Jane Pauley, AARP's Brand Ambassador
Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Civic Ventures
Marci Alboher, VP of Civic Ventures and one of the nation's top experts on career issues and workplace trends.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Jane Pauley: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining us. I hope you enjoyed our TODAY Show segment this morning featuring Lawrence McRae – a Purpose Prize Fellow and an inspiration in his community and beyond. When he began his prostate cancer foundation, McRae had little guidance on how to start a nonprofit organization – and only the modest funds from his social security check. I’m sure many of us feel a desire to contribute to worthy causes rather than kick back into retirement mode, but it can be difficult knowing how to take that first step.
My guests this afternoon are here to help you figure out how to effectively turn your retirement or career reinvention into a time of giving back. Marc Freedman is the founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. They’re also the organization that awards the Purpose Prize. Marci Alboher is the VP of Civic Ventures and one of the nation’s top experts on career issues and workplace trends.
Hello, Marc and Marci! Great to have you here this afternoon.
Just to get things going, Cynthia has a good question for you, Marc.
Comment from Cynthia: Marc and Marci, could you tell a little more about Civic Ventures? Who funds the organization?
Marc Freedman: Thanks so much Jane for hosting this discussion, and to Cynthia for this question – and to everyone for joining the discussion. We're honored to be part of it!
In response to Cynthia's question, Civic Ventures is a national nonprofit organization, with a focus on helping more people over 50 launch encore careers. Encore careers are a kind of practical idealism, second careers at the intersection of continued income, new meaning, and social impact. We are concentrating particularly on helping individuals who want to have second careers of this type to move from aspiration to action – through advice, new educational opportunities, and fellowships for grown-ups. More information is at www.encore.org.
Comment from Pete: What exactly is the Purpose Prize? How can I nominate someone for it?
Comment from Andrea: How do we submit information for an amazing over 60 couple who are helping the local homeless and low-income community?
Marci Alboher: Andrea and Pete, thanks for asking about the Purpose Prize. The Purpose Prize invests in people over 60 who are changing the world in their encore careers. So the couple working on homelessness are certainly the kind of people we want to hear about. Through this program, we award 5 prizes of $100,000 and 5 prizes of $50,000 to social innovators. We'll be announcing the 2010 winners in November of this year. And we are accepting nominations online for 2011. Full info on the prize, including how to nominate, is available at www.encore.org/prize.
Comment from Richard: It seems you need to be wealthy or at least have a lot of savings to be able to afford to switch to an encore career before retiring. Is that true?
Pauley: Richard, take a look at AARP.org/jane where you’ll see an in-depth version of our profile of Lawrence McRae, who for 10 years has founded his project pretty much with his Social Security check-- hope it gives you some inspiration in that.
Alboher: Richard, many people in encore careers, like Lawrence McRae, aren't wealthy. In fact, we frequently define encore careers as work in the second half of life that combines continued income with personal meaning and social purpose. McRae is an example of someone who started an organization, but many people a this stage of life are choosing full-time and part-time jobs, or even self-employment in fields like education, health care, or the nonprofit sector -- all of which are likely to experience talent shortage as boomers retire.
Comment from Barry: My name is Barry Yeoman. I work with Jane & Co. at Your Life Calling. As my colleagues know, I'm very excited about this segment. Not only is Lawrence McRae doing important work, but to me his efforts highlight a different type of "second act:” something I'd describe as entrepreneurial volunteerism. Mr. McRae identified a life-or-death need in his community, then went out and filled that need. This is a good reminder that there are many different ways to envision a "second act." It's not just about career change.
Pauley: Hi Barry, you remind me of something Lawrence McRae told me. It was sort of straight out of the Broadway musical The Music Man: “You gotta know the territory.” One of the reasons he’s effective in eastern Alabama where he spreads the word about prostate health awareness is that he has credibility because he is one of them. And as he put it, “If you come into an area where you’re not known, people think, ‘Well if you’re so smart you’d be doing it where you came from,’ so either do it at work where you are known or partner with someone who is known."
Comment from Bobbi: I’m interested in starting a nonprofit, but the financial risk scares me. Are there organizations that provide funding or grants for start-ups? How do you go about finding them?
Pauley: Yes! Our Your Life Calling segments are archived at AARP.org/jane along with other resources. Check us out and keep watching TODAY.
Freedman: Hi Bobbi, great question. Before answering it directly I have a suggestion. It might be worth thinking about working within the context of an existing organization before deciding to start something new--which does involve some risk and a lot of hoops (including legal costs for incorporation.) I launched Civic Ventures eleven years ago after developing a project under the auspices of an existing nonprofit; that not only lowered the initial costs but provided the opportunity to develop a track record before going after larger grants. That said, there are often community foundations or nonprofit incubators that can help individuals wanting to launch a new organization. It's worth checking with the local United Way or community foundation for advice.
Comment from Rita: We have a pioneering organization started 9 years ago which has created a Village movement from thousands of groups across the country who are interested in this "aging in community" model. Many of our members are interested in encore careers and we have worked with Civic Ventures. We are very excited that you are part of this discussion. Would you be able to come to our national
gathering of Villages in Philadelphia this November? This would be great exposure for the Purpose Prize and encore careers.
Alboher: Rita, I'd love to hear more about your organization. Sounds like we should chat off-line. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freedman: Just following up on Marci's response about Beacon Hill Villages, one of the most innovative models for helping individuals remain in their neighborhoods as they age. At Civic Ventures we're great admirers of this approach--which enables individuals to live "safe, healthy productive lives in their own homes." Anyone who wants to learn more go to www.beaconhillvillage.org/.
Comment from Henrietta: Thanks Mr. McRae for filling a need. Hopefully your efforts will be replicated across the country. Are you available for speaking engagements?
Pauley: We’ll be happy to pass that request along!
Comment from Men on Mondays: Congratulations to Mr. McRae. Men on Mondays is a black men's online health resource located on Facebook.
Pauley: Men on Mondays, great idea! Glad to give you a shout out here on our webchat. We’ll be sure to pass your info on to Lawrence McRae.
Comment from Amy: Hi, my name is Amy Hanson and I’m the author of the book Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults Over 50. I’ve found that there are many adults within faith communities who are finding their encore, but sometimes it starts with someone else casting a compelling vision that this is something they can indeed do. I agree with Barry, sometimes the ‘new work’ is a career change and other times it is using the resources you have accumulated over your years of working to make a significant impact in your community. What advice do you have on helping adults see that they do indeed have something to offer?
Pauley: Amy, this question also bedevils me -- and I think most of us, frankly. My personal advice is while you do the kind of debriefing process that Marci describes, that you just get something going with an existing organization or church in your community. Sometimes taking an active role is how you discover the particular thing you do well and enjoy doing, and you wouldn’t have known it had you not just plunged in and tried. And if it doesn’t work out, you probably will have learned something to take to your next endeavor.
Alboher: Great question, Amy. One of the best techniques for helping people figure out where their talents lie is to start doing some surveying. It's kind of like the 360-reviews that have become popular at work. Suggest this: convene a small group of people who know you well and poll them about your strengths and talents. You'll be surprised at what you can learn. Here's a blog post with an exercise that can help: http://shiftingcareers.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/18/a-zagat-style-approach-to-your-career/.
Comment from Elizabeth: Hi Jane, Marc and Marci: saying hi to each of you and letting you know you are being supported out here in web chat land! Very useful information is being shared! Lawrence's segment with Jane on the TODAY Show was outstanding! It shows everyone can make a difference right where they
are. "See a need and fill it!" Please thank Lawrence for being a wonderful role model! Best regards, Elizabeth Craig
Comment from Cathy: Jane - great segment today. How does one go about discovering his or her life calling? I am 55 years old and about to be an empty nester and would love your advice on how to figure out what I should do next with my life.
Freedman: Hi Cathy—you’re at an ideal juncture to make this shift! There is a growing body of advice about how to think through this transition. I've got several thoughts. The first is to recognize that the next chapter may well last a decade or two, so it's worth investing in it up front, much the way young people do for their midlife careers. And it’s also normal, in my experience, for the early part of the change to have its ups and downs. My main counsel is to try on different routes, beyond just contemplating options. Volunteer, do an internship, enlist in a program like AmeriCorps or even something more exotic like the Peace Corps. These direct experiences are often the best guides to what is really a good fit!
Pauley: Cathy, I had a friend who went back to school. It was a certificate program not for an advanced degree, but to update her college undergraduate major. This certificate might not have qualified her for a paid position, but it qualified her to work for a nonprofit as a volunteer. Which she did so successfully, it built her own confidence to start another, completely unrelated project. And so signing up for that certificate program at a local college was a bridge that took her somewhere she would never have conceived of going.
Comment from Amy: Great suggestions, Jane and Marci. In interviewing adults I've found that many of them just started volunteering with their church at the prison or at the local homeless shelter and out of that they found their passion and their encore career.
Comment from Alice: I have recently opened the South Jersey branch of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation in memory of my daughter Maryalyce who passed away 5/07 from the horrific primary pertional cancer which is an off shoot of ovarian cancer. Most women have never heard of it. What can be done to get more information out about this disaster? The survival rate for PPC is 5% and for ovarian cancer stage 3 or 4 is 20. It is referred as “the cancer that whispers.” I want all women to Roar for a Cure.
Alboher: So sorry to hear about your loss. But it sounds like you are doing needed work around a disease which is not getting enough attention. One suggestion -- you've clearly got a lot of passion fueling you, why not start writing about your work and this under-reported off-shoot of ovarian cancer? You could look into blogging or contributing op-eds to media outlets (a great resource here is the OpEd Project - www.theopedproject.org). Another approach is to contact reporters at local and national outlets (or even bloggers) who cover health issues and alert them to your work and the issues behind it.
Comment from Cathy: Jane - great segment today. What advice can you give someone who is trying to find their own "life calling" - someone in their 50s who is currently employed but may be looking to do something more meaningful? Mr. McRae certainly found his!
Pauley: Cathy, just an observation, Lawrence McRae found his “life calling” on the way back from a doctor's appointment when he was 65 and had not been looking for a life calling. It’s as if it found him.
Comment from Sam: Do the winners of the Purpose Prize get to keep the money they win, or does it all go to funding their organization?
Freedman: Hi Sam. The winners have great flexibility in using the funds in a manner that best advances their initiative. In practice, almost all the winners have asked that their prize money be donated to the nonprofit they started. Since the organization is tax exempt that means the full amount is directed to the cause.
Comment from Dave: Good advice for Cathy, but how does one pay the bills while pursuing a new direction?
Pauley: Dave, we’ve got a couple of stories in the works for Your Life Calling next month and in October. In each case, the individuals are still working in their old jobs while pursuing their new objectives at a considerable financial sacrifice.
Alboher: Dave, I'll piggyback on Jane's advice. Figuring out how to pay the bills during a transition is an issue many people struggle with. Career transitions take a long time, often longer than you expect. I agree with Jane -- often the best option is to continue working in a field where you have experience until you gain the skills and training you need to make a change. Many people find opportunities as freelancers, consultants and part-time workers -- so that they can continue to have an income while having the time to go back to school, network, and create a new career.
Comment from Alice: Would my nonprofit be eligible for the Purpose Prize? I am over 60. If so how would I go about getting the application? Op-eds are good, but your information is only printed if they need space to fill. Ovarian cancer and PPC are deadly. Since I have opened this branch all costs have been from my SS too.
Alboher: Alice, full details on the Purpose Price application process are at www.encore.org/prize.
We’re trying something new on today’s webchat: A poll question inspired by today’s Lawrence McRae “Your Life Calling” story. If you haven’t seen it yet, for 10 years he’s been spreading the word in eastern Alabama about prostate health, and almost entirely funded by his Social Security check. So here’s our question for you:
What is or will be the top item you spend your Social Security check on?
