• January 26, 2015

Resources for Getting Involved in Nonprofit Work

Following are books, articles, organizations, and other helpful information for people getting involved in nonprofit work and organizations that want to do a better job of enlisting older people as employees and volunteers.


National Research, Service, and Advocacy Organizations

American Society on Aging. Represents professionals in the aging field; runs a Civic Engagement Program. Web site contains links to publications and other resources.

Center on Aging, University of Maryland. Conducts research on boomer volunteering, runs leadership-training programs for people age 50 and older who wish to be more engaged in their communities, and oversees a program for older volunteers who provide in-home respite care in poor communities.

Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis. Sponsors research on civic engagement around the world and evaluates service programs for older people in the United States.

Civic Ventures. Supports and operates programs to capitalize on the "experience dividend" by engaging older adults in work and volunteer opportunities; produces research on, and guides to, civic participation.

Experience Wave. Advocates for "federal and state policies that will make it easier for midlife and older adults to stay engaged in work and community life."

National Academy on an Aging Society. Policy institute of the Gerontological Society of America; runs a Civic Engagement in an Older America project, which produces and promotes research to strengthen institutions and programs to increase older adults' civic participation. A graphic shows the organizations involved in such civic engagement.

National Council on Aging. Operates the RespectAbility Program: Promising Practices in Civic Engagement, which produces research and otherwise tries to increase the ability of nonprofit groups to engage volunteers age 55 and above.

National Governors Association. Center for Best Practices runs the Civic Engagement of Seniors Initiative to help governors develop strategies for increasing volunteering among older people.

Points of Light Foundation. Runs the 50+ Volunteering Initiative, which produces research to help local nonprofit groups engage this age group.

Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America, Harvard University. Run by Robert D. Putnam, whose 2000 book, Bowling Alone, spotlighted generational trends in civic engagement; produces scholarly research on social capital in America.

State and Local Organizations

Asheville, N.C.: The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, University of North Carolina at Asheville. Runs workshops and educational programs to encourage involvement of older people in their communities.

Brooklyn, N.Y.: ReServe. "Connects New York City's experienced older adults with stipend-paying jobs that challenge them to use their lifetime skills for the public good."

Denver: Rose Community Foundation. The Boomers Leading Change project wants to "engage people over 55 in opportunities for ongoing work, community service, and lifelong learning."

Minneapolis: Shift. Sponsors meetings, workshops, and other services for people who want to make a midlife transition to meaningful careers.

New York: Transition Network. Helps women older than 50 in exploring "paid and non-paid work opportunities and developing new talents, new careers, or new ways to volunteer."

Philadelphia: Coming of Age. Promotes civic engagement, lifelong learning, and community leadership among people 55 and older in the Philadelphia area.

Grant Makers

Atlantic Philanthropies. The major grant maker focusing on boomers and civic engagement; supports efforts to enhance the ability of older adults "to contribute actively their expertise and abilities for the good of society." Grants have gone to the civic-engagement projects of numerous organizations, including Civic Ventures, the American Society on Aging, and the Gerontological Society of America. The Community Experience Partnership program has committed $750,000 to 30 community foundations to explore ways to engage older people in solving social problems.

Grantmakers in Aging. The EngAGEment Initiative encourages foundations to make grants in the aging field. Publications highlight the potential benefits of increased civic engagement among boomers.

Sherry Lansing Foundation. Pays for and runs PrimeTime LAUSD, which places retired people in the Los Angeles Unified School District public schools.

MetLife Foundation. The Civic Affairs program supports volunteering and civic engagement, including an awards program for volunteers over 50.

National Council on Aging In 2007 awarded 12 "Models of Significant Service" grants to 12 nonprofit groups developing "entrepreneurial approaches to attract and support adults 55+ to fill important leadership roles."

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Grant-making priorities include encouraging older adults to volunteer and participate in community life in Maricopa County, Ariz.


The National Academy on an Aging Society's Civic Engagement in an Older America project publishes a periodic newsletter on its activities. To sign up, send an e-mail message to Greg O'Neill with "Subscribe" in the subject line.


MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures BreakThrough Award. Given to "innovative organizations that tap the passion and experience of people over 50 to improve society."

