On the House

Encore's "Generation to Generation" Campaign Has Its Heart in the Right Place

OntheHouseIf you're a Boomer who's not familiar with Encore.org, you should be. Encore is a nonprofit that focuses on "second acts for the greater good," which is something many of us are thinking about or have already started to pursue. Now Encore has launched a new campaign called "Generation to Generation" with the goal of getting older generations to help younger generations.

Writing for Next Avenue, Richard Eisenberg says Generation to Generation’s five-year goal is "getting one million adults over 50 to 'help young people thrive' by volunteering and working with needy children." Eisenberg references a survey conducted by Encore in which 80 percent of respondents said “making the world a better place for the next generation is important or very important.” In addition, 77 percent of respondents 60 and older said life after age 60 is a time of mostly “freedom, growth and giving back.”

The first push for the Generation to Generation campaign will be mentoring, which can be accomplished through the campaign's numerous partners, including the AARP Foundation Experience Corps, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and VolunteerMatch.org.

Generation to Generation sounds like a campaign that is very well targeted to Boomers who want to give back. I can tell you from personal experience that helping younger generations can be fulfilling. As a volunteer, I have counseled budding entrepreneurs in branding and marketing. Knowing I helped them start or improve their small businesses was rewarding. 

To learn more about the Generation to Generation campaign, visit this website: http://www.generationtogeneration.org/

Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

OntheHouseMy post about being a volunteer in retirement generated several comments on LinkedIn. In the post I discussed some of the reasons I have found volunteering to be gratifying. In his article for Next Avenue, Mark Horoszowski details "5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering." It not only reinforces the value of volunteering, it makes for an interesting read.

For one thing, Mark talks about the fact that volunteering actually gives you the impression that you have more time, not less of it. That's because spending time in a worthwhile pursuit makes your time generally feel of greater value.

Other surprising benefits? Volunteers who use their skills to help an organization may find that they are developing entirely new skills during their volunteer commitment. Volunteering can continue to hone your experience. It can offer you experience in a new area, or provide you with the experience you need to transition from the business world to the nonprofit sector. Volunteering can also lead to an unexpected part-time paid position.

Interestingly, research has shown that people who volunteer share the love -- they are generally happier than people who do not volunteer.

Even if you volunteer a few hours a week or just once a month, don't underestimate the value of volunteering -- especially at a stage of life where personal validation and satisfaction can be so important.

Should You Volunteer?

OntheHouseSome Boomers find satisfaction doing volunteer work, while others may question whether it is the best way to spend their time. The first question to ask about volunteering is simply, Can you afford it? Not every Boomer is in a financial position to be able to volunteer, which almost always means working without pay. If you have to generate some income and still want to volunteer, however, you can often reach an acceptable compromise by working part-time and volunteering part-time.

Volunteering is very personal. You can pursue a passion or an interest by volunteering for a nonprofit organization whose cause is important to you. You can help the disadvantaged or under-privileged through literacy, public health, and welfare programs. You can help change the world for the better by working with an environmental organization. You can care for animals by volunteering at your local animal shelter. You can support culture and the arts by volunteering for a local museum or theatre company. You can use your business expertise as a volunteer counselor or consultant to students and entrepreneurs. Those are just a few examples. There are likely to be numerous volunteer opportunities like these and others right in your own community.

Volunteering can also uncover unexpected opportunities. I have volunteered for a local nonprofit for many years in a variety of ways. In addition to helping the organization, I have made a number of valuable contacts; for example, one of the organization's donors knew I was a semi-retired marketing professional and recommended me to a startup company. This resulted in my doing several paid consulting projects for the company.

Volunteering can give you a sense of purpose. It can offer you a personal reward because you'll feel good about helping others. It can also provide you with social interaction and act as an anchor when you need the structure of a scheduled activity. And in some cases, volunteering can even lead to unanticipated income.

Boomers Looking to Give Time and Money in Retirement

OntheHouseA recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave tells an intriguing story about how Boomers want to give back in retirement -- to the extent that the study portrays the phenomenon as "America's Longevity Bonus."

