WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – As she got older, Gail McDaniel thought she should be doing more to make the world better.
Shed been laid off after a long career in retail, her career-coaching sideline was tapering off and she wanted to keep working – but only at something that would contribute to society.
I wanted to do some good. It is not uncommon for people who are older to want to give back and do something that feels good.
Now McDaniel, in her 60s, is the assistant to the executive director at My Sisters Place, a womens shelter in the New York suburbs. The connection was made by a company called ReServe, which pairs professionals 55 and older, most of them retired or semiretired, with nonprofit groups or public agencies that can use their skills – at a discount.
McDaniel is making just $10 an hour, and working just 20 hours a week, but said shes never been happier.
Nearly 1,500 ReServists have put in time over the past seven years, and more than 500 are working now at a variety of positions.
There are college mentors, bookkeepers, writers, teachers, paralegals, administrative assistants, doctors, nurses and greeters at the wedding chapel in New Yorks City Hall.
We could never afford these social workers, these retired accountants, said Janice Chu, who coordinates the ReServe program for 17 New York City agencies. Theyre such an asset with their years and years of experience.
New York Citys is the original and largest ReServe operation, but the company has branches in Westchester County, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; Baltimore; Miami; and southeast Wisconsin.
ReServists work an average of 15 hours a week at that $10 wage – no health benefits – and the agencies get professional expertise at bargain rates.
Officials say that because nonprofits, never flush, are battling the slow economy, some of the talents most in demand are fund raising and grant writing. Experience in personnel and accounting is also highly valued, as is the ability to speak a language besides English.
Nonprofits cant afford to purchase those skills at market prices, said Linda Breton, ReServes director of affiliate relations.
The nonprofits pay $15 an hour, of which $2.60 goes to ReServe and $2.40 to the company that manages payroll and taxes.
About 50 percent of ReServes funding comes from private foundations and public grants.
Breton said theres been no trouble attracting qualified applicants.
We have more people than we can place, she said. Recruiting retired professionals has proven to be very easy. Theyre passionate about something and they want to give back.
Getting the nonprofits to post positions is more difficult. Lots of them cant afford people even at $10 an hour, Breton said.
Nevertheless, ReServe feels the wage is important to a professional arrangement.
The stipend means everybody has skin in the game, Breton said. A volunteer can say, Its a crummy day, I dont think Ill go in. A professional doesnt do that.
Karen Cheeks-Lomax, the executive director at My Sisters Place, said the $10 helps formalize the relationship, but in an informal way. It allows the ReServist to create a life in the nonprofit but also continue her other life, or his other life, which may be golfing on Tuesday, book club, whatever.
McDaniel said the $10 helps her save for trips abroad, but she gets more from the feeling that shes valued by her boss.
I am told on a regular basis how valuable I am, she said.
Thats sexy stuff. It beats the 10 bucks.