Reinvention in retirement

25 Nov 2016

By Shadforth Financial Group

Retirement is a time of flux as you transition from a professional career to the next stage of your life. Rather than let your professional skills dissipate, you might want to consider giving back to your community by applying your skills as a board member of a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. We take a look at how you can find a suitable position so you and others can benefit from your newfound time in retirement.

A board position will generally demand quite a lot of commitment in terms of time and effort so you may want to start with simply volunteering with organisations that you feel are aligned with your personal values. This gives you an opportunity to meet people in the organisation and gives you a taste of what it is like to work on the front line. Alternatively, you may already have a firm idea of what type of organisation you want to support, in which case, introduce yourself to the leadership team to discuss how you could go about assisting as a member of the board.

Offering your help to people you have not met before may feel a little uncomfortable to begin with but remember that you are offering valuable expertise. When you begin to research your options, a few things to remember include:

Your age is your asset

If you’re aged 50 or above, your professional, business or executive skills, teamed with your life experience, is highly desirable to many organisations. Whether you’re a trained nurse, accountant, engineer or a dentist, there are many projects that need your assistance and support.

Professional skills can be repurposed

Many of the skills you use in your professional career are sought after by not-for-profit organisations. Leadership and accounting skills are very transferable. Additionally, skills in the areas of project management and corporate governance are also useful. Put your skills to good use by helping not-for-profits achieve their goals.

Teachers are in demand

Remote communities often struggle to attract teachers, resulting in children missing out on education. If you’re a retired teacher, consider spending time in a rural community to ensure your teaching skills don’t go to waste.

Challenges for charities

As an example of someone who has successfully transitioned from a professional career to a board position on a charity, we talked to Felix Stephen, who is Chairman of the Board at Volunteers to Assist Children with Disabilities Limited (VACD). Stephen accumulated more than 47 years’ experience in international banking during his professional career. In retirement, he combined that skillset with his passion to support children with disabilities by establishing VACD.

Stephen says two key challenges faced by the charity included introducing a model that worked for their target beneficiaries — children with disabilities in Sri Lanka’s Uva Province — and retaining the support of volunteers.

To tackle the first challenge, he set about developing ways to empower the parents or guardians to take responsibility for the charity.

“In an effort to alleviate economic burdens borne by these families and to encourage the parents to establish viable small businesses that create their own household income opportunities, our leadership team works in close partnership with the Regional Development Bank, Bandarawela, who extend micro financing to parents of VACD registered children,” says Stephen.

“VACD also liaises with the Tea Small Holdings Development Authority, Uva Provincial Department of Agriculture and Department of Industries Development to provide these parents with training, guidance and assistance so that they could engage in economic ventures such as tea production, horticulture, bee keeping, and food preservation.”

The second challenge — attracting and retaining volunteers — is a long journey that the charity still pursues today. Thanks to their own financial contributions
and those of close friends, Stephen and his leadership team run a tight ship of 64 volunteers and four administration and accounts staff, who are paid an allowance to run the centre.

Stephen attributes his experience as a banker to the success of the not-for-profit organisation, noting that his training in costing and reporting structures guided
him through the charity’s early days. He concludes wholeheartedly that retirees have a wealth of experience to offer as volunteers, particularly in such fields as finance, administration, project and events management, as well as marketing and communications.

“In return, what you will get is a sense of utter fulfilment and joy, because you’re doing something for people

Getting started

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering or joining a not-for-profit board, have a look at the below websites, which offer advice and list available positions.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors website has a section of useful information for board members of charities and not-for profits.

The PRObono Australia website allows you to search for volunteering opportunities by profession and by location.

The Seek Volunteer website lists a wide range of volunteering opportunities across Australia. You can narrow your search using filters based on the type
of position and location.

The not-for-profit Law Information Hub website has links to several state-based volunteer organisations as well as factsheets explaining your legal responsibilities
in relation to managing volunteers.

The Women on Boards website advertises available positions on charity and not-for-profit boards.

Working in charity or not-for-profit is not for everyone, while those who do, tend to benefit enormously by having the opportunity to contribute actively to their communities and using their professional skills to help others.

Educational guides