Older Volunteers Enrich America Individual Awards. Honors the "exemplary contributions of older volunteers" aged 50 and older. Older Volunteers Enrich America Program Awards. Recognizes volunteer programs whose practices in recruitment, orientation, training, retention, and recognition of older volunteers may serve as models for others. Both are sponsored by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the MetLife Foundation.

Purpose Prize. Awards five grants of $100,000 and 10 grants of $10,000 annually to people age 60 and older who are "leading a new age of social innovation." Administered by Civic Ventures and paid for by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation.

Service Opportunities

Civic Ventures offers a comprehensive list of nonprofit groups, government national-service organizations, and clearinghouses involved in engaging adults age 55 and older to work for the public good.

Key resources include:

Bridgestar. Channels experienced business executives to jobs and board positions in the nonprofit world.

Experience Corps. A Civic Ventures project that places people age 55 and older in jobs tutoring and mentoring elementary-school students in 19 cities.

Get Involved. Online search engine, maintained by the Corporation for National and Community Service and VolunteerMatch, to link volunteers aged 55 and older to volunteer opportunities.

International Executive Service Corps. Places experienced business people in volunteer consultant roles around the world.

Senior Corps. Administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, it operates Foster Grandparents, through which people 60 and older mentor children with special needs; Senior Companions, through which people 60 and older provide day-to-day assistance to older people; and RSVP, which links people 55 and older to service opportunities in their communities.

Volunteers in Medicine Institute. Places retired doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers, pharmacists, and other medical professionals in volunteer positions at free clinics that serve uninsured patients.

Guidance for Individuals

The Boomers' Guide to Good Work, by Ellen Freudenheim (Civic Ventures/MetLife Foundation, 2004). Offers practical advice for boomers interested in a second career, including activities involving civic or voluntary service.

Civic Ventures Innovations Documentary Series. Contains written and audio profiles of programs that involve older people in community service.

Encore An online network for people seeking "work that matters in the second half of life"; operated by Civic Ventures.

Life Planning for the 3rd Age (Civic Ventures, 2004). Provides a blueprint for professionals seeking to create "life planning" programs for baby boomers emphasizing personal and civic (as opposed to financial) aspects of retirement.

The Nonprofit Career Guide: How to Land a Job That Makes a Difference, by Shelly Cryer (Fieldstone Alliance, 2008)

Guides and Other Assistance for Nonprofit Groups

Boomers Are Ready for Nonprofits, but Are Nonprofits Ready for Them?, by Jill Casner-Lotto (Conference Board, 2007). Notes that baby boomers represent a talent pool for nonprofit groups struggling with increased demands for services and a declining supply of executive labor; outlines opportunities for nonprofit groups to tap retired people as staff members and volunteers.

Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow, by Jill Friedman Fixler and Sandie Eichberg, with Gail Lorenz (AuthorHouse, 2008). A guidebook to help nonprofit groups create "a culture in which Boomer volunteers will thrive." Includes 14 worksheets in areas including "Structuring for Innovation," "Developing Connections," and "Nurturing the Relationship." The worksheets are also available on the VolunteerMatch Web site.

"Capturing Experience: How People 50+ Can Help Your Organization." An online course offered by the Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning to help employers understand and recruit older workers.

Civic Ventures' Next Chapter Initiative. "Provides expertise and assistance to community groups across the country working to help people in the second half of life set a course, connect with peers, and find pathways to significant service." Blueprint for the Next Chapter (Civic Ventures, May 2005) offers guidance to groups that want to start Next Chapter projects.

RespectAbility in America: Guiding Principles for Civic Engagement Among Adults 55+, by Thomas Endres and Carolyn A. Holmes (National Council on Aging, 2006). Compares traditional approaches to volunteer service with emerging approaches that have shown success among volunteers 55 and older.

The Strength of the Infrastructure of Volunteer Agencies and Its Capacity to Absorb "Baby Boomer" Volunteers, by Christopher Johnson (Points of Light Foundation/Volunteer Center National Network, 2003). Analyzes the challenges to expanding and tailoring service opportunities to accommodate the baby-boom generation.

Special Reports


"Boomers and Beyond: Is Our Community Ready to Tap Their Talents?" (Grand Rapids Community Foundation). Assesses the capacity of Kent County, Mich., nonprofit groups to engage boomers in volunteer service.

