Boomer volunteers – Frustration for former execs

The business and nonprofits worlds are about to collide, Fortune magazine reports in its August 14 issue.

As successful Baby Boomers begin to retire, many are turning to volunteerism. In 1998, 48 percent of Americans 55 and older volunteered, according to Independent Sector, a trade group that tracks nonprofits.

Yet many new retirees, after careers as successful captains of industry, are encountering difficulty finding a niche in volunteerism, Fortune says.

High-powered executives often have a hard time adjusting to the limited resources and bureaucratic nature of most nonprofits.

Many successful business people who opt to volunteer see themselves filling roles like those they held in the for-profit world. They seek positions on boards of directors or as consultants, and often are put off because they end up performing hands-on tasks with little exposure to management, Fortune says.

Many retirees are so disconcerted with their volunteer assignments that they stop volunteering altogether.

Nonprofits often have difficulty adjusting to their new volunteers as well.  With higher-level already filled, nonprofits need the kind of help that many successful retirees find to be drudgery, the magazine says.

Organization leaders resent the attitude that what they do is simple and not something that requires a lot experience.

“Nonprofits do not need a Bill Gates to walk through their doors,” says Megan Work, a field manager for the Seattle office of Youth for Understanding International Exchange. “Many of these executives have grandiose ideas of their own skills, and they just end up causing trouble.”

Many volunteers do work out. Retirees are fulfilled by their efforts and are happy to make a difference in work they believe to be far more rewarding than in the corporate world.

For volunteerism to make the most retiring Boomers, Fortune reports, nonprofits must make the most of their skills and successful retirees must be willing to get down into the trenches. 

For full story, go to Fortune.

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