SPECIAL SECTION: Boomers working with non-profits

More skilled Boomers than skilled volunteer jobs in Canada

Virginia Edelstein of Volunteer Vancouver explains that there is shortage of the kind of volunteer roles which skilled people are looking for:


CESO is one of several Canadian organization that recruits skilled and experienced volunteers, many of them retired, to place them in development projects abroad, or in projects in native communities in Canada.

Nicole Gold manages CESO's database of over 2,500 skilled people who have put their names forward to be assigned to a project, and regrets that three quarters of them don't get an assignment in a given year:


Late career transition to non-profits

Lynne Toupin is the Executive Director of the HR council for the Non-Profit Sector in Canada, which has just completed a study that interviewed over 5,000 experienced older workers on their interest in transitioning to work in the non-profit sector as an "encore career":

The study found that most respondents were not aware of the possibility of a late career job in the non-profit sector, but most expressed an interest in the idea, especially those closer to retirement from their current career. Lynne recommends that interested "transitioners" keep a close watch of opportunities on the Charity Village web site, which is a leading employment site in the non-profit sector.

Based on her experience in the non-profit sector, Lynne expects that many non-profits are not ready to consider hiring older and more experienced people, and may be reluctant to provide the flexible work / part time positions which would be attractive to "transitioners". She expects those attitudes will change over time.



Opportunities for non-profits:

How to Recruit skilled volunteers

Within Canada, non-profit organizations have evolved volunteer management procedures based on the traditional view of a volunteer as people who handle routine duties, and volunteer centres are accustomed to the function of finding volunteers to fill those roles.

Some pilot projects have started to examine what needs to change to create a demand for skilled volunteers, and how the role of volunteer centres should be redefined:

At Volunteer Calgary, Cheryl Humphrey says that their pilot project demonstrated the need for non-profit organizations to assess all their human resources -- paid and volunteer -- in relation to their strategic plan, to understand where gaps exist between what they need to do and the people they have available to do it. This identifies gaps that could be filled by skilled volunteers:

Note: Cheryl describes how to go about finding a challenging volunteer role in your own community in the Volunteering Close to Home page.


Virginia Edelstein outlines how Volunteer Vancouver has learned that skilled volunteers are more attracted to projects with a definite time-line, similar to a consulting assignment rather than an ongoing job. She also found that organizations who have well established HR practices are more able to attract, motivate and retain skilled volunteers:


Renaissance 50Plus is a pilot project which the Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa undertook to learn how to attract and retain skilled "boomer" volunteers to support their operations. David Newman and Dan Dubeau describe what they learned.

David Newman, a member of the project's advisory council, reminds us that Boomers are the most educated generation to retire, and that volunteer based organizations have to entice them with challenging roles, which means changing their concept of where volunteers fit into the hierarchy of the organization.

Dan Dubeau, coordinator of this project, says that they learned that agencies that want to recruit volunteers need to be proactive in making better offers to these volunteers:
Experienced and skilled volunteers of this generation want to do more than just contribute their time. They want to work in an efficient environment, they do not want to waste their time, they want to learn on the job, and they want to see results. To cater to these people, he suggests organizations consider handling the administrative paperwork for them, offering them a parking spot, being flexible about scheduling their time, finding out what additional skills they have to offer, considering them for contract work when outsourcing jobs, and letting them see the impact of their work.

Renaissance 50Plus has posted the reports and toolkits that this project produced on their web site.


REACH is an organization in London, England that supports the voluntary sector by recruiting volunteers with business, management, technical and professional career experience and placing these skilled people in non profit organizations that need their help. They work closely with organizations and volunteers to find the best possible fit between skills, interests, expectations and needs.

REACH was founded in 1979 by Nick Crace, a businessman who wanted to create more opportunities for retired professionals to use their skills and experience to help worthwhile causes.

On any given day there are over 5000 REACH volunteers working and contributing the equivalent of some 28 million pounds of expertise annually.

Reach volunteers must be based in the UK.

Chief Executive Sarah King describes how many of the organizations who approach them are looking for alternative ways of doing some piece of work. Reach is no very well known in the non-profit sector, but when organizations hear about them, some will quickly get in contact for help. Reach started serving only retiree volunteers, but expanded to professionals of all ages. Most people are attracted to Reach by the kinds of assignments which allow them to use their skills in a non-profit setting. Some of them are reluctant at the outset, because they need to see how their skills can be relevant in a non-profit situation. Reach tends to match volunteers to a short term role for their first assignment, and when they come back for their next assignment, invite them to take on a bigger job...

Five minute summary video:

22 minute detailed video: