Charities Tap Skills of Jobless Professionals
"Volunteering in the nonprofit world is a good balance for me after spending so many years in corporate America," said Michael Gilman of San Francisco, who was laid off six months ago from his job as a senior business manager in Hewlett-Packard's Web services and software division in Palo Alto.
Insight into nonprofits
He's now volunteering through Taproot as a project manager at the Community Music Center in the Mission District, helping it improve its professional business environment.
The work keeps him grounded, he said, as he navigates the difficult job market.
He's applied for a dozen jobs and made it through the final interview of a few, only to be told in each case that the company had decided to freeze the position until the economy improves. In the meantime, he is leading a neighborhood support group for laid-off executives.
After gaining a little insight into the nonprofit world, Gilman has broadened his search and interviewed at nonprofits such as GreatSchools.net.
"I'm learning that the nonprofit world is just as organized as the corporate world," he said.
HandsOn Bay Area and VolunteerMatch, another online service, are filling projects months in advance. In November, HandsOn Executive Director Lou Reda said he noticed the months started booking up, and by January, people started bypassing the online calendars and calling the office trying to find a project to join.
Glut of volunteers
"We've never seen that before. It's absolutely stunning," Reda said. "It's getting harder to put together enough projects for all the volunteers."
This illustrates an enormous missed opportunity for nonprofits. As charities scale back in the face of dwindling donations, many are laying off staff, including volunteer coordinators. While charities can easily add volunteers who want to ladle soup or clean a creek, absorbing professionals with complex skills takes management hours charities no longer have.