Study, Awards: Nonprofits Can Gain by Tapping Older Boomers

Article excerpt

Nonprofit organizations "are seriously lagging behind the government and private sectors in efforts to both retain highly skilled potential retirees within their organizations and actively recruit older hires from other industry sectors," stated Jill Casner-Lotto, author of a new report from The Conference Board titled "Boomers Are Ready for Nonprofits, But Are Nonprofits Ready for Them?"

The study was released in conjunction with the announcement of the first BreakThrough Awards, which recognized 10 nonprofits using innovative methods to employ people age 50 or older in meaningful public-interest jobs. The winners included such best practice models as Cleveland's Older Workers Leading Success program, which recruits older adults to work in settings from offices to the zoo, and Miami's Rainbow Intergenerational Child Care Program, a project of the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County.


According to the report from The Conference Board-a global research and business membership organization best known for tracking consumer confidence-a large number of boomers currently working in the private sector say they hope, in their later years, to move to the nonprofit sector, "where they can use their experience and skills in social-purpose work."

Casner-Lotto explained, though, that the desire among boomers to make purposeful social contributions comes at a time when "nonprofits could be hard hit by talent shortages exacerbated by the large cohort of baby boomers soon entering the retirement years." Nonprofits and government agencies could tap into diverse talent pools and recruit their own mature workers for experienced leaders, staff and volunteers. "But action is needed now," Casner-Lotto said.

She expressed concern that nonprofits have not invested significantly in their human resource management, instead putting their limited resources toward their mission. In addition, many funders restrict their support to specific programs or services rather than funding broader human-resource development. "This under-investment in managing talent has led to some of the challenges nonprofits now face in terms of staffing, leadership and succession," Casner-Lotto said. For example, few nonprofit organizations have developed flexible work options to meet boomer preferences.

Many nonprofits, particularly the smaller and midsize ones, "lack the bench strength or staffing depth, as well as the time and money, to develop younger leaders coming up in the organization," says the report. "While growth in the nonprofit sector is outpacing growth in the rest of the economy, talent shortages are already affecting critical service sectors, including healthcare and social services, in which nonprofits are heavily represented," Casner-Lotto emphasized. …