When Mattie Ruffin, 62, retired from her job as a program analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency in early 2010, she took a year off to relax. After working for the federal government for 27 years, it was a well-deserved respite. “I hadn’t planned to retire, but my sister died suddenly,” recalls Ruffin, who is also a widow. “I got to thinking…I’m not 21 anymore, and tomorrow is just not promised to me. So I’m just going to come on out of here and enjoy my life.”
Ruffin has the cushion of a federal government pension, but she didn’t want to sit home indefinitely. “I developed a lot of good skills over the years, and computers are my thing,” she says. Her specialties, for example, include administrative management, and preparing budgets and spreadsheets on Excel. “I didn’t want to lose the technology skills,” she says. “If I didn’t do something to keep those up, then I felt I would have lost those skills.”
She signed up for the 10- week Envision 50+ program offered through the Workforce Development and Continuing Education department at nearby Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md. In 2010, the college started the program, aimed at people over 50, who want to rewire either to change careers or continue to work in retirement, with funding from Civic Ventures’ Encore College Initiative.
It didn’t involve too much heavy lifting for Ruffin, since the course work could be done partially online. She gradually revamped her résumé, brushed up on her computer and online job hunting skills, and networked with potential employers as the weeks ticked by. A sweet bonus – since she was over 60, her tuition was free.
Ruffin learned about an opening at the college in its adult education department and the part-time position was ideal for someone with her techie background. She works nine hours per week as an adult education administrative assistant. Ruffin helps adults from age 18 to over 40 register via computer to enroll in classes to earn GEDs and more.
Mattie Ruffin, 62, works at a community college. — Simon BrutyGreat Nonprofit Jobs for Retirees
She collects drilled down data on how many students are being trained and their progress, then churns out detailed, monthly spreadsheet reports for the college and the Maryland Department of Labor, which partially funds the efforts. Her rate: $15 an hour. “It’s not like I need the job to pay my bills. I call it my mad money. It’s the money I use to go shopping, or hang out with my girlfriends, or go to dinner,” Ruffin says.While the hours sitting at the computer aren’t a problem for her, she does feel the budgetary pinch faced by many nonprofit workers. “I was so used to having all the office supplies I needed to perform my job when I wanted them when I was in the government. Now, because of the college’s budget constraints, I’m careful to reuse some office supplies.”Her ultimate working in retirement reward: “I’m a people person – I like helping people,” Ruffin says. “And that’s what I’m doing.”
There are plenty of great nonprofit jobs out there for you. For job-hunting help, check out websites such as Commongood Careers, Idealist.org, Change.org, Bridgestar and Civic Ventures’ site Encore.org. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has a huge roster of nonprofit and philanthropy job boards and employment resources, too. LinkedIn also has a job search section dedicated to nonprofit positions.
Here are five popular jobs to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and where you live, are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.Are you a jack-of-all-trades? Read on. >>1. Administrative Assistant
The nitty-gritty: Can you say jack-of-all-trades? This position calls for a mixed bag of skills and an ability to roll with the punches. You’ll be working with top management as well as consultants, contractors, customers and donors. You’ll typically be responsible for the down and dirty clerical work from word processing to updating databases. You may be in charge of scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements for professional staff and board members, coordinating meetings and seminars, and processing registrations for workshops. Generally speaking, you’ll take incoming calls, order and maintain office supplies, fulfill orders for reports, books and other materials, organize materials and hand-outs for events. The occupation ranks among those with the largest number of job openings through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The greatest demand is from nonprofits that serve educational services, health care and social assistance, according to BLS. At the heart of it, a versatile assistant is the point person who keeps things running smoothly with a lean staff, tight supplies and a big agenda. Job description: good team player.
The hours: Part time and full time; some virtual work possible
Median hourly pay: $13.82 to $32.21
Qualifications: Computer literacy. Come armed with a broad knowledge of computer software applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Constant Contact. Core word processing, writing, proofreading, editing and communication skills are indispensable. You should be also at ease working with software for desktop publishing, project management, spreadsheets and database management. Don’t panic if you aren’t riding the cutting edge technology, on-the-job skills can be gleaned with the help of other employees or equipment and software vendors. Familiarity with social media, including Twitter and Facebook, is a plus. Good customer service and organizational skills, and the ability to work independently will serve you well. Employers will be on the lookout for a proven track record of getting things done, problem-solving and pumped-up energy.
