People transition into retirement in different ways. Some, like professors and therapists, can gradually cut back on their workload. Others enjoy their retirement party and then choose not to have anything to do with their previous career.

And still others, like myself, hope to take the knowledge and skills we have honed over years of study and experience and find a way to contribute to the larger field.

In a previous article “Finding Purpose in the Encore Years,” I highlighted the human need for a sense of purpose, sharing research that seniors who have meaning in their lives are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life.

I described an organization called Encore.org that partnered with Stanford on the aforementioned research on purpose and runs a fellowship program for people in the 50s, 60s, and older, who are interested in ways to put their experience to use – for the greater good.

For this blog, I interviewed Jim Emerman, Encore.org Vice President, who explained the fellowship model. As Jim pointed out, interested readers can learn about their program and can also do something similar, by employing their individual entrepreneurial skills.

We still have much to contribute with expertise, experience, and the long view we have developed. And, we are in demand!!!

The Encore Fellows Model

The Encore Fellows model brings people who have worked in corporate and other settings into a nonprofit organization.

Some apply for a fellowship because they want to improve their communities and create a better life for fellow citizens. Others feel the need to earn some money to supplement their retirement.

What Encore staff discovered was that many retirees are interested in combining the desire for giving back with a paid role in which they can carry out this desire. Fellows earn up to $25,000 for 1,000 hours of work, usually over the course of one year.

Upon completion, some stay on in a continuing role of some kind – including paid jobs – while others move on, having made a difference with their project.

The Encore Fellows Program began 10 years ago in Silicon Valley where large corporations (beginning with Hewlett Packard and later including Intel) agreed to sponsor fellowships for retirees from their companies to support local nonprofits.

With those initial fellowships, Encore tested the concept and gradually it grew to a nation-wide program, having placed over 2,000 fellows across the United States in 10 years.

Some fellowships are funded by the corporation where the person worked. In other cases, individuals who do not work for participating companies apply and the nonprofit organization puts up the funding.

The model is a win-win for the fellows and for the nonprofits who get the benefit of highly skilled and talented people for a fraction of what these people were making in the for-profit sector.

“Since their inception in 2009, thousands of Encore Fellows have provided over 2 million hours of service, contributing the equivalent of more than $200 million to nonprofit organizations in over 50 metropolitan areas!”

The success of the model depends on identifying a very strategic project that strengthens the organization, but can be fully completed in the year. The goal is to help the nonprofit organization rise to a higher level of performance. Here are some examples of the year-long projects:

  • A former banker worked for the Boys and Girls Club and raised funds for a new building.
  • A retired tech executive helped a school redesign their technology program to make it become an on-ramp for youth entering the tech sector.
  • A person with a marketing background designed a new marketing program for an environmental organization.

Encore Has Developed a Replicable Concept

Recently EncoreFellowsUK.org was launched in London where their statistics indicate that 25% of retirees are returning to the workforce. Also, organizations in Asia, including Singapore and China, as well as France, Spain, and Brazil have visited Encore.org in Silicon Valley to study the model.

If you are in a place with no access to an Encore Fellowship Program, you can do something similar on your own. The idea of Encore was modeled on what many people with an entrepreneurial bent are already doing.

If you are willing to do your own outreach, you can build your own consulting business and find nonprofits looking for your expertise. Many of us have drawn from own careers, turning our knowledge into a consulting business.

I transformed my previous work as an educator, and began consulting, presenting, and publishing. Encore vice president Marci Alboher’s Encore Career Handbook is full of ideas and exercises to get you started on your own Encore Career.

Talent Is in Demand

Bottom line, there is a desperate need for talent in the nonprofit sector in every country. And retirees, like many of us, have the potential to apply talents and passion to contribute.

Ultimately, having more of us seniors contributing in the workforce provides a sense of purpose for us and shows others what they might be missing by not including elders!

How have you continued to contribute in a field where you were once professionally employed? What did you do and how has that worked for you post-retirement? Does Encore Fellowship sound like something you might be interested to do in the course of a year? Please share your thoughts with the community!

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