Many workers nearing retirement consider working part-time at a nonprofit as their next act. But a lack of experience in the nonprofit world stops them from applying. Here’s what could help: If more employers started doing something like what the organic food and drink company Clif Bar just began for its pre-retirees: its “CLIF CORPS Re-Ternship” program.
Here’s how it works: Employees at Clif Bar’s Emeryville, Calif., headquarters who are at least 57 ½ can apply for a nine-to-18 month paid internship (a prorated $65,000 annual salary plus benefits) in the company’s Community Department. During that time, the Re-Ternees spend at least 1,000 hours in Emeryville — a San Francisco suburb — getting mentored so they can learn how nonprofits work and prepare for what the company calls “a post-Clif Bar place in the world.”
The First Clif Bar ‘Re-Tern’
“I heard about the program when it was announced in 2017 and tucked it in my back pocket,” says Kathy Shoden, 59, Clif Bar’s first “Re-Tern” who has been a longtime member of the company’s sales team. “I thought it might be something I’d like to do when the time comes.”
During her career at Clif Bar, Shoden has also had fun participating in company volunteering efforts, including working at a food bank, cleaning a park and helping with dog rescues. When her mother developed health issues last year, Shoden started thinking seriously about retiring so she could spend time helping her.
That’s when Shoden decided a Re-Ternship could be a great way to make the transition. She’s now in the middle of her nine-month, four-days-a-week stint. She uses the three other days to travel to visit her mom in a rural Illinois town.
Filling Her Nonprofit Tool Belt
“I came to the Re-Ternship with an empty tool belt” regarding working at a nonprofit,” Shoden says. Before applying, she recalls telling the program’s coordinator Cassie Cyphers (Clif Bar’s Community and Planet Programs Manager) that “I want to learn a little about everything, so when I do go back to Illinois I will have a tool belt to work with.”
While “re-terning,” Shoden has been schooled in nonprofit grants through the Clif Bar Family Foundation, as well as nonprofit governance and partnerships. She has also been helping research new nonprofit partners for a traveling film festival, Lunafest, and has done logistics planning for Clif Bar’s annual all-company volunteer day at headquarters. “We close our doors and 400 employees clean up the largest park in San Francisco,” says Shoden.
Last year, more than 90 percent of Clif Bar employees did some volunteering on company time. The only requirement: getting approval from their managers.
The Re-Ternship Program: A Natural Evolution for Clif Bar
That’s why Cyphers says the Re-Ternship program is a natural evolution for civic-minded Clif Bar, which is family- and employee-owned.
“We feel it’s part of our responsibility to build passion around giving back and building skills,” she notes. “With the Re-Ternship, you get to take a deep dive into the world of nonprofits.” Then, adds Cyphers, “if you want to start an animal rescue or sit on a board, you’ll know the way it works.”
So far, only a few Clif Bar employees have applied for the Re-Ternship program. Partly, that’s because the benefit is new. Partly, it’s because most of the company’s employees are young.
To keep the program administration manageable, Clif Bar limits Re-Ternship participants to three at a time.
Matching the Candidate to the Re-Ternship
When Cyphers’ team interviews potential Re-Ternship candidates, she says, “we sit down and talk about what they’re interested in working on.” Then the community department looks to find tasks and projects that fit.
Clif Bar isn’t the only company in America doing something like this, but it’s certainly one of the very few. Just 10 percent of employers provide employees with information about encore career opportunities, according to a 2018 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey (a figure that sounds employer-inflated to me). A 2014 survey by The Conference Board and Encore.org of 91 companies found that only five had programs to help retirees transition to paid jobs in nonprofits or community organizations that support social issues — encore programs.
Intel and HP are two that do. Intel’s Encore Fellowships are offered to eligible retirees of the company who want to contribute to the greater good; more than 200 retiring Intel employees have participated.
The Excellent Encore Fellowships Program
The Intel program is an offspring of the excellent Encore Fellowships run by Encore.org, where highly skilled experienced professionals at the end of their midlife careers are matched with social-purpose organizations looking to build capacity.
Chip Conley, author of the soon-to-be published book Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, says programs like Encore.org’s are an example of “best practices” to prepare employees for the financial and social implications of retirement.
Encore Fellowships normally last six to 12 months and are either half-time or full-time. Fellows commit to 1,000 hours of work and earn a stipend of $25,000. Thousands of Encore Fellows have provided over 1.7 million hours of service to not-for-profits in more than 50 metropolitan areas.
An Exciting New Entry
“The Clif Bar program sounds like an excellent new entry to the space,” says Marci Alboher, vice president of strategic communications for Encore.org. “Given that one of our goals with the Encore Fellowship was to spur innovation, it’s pretty exciting to see a new program like this.”
Perhaps Clif Bar’s Re-Ternship initiative will help spur a trend.
“This is such a thoughtful, and well-though-out program. I hope it spreads to other companies,” says Shoden.