Have you always enjoyed volunteering? >>
2. Volunteer managerThe nitty-gritty: Your first line of duty is recruiting qualified volunteers via meetings with local interest groups and businesses to drum up awareness in the nonprofit’s cause, and hopefully flush out helping hands. Then you interview volunteers to find out where they can best help out. Once they’re on board, you direct training, coordinate schedules, supervise and retain them. Keeping busy professionals who are willing to donate their time coming back to perform sometimes-routine tasks requires some finesse. You may need to jump into the fray from time to time if volunteers don’t show up or a deadline is crashing. If the volunteers are providing their support overseas, you’ll be in charge of making sure all have the proper visas, passports and shots. In the end, it’s up to you to know –– who’s on first.
The hours: Part-time and full-time positions are typically available. Flexible schedules for weekends and evening work may be necessary to align with peak volunteer times.
Median pay: An hourly wage for a part-time manager may range from $20 to $25 an hour. The average salary for a director of volunteer services can range from $55,000 to $60,000, but salaries vary greatly because of organization, location, your experience and benefits offered.
Qualifications: A personal history of volunteerism goes without saying. Public speaking chops are paramount. A track record of delegating and monitoring many activities at the same time will get you noticed. And those “rah, rah” motivational skills will open doors for you. It’s vital to have the know-how to bring people together from all sorts of backgrounds to work together for a cause, not a paycheck. If you have a background in social services, it helps, but proven leadership and managerial skills in previous positions trumps. Many colleges and universities offer classes in volunteer management as part of their graduate programs in public administration or nonprofit management. One credential available for volunteer managers is “Certified Volunteer Administration.” The certification is backed by supporters such as The United Way Worldwide, Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch.org.
Do you have a great mind for marketing and media relations? >>
3. Marketing/communications manager
The nitty-gritty: Consider yourself the “cause” messenger. You’re the voice of the nonprofit in many ways. Duties can range from drafting press releases about upcoming events or capital campaigns to media outreach for coverage in print, broadcast and social media streams. You might be writing compelling blast emails, or mass snail mail letters requesting donations, or producing content for quarterly newsletters. Under the public relations guise, you may be asked to give speeches, or set up speaking engagements and prepare speeches for the executive director and board members. A note of caution: Nonprofits are collaborative places and anything that reflects the face of the organization to the outside world will come under close scrutiny. Higher-ups will want to put their fingerprints on anything you write. Learn to let it go.
The hours: Part-time and full-time positions.
Median pay: The pay scale is $14.69 to $45.77 an hour, but depending on experience can be far higher.
Qualifications: In general, experience in media relations, writing, editing and marketing are the prerequisites. A background in journalism can help. Bring a deep understanding of a nonprofit’s specific field — environment, medical, social issues — plus more extensive knowledge of the core issue at the forefront of the group’s mission. A bottomless basket of media contacts is a vital. A working knowledge of the ways of social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GooglePlus and other Internet platforms is expected. The Public Relations Society of America offers seminars, webinars and boot camps on a range of topics you need to know now, such as social media, green marketing, crisis communication and branding. There’s a good job board there, too, plus an accreditation for public relations if you want to add to your credentials.Do you consider yourself creative and artistic? >>
4. Recreational therapistThe nitty-gritty: Raise the curtain. It’s showtime. As the population ages, there’s a growing demand for people who can artistically provide activities for older adults. These programs and one-on-one sessions range from playing music to dancing, singing and storytelling, painting and making crafts, even the garden arts of flower arranging, planting and pruning. These new positions are being created for therapists with artistic flair to work alongside a variety of patients, including those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, at nonprofit long-term and residential care facilities, adult daycare centers, nursing homes and memory care centers. The heart of the job is to improve quality of life and mental health through imagination, stimulation and social interaction. The budding movement, called “creative aging,” is getting some attention. Federal and local governments, agencies on aging, nonprofits and foundations have begun to fund these arts programs across the country. (Check out our AARP Bulletin story: Artists Bring Creative Aging to Care Facilities.) Other venues for job openings: health care facilities that specialize in working with brain-injured patients may have openings. Community-based park and recreation departments, substance abuse rehabilitation centers and special education programs for school districts may also tap into recreational therapy. It takes more than talent to excel at this kind of work. A relaxed, easy-going manner and sense of humor must be in your personal tool kit. Not everyone is going to instantly have your passion for Christmas caroling in December, for instance. But watch the smile that spreads across that face, when he or she shouts out the last lines of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” In some situations, you’ll need to be in decent physical shape too. No temperamental artists need apply.
