My job is more than your retirement plan

I take my job seriously.  I have worked hard to advance my career in nonprofit management.  I love what I do, but I also work hard at what I do.

Over the past few weeks I have had a number of people come up to me and say something along the lines of “When I retire, I want to do your job,” or “When I finish my years at XYZ company and retire, it would be fun to run a nonprofit, don’t you think I’d be great at it?” or the worst… “Your job would be the perfect job for me when I retire.”

What??? Do you think I play shuffleboard all day?  Do you think that because I get a lower paycheck than many private sector jobs, I actually work less hours?  Or, do you think it takes no prior training or skill development to lead a nonprofit?

I am not the only one who is recognizing the interest baby boomers are having in nonprofit work.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted a recent survey that stated 12 million baby boomers want to start a nonprofit or social oriented business in the next 10 years.

Curious about these comments I’ve been receiving, and the large number of baby boomers who want to start nonprofits, I have been pondering as to what might be igniting this interest in encore careers in nonprofit management:

  1. Clueless:  Perhaps some are clueless on the time, talent and dedication it takes to succeed in nonprofit management.  Maybe it is a result of not having any intimate involvement with the financial, fundraising or reporting at nonprofits?
  2. Miserable:  Maybe they see how much I do love my job, and what they mean to say is “I am miserable in my job; you seem to always be happy with your work; maybe when I retire I can find something that makes me happy and I enjoy.”
  3. Do-good:  Perhaps after years working in their current jobs and not having the opportunity to see the difference they are making, or the lives they are changing, they have an interest in taking on a job that they can do-good and help others.

Regardless of the reason, I do admire the interest individuals have in wanting to get involved in nonprofit organizations during their golden years.  But, at the same time, I am a bit leery when someone thinks they have what it takes to run a nonprofit, without ever having experience working at a nonprofit or ever taking on a lead volunteer role with a nonprofit.

One way to get involved with nonprofit organizations during your retirement years is to volunteer at local nonprofit organizations.  There are fabulous organizations like RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) that offer volunteer opportunities specifically for senior citizens to get involved and volunteer in their community.

If baby boomers are interested in an encore career in nonprofit management, I encourage them to start preparing for the new career in advance.  It is not rocket science to lead a nonprofit, but it does take some preparation and planning to be well positioned to lead nonprofit organizations.  Here are some steps to take:

So, if you think my job would be perfect for you when you retire, I encourage you to volunteer at various nonprofit organizations and start expanding your nonprofit management skills, so you are ready to tackle to exciting life of nonprofit management…. both the joy and the hard work that it takes to lead a nonprofit organization.

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
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7 Responses to My job is more than your retirement plan

  1. jamie osborne says:

    I couldn’t have said it better Sarah! Thanks for putting this out there. My Facebook status just this week was “Yes it is a real job!” The hard work is worth it! But you make it look easy! Keep up the great work!

  2. Marjorie says:

    This Drives. Me. Nuts! These are also, almost exclusively, the same people who won’t ask for a dime on behalf of the agency.
    I get equally twitchy about sales people who think that fundraising is the same thing, thus can lead our Development department.

    • Marjorie, you are very correct about sales people making the jump to fundraising. Yes, both involve building relationships, but in very different ways. Good to know that this drives you nuts, too… just know you aren’t alone!

  3. Wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing this. I worked for over 10 years for a nonprofit. After that, 20+ years at various universities (also nonprofit … hey, it was the State). Your post reminded of modern day poet Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” video. His form is much more graphic, but it also relates to the prejudice and clueless nature of the misperceptions we all seem to encounter all too often.

    • Robert,
      Thanks for the comment! Checked out the youtube video – He does an awesome job with delivery of the message and making the point. Thanks so much for sharing it, very much enjoyed!

  4. Pingback: Getting Hired: Back to Basics | Sarah W Mackey

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