Posted by: Nathaniel | July 21, 2008

Do good geezers

Nick Kristoff’s op-ed yesterday was all about the “encore career,” a growing phenomenon in which retiring baby boomers devote themselves to some philanthropic cause.

The interesting thing about the phenomenon is the increased recognition of these activities as actual vocations, as important to the participants as their former professional careers. Indeed, he notes that for many, such as Rob Mather, a former British management consultant and founder of Against Malaria, these careers are as if not more fulfilling than their previous vocations.

The most important things this demographic brings to their philanthropy are their management experience and rolodex’s, contends Kristoff. For someone like Gates, his management experience has led his foundation to demand more rigorous impact assessment metrics. For Mather, he’s been able to leverage his connections from his previous career to lower overhead for his malaria organization.

I love that this group is being written about as serious and important force for changing the world, rather than just run of the mill donors or volunteers. And I think its the correct assessment as well. More and more boomer wealth is finding its way into family foundations, who give $16 billion annually. According to the Foundation Center, that’s 59% of annual giving by independent foundations, up from 48% in 1998. Beyond just giving, I’ve noticed some boomers moving onto “encore careers” are finding happy space and the ability to leverage business skills in the “blended value” in which organizations attempt to create economic and social and/or environmental value simultaneously.

One of the most exciting things about my generation is that far more of us are looking for this type of integration – social change making that leverages business skills, professional networks, and more robust assessment – from the very beginning of our careers. More and more, recruitment and retention requires that companies have active social responsibility policies and methods for employees engaging in corporate volunteer and philanthropy programs. A number of friends deciding between job offers with different management consulting firms found that with relatively consistent salary grades, their biggest determining factor was their opportunities for consulting with nonprofits and paid-leave for international volunteerism.

Does anyone out there have examples of this?



  1. As a recent college graduate (last month!) I completely agree with you that more and more young people are looking for opportunities that integrate social change and business skills. In fact a study at Stanford Business School found that graduating MBAs from top business schools rank corporate social responsibility “high on their list of values, and they are willing to sacrifice a significant part of their salaries to find an employer whose thinking is in synch with their own.”

    However, it’s not easy finding such opportunities! I searched long and hard to find a job that was in-line with my passion to create positive social impact, and that would provide me with a strong skillset. I was lucky enough to find Mission Measurement, a consulting firm that helps corporations, foundations and nonprofits measure and improve their social impact. Hopefully future graduates will find more and more opportunities at the intersection of the social sector and the business world.

    -Aneesa Arshad

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