"Civic Engagement in Later Life" (Generations, 30 (4), Winter 2006-7). Eighteen articles in the American Society on Aging's journal discuss topics like civic engagement among African-American seniors, the effects of civic engagement on volunteers, and ways that organizations can encourage senior volunteering. Available for $14.

"The Civic Engagement of Baby Boomers: Preparing for a New Wave of Volunteers; Community Assessment Report" (Wilder Research/Saint Paul Foundation, 2007). Based on a survey and focus groups of older people and nonprofit groups in Ramsey County, Minn.; assesses attitudes and volunteer patterns of older people and organizations' ideas for engaging baby boomers.

"Encore Colleges" (Civic Ventures, 2007). Discusses the role of community colleges in training boomers for a second career in education, social work, or health care.

"Great Expectations: Boomers and the Future of Volunteering" (Peter D. Hart Associates/VolunteerMatch). Explores boomers' motivations and expectations regarding volunteering, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing nonprofit organizations that want to recruit from this group. Based on a telephone survey of older volunteers, an online survey of users of the VolunteerMatch service, and surveys and interviews with nonprofit officials, including volunteer coordinators.

"The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research" (Corporation for National and Community Service). Summarizes studies finding a link between volunteering and physical and mental well-being.

"Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering: A Research Brief on Volunteer Retention and Turnover" (Corporation for National and Community Service). Analyzes survey data to quantify volunteer dropout rates among boomers and understand the factors that contribute to the decision to abandon service activities.


Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership by Frances Kunreuther, Helen Kim, and Robby Rodriguez (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert D. Putnam (Simon and Schuster, 2000).

Civic Engagement and the Baby Boomer Generation, by Laura B. Wilson and Sharon P. Simson (Haworth Press, 2006).

Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, by Marc Freedman (PublicAffairs, 2007).

Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America,by Marc Freedman (PublicAffairs, 2002).

50+: Igniting a Revolution to Reinvent America, by Bill Novelli, with Boe Workman (St. Martin's, 2006).

A New Engagement: Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen, by Cliff Zukin, Scott Keeter, Molly Andolina, Krista Jenkins, and Michael X. Delli Carpini (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Smart Women Don't Retire — They Break Free, by the Transition Network and Gail Rentsch (Springboard Press, 2008).

Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership, by Frances Kunreuther, Helen Kim, and Robby Rodriguez (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

Scholarly Publications

The National Academy on an Aging Society has compiled summaries of recent articles in gerontology journals about civic engagemento of older adults.

Other recent articles include:

"Civic Engagement and Older Adults: A Critical Perspective," by Marty Martinson and Meredith Minkler (The Gerontologist, 46, 318-324, 2006).

"Modeled Cost-Effectiveness of the Experience Corps Baltimore Based on a Pilot Randomized Trial," by Kevin D. Frick et al., (Journal of Urban Health, 81 (1), 106-117, March 2004).

"A Social Model for Health Promotion for an Aging Population: Initial Evidence on the Experience Corps Model," by Linda P. Fried et al. (Journal of Urban Health, 81 (1), 64-78, March 2004).

"What Happened to the 'Long Civic Generation'? Explaining Cohort Differences in Volunteerism," by Thomas Rotolo and John Wilson (Social Forces, 82 (3), 1091-1121, March 2004).

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Organization Connects Older Adults With Nonprofit Groups in Need of Skilled Workers, The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2009

Charity Started by Young Dallas Professionals Bridges Generation Gap The Dallas Morning News, September 8, 2009

Experienced, Eager to Serve, Will Travel The New York Times, April 1, 2009

AARP Names Rand as New Chief Executive The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2009

Groups Make the Most of Baby Boomer Volunteer Efforts Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 8, 2009

Harvard Program Seeks to Nurture Older Nonprofit Leaders The New York Times, December 12, 2008

"There's no quit in these 'retiring' boomers," Orange County Register, July 16, 2007.

"A Growing Civic Volunteer Force for the League," The National Voter, June 2007 (League of Women Voters).

"Boomers Don't Plan to Slow Down," Rocky Mountain News, June 28, 2007.

"Retired, Then Re-Energized," ABA Journal, April 2007.

"Boomers Transplant to Nonprofits," Stanford Business, February 2007.

 — Compiled by Kristin A. Goss and Suzanne Perry
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