by Gene D'Adamo, columnist - Nov. 24, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Help Wanted: Passionate volunteers who want to make a difference. Need adults, ages 50-plus, to share their experiences and wisdom. Training provided. Full- or part-time. Compensation will exceed expectations. To apply: www.experience mattersaz.org.
More than 1.2 million Arizonans answered this call for help last year. Volunteers have always been critical to the social sector, but the need is even greater as non-profit agencies are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the demand for services while financial contributions are staying flat or decreasing.
Like never before, these groups are relying on volunteers to help them carry out their missions.
With more than 15,000 public charities in Arizona, there is literally an agency for every interest, and you can devote as much -- or as little -- time as you want, from single projects to yearlong programs.
Without a doubt, volunteers of all ages are needed, but the social sector is looking for more Baby Boomers, who have years of experience and critically important skills to share.
Enter Experience Matters, an organization whose mission is to connect those of us in our encore years, age 50 and older, with civic and non-profit organizations. And with more than 1.5 million Boomers in Arizona, there's a lot of human capital waiting to be harnessed for the greater good.
Through a program called Your Experience Counts, people like Carlos Garcia are making a huge difference in our schools. With contagious enthusiasm, Carlos volunteers four days a week at Shaw Elementary School in downtown Phoenix.
"Those kids light up my day," he told me, but I'd say it goes both ways as the school's third-graders eagerly await his visits so they can practice their reading.
Your Experience Counts matches "experienced talent" (aka, people 50-plus) with third- through seventh-grade students in under-resourced schools to give extra help in reading, writing, math or science. With at least 30 years of professional experience of some kind under our belts, Boomers have a wealth of knowledge that makes us a huge asset in the classroom. You don't need teaching experience, just a desire to give back.
Want to volunteer but not sure the classroom is the place for you? Experience Matters has you covered with a new program called Service by Design. This project-based volunteer opportunity matches your skills with the unique needs of a non-profit.
As Nora Hannah of Experience Matters says, "It's impossible to find someone who's 50-plus and doesn't have a skill that can be shared with an agency."
The Service by Design professionals are experts at uncovering your unique skills and placing you with an organization that has been trained to maximize what you bring to the table.
Linde Harned, the go-to person for this program, can be reachedat Lharned@experiencemattersaz.org.
Tutoring, collecting/distributing food and mentoring youth are three of the most popular volunteer activities in Arizona. The fourth is fundraising, which is always a critical need for non-profits, particularly in this economy.
If you spent your career in sales, business development or marketing, fundraising could be a natural fit for you now.
The spirit of generosity is heightened during the holiday season, evidenced by agency waiting lists to serve food on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Because of the overwhelming generosity of donors like you, The Arizona Republic/12 News Season for Sharing campaign (sharing.azcentral.com) distributed $2.66 million last year, and more than $46 million over the past 18 years. The challenge for all of us is keeping that passion and commitment alive 365 days a year.
For more information, go to www.experiencemattersaz.org or www.handsonphoenix.org.
Gene D'Adamo is vice president of community relations for The Arizona Republic, 12 News and azcentral.com.
NOTE: GENE & I ARE BOTH PROUD GRADUATES OF STS. SIMON & JUDE CLASS OF 1975!