The hours: Part-time and full-time positions.
Median pay: $11.85 per hour to $30 and up. Annual wages of recreational therapists typically range between $29,660 and $49,140.
Qualifications: It’s possible to land a gig based on your artistic chops but an official position as a recreational therapist may require some professional training. Requirements vary by state. Some states, such as Oklahoma, North Carolina, Utah and New Hampshire, require a license to practice as a recreational therapist. For specific requirements, contact your state’s medical board. Although it’s not mandatory to be a certified recreational therapist, many employers prefer it. One designation to consider is offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. A good source for information is the American Therapeutic Recreation Association. There are also a growing number of groups such as Lifetime Arts, offering courses to train artists and musicians for this type of work.If you revel in event planning, you will love this job. >>
5. FundraiserThe nitty-gritty: How good are you at asking for money? Fundraising is a key ingredient to a nonprofit’s ultimate success and requires nurturing a rapport with donors, and establishing a database of existing and potential donors. Prepare to confidently unleash your outgoing, persuasive nature. It takes chutzpah to ask for money. You might ask for large gifts from individual donors, solicit bequests, host special events, apply for grants, or launch phone and letter appeals. In a smaller nonprofit, you may very well be asked to dig in on all of these activities. If you’re hunting down a large gift, you’ll be on the frontline — kibitzing over long lunches and meeting with potential donors in their offices and at their homes. But this is a job that takes more than charm and a verbal soft shoe. Good listening skills are essential too. A successful fundraiser knows how to building relationships and patiently waiting for the right time to press for a gift — especially when asking for thousands of dollars. If you revel in event planning, organizing parties with purpose, so to speak, can be a cool aspect of fundraising, too. Think black-tie dinners, charity walks. There are behind the scenes jobs — drafting form fundraising letters asking for donations, writing grant proposals and penning those all-important “thank you for your donation” notes.
The hours: part-time consultant/full-time staff; evenings and weekend hours
Median pay: $23.90 to more than $80 an hour
Qualifications: Many colleges and universities offer courses in fundraising. It’s not unusual for fundraisers to transfer into the position from careers in public relations, sales or market research. One way to sharpen your fundraising skills is to enroll in classes and certification programs offered by The Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Foundation Center. The AFP’s Fundamentals of Fundraising course offers introductory-level sessions — seven workshops — to introduce the novice fundraiser to the fundamental concepts and techniques of fundraising. The Foundation Center offers free and affordable classes nationwide in classrooms and online that cover grant proposal writing and fundraising skills. Planned giving specialists should have grounding in gift and tax law. There’s no sweet talking Uncle Sam when it comes to the requirements for a charitable deduction.Kerry Hannon is the author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.
Be sure to check out websites such as Commongood Careers, Idealist.org, Change.org, Bridgestar and Civic Ventures’ site Encore.org to help you learn more about nonprofits.The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has a huge roster of nonprofit and philanthropy job boards and employment resources, too. These are excellent sources for people with broad skill sets to shift into the nonprofit world. They list everything from volunteer opportunities, which can lead to paying jobs to board opportunities and full-and part-time openings. LinkedIn also has a job search section dedicated to nonprofit positions and you can also search for nonprofit jobs on AARP.org.