When Allyn Yamanouchi was offered a buyout by Citigroup at the end of last year, the 58-year-old corporate tax specialist didn't hesitate to take it. With the financial-services giant announcing plans to lay off more than 50,000 employees, Ms. Yamanouchi suspected that her career managing legal restructurings had run its course.
Ms. Yamanouchi, who lives in New York, hoped that her corporate-finance background and legal training (she holds a law degree and a master's in business administration) might be useful to a charity. But she had no idea how to go about finding a nonprofit job.
"Because I didn't have any practical experience in the nonprofit world, I didn't think it made sense to just throw my résumé out there," she says. "I needed help exploring the next steps."
Ms. Yamanouchi's tale is far from unusual these days. Mid-career professionals facing layoffs — along with retired people who face plummeting 401(k) values — are increasingly searching for charity jobs.
Many of the new job hunters are also looking for guidance along the way, seeking out programs, run by nonprofit organizations or universities, that offer job retraining, nonprofit job listings, and chances to build their professional networks. But the organizers of those programs say the recession is making it harder to find paid nonprofit positions for the eager, would-be career switchers they serve, causing them to focus on volunteer opportunities instead of jobs.
Carol Anderson, director of career development and placement at Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy, in New York, says that many of those who now seek nonprofit jobs fail to understand that charities too have been hit hard by the recession.
"People often think, illogically, that nonprofits haven't been affected by the market crash," she says. "In truth, foundations' endowments [have] crashed, so many are reducing grants to nonprofits and laying off staff."
Last December, Ms. Yamanouchi contacted ReServe Elder Service, a three-year-old New York nonprofit organization that places retired professionals in charity jobs.
The ReServists, as they are called, earn $10 an hour working part time at one of more than 120 charities in the New York area. The charities, in turn, pay ReServe $15 an hour for the workers' labor, to cover the cost of wages, payroll taxes, and an administrative fee. During the past year, ReServe has placed some 300 retired workers, all at least 50 years old, in nonprofit jobs, while 600 more are currently on a waiting list for positions — figures that underscore the shortage of paid employment in the field.
"We're hearing from more people who are seeking out these jobs because their retirement income has dropped, and while they're not destitute, their disposable income has vanished," says Mary Bleiberg, ReServe's executive director.
Within a month, ReServe had found a place for Ms. Yamanouchi at Exalt Youth, a small charity in Brooklyn, N.Y., that helps deter young people, as well as those who have served time in prison, from criminal activity. Her new position: director of finance, overseeing payroll, taxes, budgeting, and financial reporting to the foundations that support Exalt.
She has committed to stay at Exalt for a year, after which she'll make a decision about the next step on her journey. She says, "The question for me, I suppose, will be, 'How much longer can I afford to work for $10 an hour?'"
Joan Cirillo, executive director of Operation ABLE in Boston, which provides training and employment services to workers 45 and older, makes a point of encouraging the group's clients to consider a nonprofit job. She also sees signs that nonprofit employers are increasingly open to hiring mature workers with years of corporate experience.
But even as the number of mature workers seeking help from Operation ABLE is on the rise — the group expects to serve more this year than the typical 1,000 older workers it helps annually — the pool of charities looking for new employees is shrinking, says Ms. Cirillo. Operation ABLE last sponsored a job fair a year ago, and has put off plans for another one due to a shortage of participating employers. "It isn't fair to give false hopes when employers aren't really hiring," says Ms. Cirillo.
Up to five times a week, the New School's Ms. Anderson hears from former students of the college who are newly unemployed.
"The people who are contacting me are discouraged, panic-stricken, they've been out of work for a while. Not only are they dealing with whole industries collapsing, but older workers are encountering age discrimination when they apply for new jobs," says Ms. Anderson, who has been advising New School students since 1998.
To meet the needs of the alumni she advises, Ms. Anderson is offering résumé, job-search, and career-change workshops, and will soon be creating a support group for out-of-work alumni.
She also dispenses plenty of advice. "I suggest that they start by finding volunteer opportunities — do it tomorrow," says Ms. Anderson. "I find that people start by going straight to their favorite cause, but these days you have to look harder. You may end up with a volunteer position that's a little less sexy than what you'd hoped for, but it's a foot in the door."
A foot in the door is exactly what Susanna Masters Miller seeks. The 65-year-old former employee-relations specialist, fund raiser, and marketer has been searching for a charity job for the past two years. Ms. Miller says that her income — a combination of small pensions, investments, and Social Security — doesn't even cover her expenses.
"I'm living off savings right now but I've cut back on everything," says Ms. Miller, a Thorofare, N.J., resident. "The reality is that unless I find a job I'm going to have to do some kind of reverse mortgage."
For assistance with her job search, she turned to Coming of Age, a Philadelphia charity housed at Temple University that provides people over 50 with personal coaching, leadership training, and job listings for paid work and volunteer opportunities at nonprofit organizations. Each week, she scours the charity's job listings for fund-raising positions. Her job search has yet to produce an interview, but she hasn't given up hope. "You can't let the lack of responses do psychic damage to you," says Ms. Miller. "Everyone is getting rejected all over the place."
Dick Goldberg, director of Coming of Age, says that the charity is hearing from more people like Ms. Miller, who are seeking nonprofit work, not just to remain engaged beyond retirement, but because they can't survive without working. And while the group remains committed to its original mission of promoting volunteerism, finding more paying charity positions for its members is quickly becoming a priority.
The challenge for right now, however, is that there aren't enough paid nonprofit jobs to go around, says Mr. Goldberg. The weekly Coming of Age job listing typically features three or four openings, including volunteer positions, and reaches more than 5,000 people in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
But Coming of Age isn't just about funneling older people into jobs, he adds. The process of helping its clients explore their interests, he says, requires patience: "Getting in touch with who you are, what drives you, what your passions are, how you might pursue them as part of making a difference in the world and doing some experimenting could very well take longer than the present economic funk."
Filling the Pipeline
This fall, workers in the Hartford, Conn., area who are seeking nonprofit jobs will have a new university program to help them find their way in the charity world.
Encore!Hartford hopes to link professionals who are 40 and older with new careers at Connecticut charities, says David Garvey, director of the year-old University of Connecticut Nonprofit Leadership Program, in Storrs. "Connecticut's work force is aging and will need jobs. The Connecticut nonprofit sector is losing its managerial and frontline work force to boomer retirement," says Mr. Garvey. "Our goal is to hit two birds with one stone."
While the program starts with a course on nonprofit work, it doesn't stop there, says Mr. Garvey: "This is meant to be an education and employment pipeline."
For more than a year, he and his colleagues at the university have been working with five government agencies and nonprofit organizations, including United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, to develop the "pipeline" aspect of the project.
Ted Carroll, president of Leadership Greater Hartford, a nonprofit group that specializes in leadership training, says that he often gets calls from mature workers interested in charity jobs. "The insurance and finance industries in Hartford have been hit hard, so that's where they're coming from," he says.
Mr. Carroll has been an outspoken advocate of Encore!Hartford and says that there's a real need for a structured program that can teach potential charity workers about the opportunities they could find at nonprofit groups.
"Right now when people call, I do the best I can to educate them myself," he says. "We haven't had anything formal that's available to folks who are at a real crossroads in their professional lives."