Retired execs offer services to nonprofits

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — The board of directors of The ARC of Orange County attended a retreat last year to help focus their priorities.

And the board of the Animal Protection Society of Orange County has received training on its fundraising and governance strategies.

Providing those services have been volunteer consultants from a pool of roughly 25 retired executives whose jobs ranged from chief financial officer for AT&T and partner at KPMG to vice president of marketing at Kraft Foods, trust officer at Wachovia and chief financial officer at the University of Maine.

Those retired executives volunteer for the Executive Service Corps of the Triangle, one of roughly 25 affiliates of the Executive Service Corps of America Network.

“Nonprofits are run like businesses, and some people involved in nonprofits don’t have the background for that,” Bowers says, who adds her organization works with smaller nonprofits “that don’t have the manpower or financial resources to carry out their mission.”

Formed in the late 1980s, the Triangle group works with roughly 40 nonprofit clients a year, at least 75 percent of which are repeat clients, says Mary Ellen Bowers, who chairs the group’s board and serves as one of its consultants.

While the consultants work for free, she says, the group charges a fee to its nonprofit clients to offset the cost of maintaining a part-time staff and an office it rents on the campus of Duke University.

With an annual budget of $40,000, more than half of which covers salaries for a part-time executive director and part-time office assistant, the group generates $20,000 to $25,000 a year in fees, says Bowers, retired senior vice president for education services at the American Advertising Federation in Washington, D.C., and former executive director of its foundation.

The group’s services include board retreats, strategic planning, one-on-one coaching with executive directors, in-depth financial reviews, brief financial diagnostic reviews and organizational assessments, a new program.

That new program, funded by the John Rex Endowment in Raleigh, assesses a nonprofit board’s effectiveness, including its strategy, structure, human resources and financial management.

And the group is seeking funding to launch a new program that would match volunteers with nonprofits that need board members, and provide board training.

“We know a lot of nonprofits struggle with board issues, staff issues, fundraising issues, operational issues,” Bowers says. “We can help them and they can afford us. We offer scholarships, costs are low, and we’re highly trained professionals.”

For information, call Trudy Smith, executive director, at 919.681.3536, or visit

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