReServe interviews, screens, and matches retirees with projects at non profits to make sure that the retiree can do the job and that the job offers a challenge. No stuffing envelopes or filing for these folks.

As one retiree said of his pre-ReServe search for meaningful volunteer work, he was only offered busy work that was boring or ignored his business expertise, “I felt like a trainee again … I found an entrenched group of agencies that did not accept the skills that I could provide for them."

What a waste!

For its partner organizations, ReServe provides access to a pool of trained professionals, ready to hit the ground running. They include journalists, graphic designers, financial consultants, attorneys, and HR professionals: just the people for whom non profits get little, if any funding.

It's not the solution to the craziness of non profit funding that I discussed in my October 20th blog, Non Profit Funding Standards Undermine Non profits, but it can be a big help.

To make sure that retirees are viewed as part of the team and that the non profit has a serious commitment to the project, the non profit pays a $15-per-hour stipend to the retiree.

The retiree works no more than 20 hours per week; some work less. So for about $1,200 per month, the non profits get experienced employees. The retirees – called a ReServists by the in-crowd – get income to offset their incredible-shrinking-IRAs, as well as the feeling that they are using their skills for a good cause.

Some of the jobs are limited-term projects: needs assessments or designing a logo. Others are ongoing: co-coordinating volunteers or creating and editing a newsletter.

This is a novel idea. Other organizations, such as Taproot Foundation, solicit pro bono work from currently employed professionals on behalf of non profits to whom they give "service grants." But ReServe is aimed at the already retired and that wave of baby boomers who just reached "the new 40."

It's a great idea but, with all due respect to Mr. Rosenthal, it has a few glitches, the most glaring being that there is no time limit on the ReServist's contract with the non profit. It can go on for years, which means it could be replacing a market-rate job.

Or it could be used by strapped executive directors to avoid hiring – or to even fire – market-rate staff.

The concept is great but I'd like to see it more project-oriented: A maximum of 2, maybe 3 years, to get that financial system in place or the website up. Then the job should become a market-rate position, with the Reservist given an opportunity to apply.

Have you come up with a way to tap the pool of retiree talent? Has your organization used the professional skills of retirees successfully or has it been a bad experience? Do you have projects that could use an experienced, inexpensive hand?