According to the study, which suggests there will be a surge in giving over the next two decades, almost two-thirds (65%) of retirees say retirement is the best time to give back. In fact, when contributions of both money and time are considered, retirees lead the nation in giving, responsible for 42% of the money given to charity, and 45% of the total volunteer hours given to charity. This translates into about $6.6 trillion of charitable contributions and $1.4 trillion of value in volunteer hours that retirees will contribute in the U.S. from 2016 to 2035.

Giving improves a Boomer's self-worth, too. According to the study, 59% of retirees who give or volunteer say they have a strong sense of purpose versus 43% of those who do not give or volunteer. Of those who give or volunteer, 57% say they have high self-esteem vs. 51% of those who do not give or volunteer, and 66% of givers say they are happy vs. 52% of those who are not givers. A resounding 85% of retirees say "being generous" better defines success in retirement vs. 15% who say "being wealthy" defines success.

There is a gender difference: Women are more likely to say giving is a high priority in retirement than men, and women are more likely to give in retirement than men.

When it comes to making giving decisions, 77% of married retirees say it is "very important to have in-depth conversations about giving with their spouse."

My wife and I can bear testament to the above data. We have both given money and volunteered our time for years, even agreeing on one primary organization to which we devote most of our efforts. We consider ourselves part of that organization's mission and feel good about giving back at this stage of our lives.

This study is fascinating and should provoke thoughtful consideration and discussion. You can read it here.

Much to be Gained from Volunteering

OntheHouseFor some boomers and seniors, volunteering could be a path to fulfillment. Once you get over the societal pressure of having to earn a living, you might find that giving back generates its own kind of tangible reward.

For many years, I have volunteered as a branding and marketing counselor at a small business center operated by a local community college. I get to help entrepreneurs start or improve their businesses. I can use the knowledge I gained as a marketer during my professional career -- and it prompts me to keep current on the ever-changing marketing world. My wife, who was a professional dog groomer for ten years, retired and now grooms dogs on a volunteer basis for a local humane society. She gets a great deal of satisfaction turning dirty, matted dogs into adoptable cuties.

Your later years could be the time when you pursue or discover a passion that turns into a gratifying volunteer opportunity. Kathryn Lance, for example, writes for Next Avenue about her transition from a professional writer to docent. She not only shares her experiences as a docent, she offers helpful examples about where to find docent positions.

Read Kathryn's article here.

Doing Meaningful Work

ID-10088137 MusingsFor some in the second half of life, doing meaningful work is a priority. Still, as Susan Cramm writes for Strategy + Business, "as we get older, we put more weight on what we could lose than on what we might gain — and developing conviction to pursue our dreams becomes more difficult." That's why she recommends following some "easy-to-describe but difficult-to-practice" principles:

  1. Honor your impulses.
  2. Remain persistent.
  3. Once you have an educated guess, consider it fact, and start acting accordingly.
  4. Say yes to opportunities that come your way."

Read Susan's entire article here (including more detail about the above four principles and some inspiring examples). 

 Image: Stuart Miles, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Starting Over and Giving Back

OntheHouseNot every senior has the wealth necessary to stop working for a living, rewire their life, and making a commitment to do social good. But many of us certainly share the dream of someone like Sherry Lansing who, after reaching the pinnacle of success in Hollywood, decided she would give back.

Harriet Edelson writes in The New York Times that Lansing, whose position as chairwoman of Paramount Pictures was the culmination of a 40-year career, left to do something entirely different: devote her energy to cancer research. One reason: Her mother died at the age of 64 of ovarian cancer. So Lansing started the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which funds and raises awareness for cancer research.

Such organizations as Encore.org and the Greater Good Science Center focus on how each of us can bring meaning to life. That seems to be a major theme for many of us in our later years. Of course, the path you choose doesn't have to be as ambitious as starting your own foundation (admittedly, something that would be difficult for a majority of "retirees"). In my case, I have found a certain fulfillment in giving back by counseling small business owners in brand marketing, as well as becoming involved in an animal welfare organization in my community.

When you consider your next phase, consider the things you are passionate about. You just might find legitimate opportunities to channel those passions into noble endeavors (even if on a part-time basis). Don't be surprised if these experiences give you far more satisfaction than collecting a paycheck.