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What if, over time, 100,000 people interested in encore careers were persuaded to launch ten-year encore careers? That would mean one million years of service dedicated to areas like education, poverty, and the environment.

— Marc Freedman, founder and CEO,

Investments in programs that help people successfully transition into encore roles with nonprofit organizations or public agencies are investments in your local community.

That’s what researchers found after surveying more than 100 supervisors of 1,700 people pursuing encore careers at six organizations — each with different missions, service models, and distinct geographic locations.

The supervisors reported that people in their organizations, most of whom were volunteers, not only had a large impact on their organizations, but also on their communities. Along with previous research, the study supports the idea that encore careers are good for older people (their health, psychological well-being, and finances), good for nonprofit and public sector employers (who benefit from an experienced and committed workforce), and good for the community (its economic and social health now and in the future).

Grantmakers can help individuals and organizations navigate the exciting opportunities offered by the encore movement by supporting different kinds of projects like the following:

Support higher education efforts to advance encore careers

Support to develop educational pathways to “encore careers” in areas such as health care, education, social services, and the environment are a win-win-win-win for colleges, students, social sector employers, and society.

EncoreU, an initiative, encourages community colleges, colleges, and universities to understand, develop and harness the talents of students in midlife and beyond so that they can be prepared for new roles as changemakers in their communities and the wider world. EncoreU institutions offer innovative academic pathways for encore transitions, along with practical tools to understand the most pressing needs of the social sector — education, health care, poverty, the environment — and how to meet them.

Grantmakers can consider supporting efforts to adopt any of these innovative approaches from EncoreU institutions with single grants to local colleges:

  • Partnerships that help baby boomers transition from the private sector into jobs as executives, financial managers, and program directors in the nonprofit sector
  • Creative, collaborative marketing campaigns geared to people age 50 and older
  • Programs to retool practitioners — nurses, social workers, teachers — who want to reenter the labor market or move to a new role in their field
  • Flexible, compressed certificate, degree, and transfer programs in such areas as early childhood education, social work, allied health, gerontology, and nonprofit management
  • Accelerated teacher preparation programs that prepare older adults to become K-12, college, and developmental education instructors in high-need subject areas
  • Targeted outreach to prepare underrepresented and low income people age 50 and older for new careers in such fields as education, environment, health care, and social services.

Sponsor an Encore Fellow

The national Encore Fellowship program offers older adults interested in transitioning to an encore career a pathway that allows them to apply the skills, experience and knowledge acquired during their primary career to flexible, time-limited, paid assignments with nonprofits and public agencies. The program also offers the opportunity to establish new personal networks and learn what it is really like to work in a new social-purpose environment.

Funders can consider sponsoring fellows programs in their local communities, teaming with nonprofit host organizations.

Bring the encore movement to your community

Encore Cleveland helps to connect and fund a network of organizations that provides a wide array of meaningful opportunities for older residents in the greater Cleveland area to solve community challenges and fill unmet needs. Individuals can receive support to start a small business, train the next generation of skilled technical workers, or volunteer to improve the literacy rates of local elementary school students, among myriad other possibilities. The Cleveland Foundation, which launched the program in 2013, has awarded more than $4.3 million in grants to the program.

Sponsor an award

The Purpose Prize, which recognized more than 500 winners and fellows while awarding more than $5 million in prizes over its first decade, moved to a new home — and a bigger stage — at AARP in 2016.

The prize program, which comes with a $50,000 cash award for winners, is the nation’s only large-scale investment in people over the age of 60 who combine their life skills and talents for social good. Launched in 2006 by (then called Civic Ventures), the prizes honor extraordinary individuals who use their life experience to make a better future for all. Past winners include social entrepreneurs working in fields ranging from early childhood learning to eradicating homelessness.

AARP has added the Andrus Prize for Intergenerational Excellence, named for AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, to recognize work that brings multiple generations together for a better community.

Local funders can consider hosting their own community award program. Winners can be profiled in publications and on websites, and be part of a conference on lessons for the social sector in tapping this extraordinary talent source.

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust in Phoenix, AZ, recognizes exceptional organizations and individuals with the Piper Trust Encore Prizes. Every two years, the prize program awards up to three $5,000 prizes to nonprofit and public sector organizations that engage the talent of people age 50 and older in encore roles. One of the organizations may receive an additional $50,000 “Encore Enhancement Prize” to expand its use of encore talent.

The Piper Trust Encore Career Prize for an Exceptional Individual is a $50,000 award designed to recognize and advance the social purpose work of a person who is an inspiring encore role model serving Maricopa County. The 2015 winner, for example, was Russ Perlich, who founded a nonprofit organization called Act One in his encore career. Act One has provided nearly 80,000 students with arts education and field trips to professional performances.

In addition to supporting Encore Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation established the Encore Cleveland Prize in 2015 to recognize individuals age 50 and older for innovative work that combines personal meaning with social impact to enhance the lives of people living in the greater Cleveland area.

What to fund

Other strategies include:

  • Support projects that compile stories and profiles of older people who are improving their communities in a variety of ways, from philanthropy to grassroots action. Stories should feature everyday heroes along with community leaders, and can be used in a variety of ways: as a source for local journalists, as a source of inspiration for individuals at local encore events, and as content for a community website.
  • Small investments in emerging organizations that support and connect people age 50 and older who are looking to transition into an encore role. This approach can reap large benefits over time.
  • A competition with modest cash prizes to honor individuals over 50 who offer great ideas for new ways to tackle local problems. Nominees would present simple business plans to a panel of judges, and/or be chosen by public voting. The prizes ($5,000 to $25,000) would enable winners to go from idea to action.
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