Starting a nonprofit (25%)
Supporting a charity (0%)
Pauley: I want to modify that question. After living expenses, what is the top item you would spend your Social Security check on?
Freedman: One item relating to the poll above, and the connection between Social Security and generosity: viewers might want to check out the website for Purpose Prize Fellow Jerry Conover's project at the Denver Foundation, Hope for Generations. Through the initiative many older Denver residents are contributing funds to support the well-being of children. Wealthier individuals are donating their Social Security checks, and even many of more modest means are tithing a portion of their income. Info at http://www.denverfoundation.org/community/page/hope-for-generations. Just another example of the generosity and caring of older Americans.
Comment from Mary: Jane -- I'm wondering if you can talk about how scary it can be to reinvent your life in midlife, even when you know it's the right thing to do.
Pauley: Mary, thinking about your question, I have three grown kids now. One of my sons just moved across the country to begin his first year as a classroom teacher. He is so excited because it is the right thing to do and he is scared to death. That’s exactly how it feels at midlife too, so do what you have to do to get yourself trained up, prepared, and just accept that uncertainty is going to be part of the equation but it’s not permanent. And good luck to you!
Comment from Bennie: Good afternoon, Jane. Thanks to you, your staff, AARP, NBC/TODAY Show and others for highlighting the efforts of my brother. The family is very proud of him and all are very appreciative for what you have done. As you have seen he is very passionate in his desire to help others.
Pauley: Thanks, Bennie. Pass it along that the feedback from our story about your brother has been terrific!
Comment from Elizabeth: I think you can start an encore career and/or develop your creative legacy project at any time. It's important to explore all the resources you currently have, what's available in your community and beyond.
Alboher: As I look at this poll, I'm interested in the disparity of numbers between those who say they'd start their own nonprofits vs. those who say they'll support a charity. I can't help thinking that in this economy, quite a lot of people are concerned about taking care of themselves and their family before giving to those they don't know. But that high number on starting a nonprofit makes me think that people want to help others -- but in a way that they have control over.
Comment from Elizabeth: Want to volunteer? AARP has a wonderful web link to a wide variety of opportunities right where you live. As mentioned, this combines both giving to others while at the same time learning more about your capabilities, personal passion and purpose. Go to http://www.createthegood.org. AARP has always been a huge supporter of volunteering and you've got to love the name: Create the Good! Cheers to all who volunteer and make the world a better place! Thank you! Elizabeth Craig
Comment from Robert: Is the TODAY Show segment aired this morning available on their web site yet?
Pauley: Sure is: today.msnbc.msn.com.
To respond to Elizabeth's comment from above: good point. Thinking again about Lawrence McRae, I wonder if he knew before he started his prostate health advocacy all by himself that his greatest resources were persistence and perseverance. Because for years he encountered a lot of cold-shouldered resistance to his efforts to engage people about prostate health. But he stuck to it day after day, month after month, and now it’s 10 years later and he’s still going strong. Sometimes we don’t see our own resources for what they are.
As we're about to finish out here. Marc, any comments about the results of our poll experiment this morning?
Freedman: Thanks Jane--what a great discussion! In response to your question, I think one message from this poll is that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well among those over 50. We used to think that starting a non-profit was the exclusive province of young people. No more. And that reflects a strong desire by Americans all across the life-course to solve the problems facing our communities today. People are drawn, more and more, in my view to live a legacy--not just to leave one.
Alboher: What a great discussion. We at Civic Ventures continue to be impressed by older innovators changing the world -- something I just wrote about last week for Reuters.com: http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2010/08/06/starting-a-new-career-at-60/.
Thanks so much for having us, Jane.
Pauley: Well, it looks like it’s already time to wrap things up. Thank you so much for participating in this chat as a part of our Your Life Calling series on the TODAY Show and here on aarp.org. Marc and Marci – thanks for being with us! I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. You're doing fantastic work with Civic Ventures.
Catch me again Sept. 13 on the TODAY Show where I’ll be bringing you another great story about someone who is hearing their life calling in a new and different way. Stay tuned to aarp.org/Jane for more resources and inspiring stories on reinvention.