Source: Business Week  by Jim Fitzgerald

As she got older, Gail McDaniel felt she should be doing more to make the world better.

She’d 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,” McDaniel said. “It is not uncommon for people who are older to want to give back and do something that feels good.”

Now McDaniel, who’s in her 60s, is the assistant to the executive director at My Sister’s Place, a women’s 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 she’s “never been happier.”

“I wanted something that felt worthwhile and the mission here is very powerful,” she said.

Nearly 1,500 “ReServists” have put in time over the past seven years, and more than 500 are working now at a broad variety of positions.

There are college mentors, bookkeepers, writers, teachers, paralegals, administrative assistants, doctors, nurses and even greeters at the wedding chapel in New York’s 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, including the departments of health, corrections and the aging. “They’re such an asset with their years and years of experience.”

New York City’s 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 without paying anything close to going 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.

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 ReServe’s funding comes from private foundations and public grants, said spokesman Jesse Dean. 

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