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Careers

Ex-Execs Find a New Mission

Retired executives put their skills and expertise to good use by helping nonprofit groups.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the November 2007 issue of Kiplinger's Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.

You would think that after three decades of writing reports and attending an endless number of meetings that Paul Doucette would have had his fill of these business chores. Not so. After doffing his corporate hat in 1997, Doucette, then 50, started a consulting firm. Three years later, he became a volunteer consultant to nonprofit agencies, applying his corporate experience in a different kind of workplace.

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Doucette now spends 50 to 60 hours a month as an adviser with the Executive Service Corps of Southern California. For nearly two years, Doucette worked with an organization that serves the homeless and at-risk students. The board of directors was so dysfunctional that the group was unable to adequately carry out its mission. He helped the board purge some members and recruit others. "Many managers in the nonprofit sector have wonderful social-services skills, but lack the business skills that most for-profit managers possess," he says.

Doucette is one of 5,000 to 6,000 consultants working with the Executive Service Corps Affiliate Network (www.escus.org), which has 34 offices nationwide. Senior executives work with nonprofits to help strengthen their management.

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In New York City, retirees and older managers who want to use their professional skills as volunteer consultants can also turn to Gray Matters (www.graymattersnyc.org). The group's 20 consultants work for or are retired from the city's law and real estate firms, corporations and banks. George Adams, the group's president and a retired Debevoise & Plimpton law partner, says its consultants offer the legal, financial and management skills needed by nonprofits.

For example, starting six years ago, a team of three Gray Matters consultants with careers in law, real estate and finance have served as advisers to a nonprofit group that provides low-cost housing. They negotiate with banks and real estate agents on behalf of their client. Adams spends about 25 hours a month on this assignment and as president of Gray Matters.

"The agency's personnel know the communities where it operates housing," says Adams, who's in his mid seventies. "But we help them in areas where they are not as skilled: how to acquire real estate, structure it legally and find ways to finance it."

Skills in Demand

Ed Rose is no nonprofit newcomer. Until he retired from KPMG as a partner in 1995, Rose worked in the accounting firm's Cleveland and Akron offices. During his 33-year accounting career, he became a volunteer officer for local and state chapters of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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When he moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1999, Rose signed up with the local Executive Service Corps. He began conducting financial appraisals of nonprofits, and soon realized that many nonprofit boards have difficulty recruiting board members. He helped launch Triangle Board Connect, a regional online recruiting system that brings nonprofits and potential board members together.

Completing its first year of operations, Board Connect has 70 nonprofits seeking to fill about 110 board positions. "The skills most in demand are in marketing, finance, human resources, finance and fund raising," Rose says. So far, he's recruited 17 new board members. Most candidates are still in the workforce, but he hopes to drum up interest among retirees.

If you'd like to volunteer but there's no Executive Service Corps in your area, you can call the local United Way or Chamber of Commerce for some leads. You can also contact the local office of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, known as SCORE, (www.score.org). Even though SCORE consultants advise start-ups and small businesses, the group may know of nonprofits in the community that need help.