Independent Evaluation Finds Encore Fellows Pilot A Success Poised for Expansion


Researchers Cite Program’s Potential to Expand Nonprofit Capacity, Deepen Talent Pool Available to Nonprofits and Provide a New Pathway to Encore Careers
News Release - For Immediate Release -
06/02/2010
For more information, contact:
Jennifer  Coate, 415-222-7490
jcoate@civicventures.org

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – June 2, 2010 – The Silicon Valley Encore Fellows pilot program, which tested an innovative new way for experienced employees to transition from corporate to nonprofit careers, received top marks in an independent evaluation released today by Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.

LFA Group, based in San Francisco, examined the first year of the Silicon Valley Encore Fellows program, finding that the well-designed program brings top-level talent and significant value to nonprofits; creates a bridge for individuals eager to explore encore careers for the greater good; and may help fill a looming leadership shortage in the nonprofit sector.

The Encore Fellows pilot provided early proof that the program “can potentially make important impacts on nonprofit capacity, deepen the talent pool available to nonprofits and provide a new career path to encore careers,” the report notes.

Launched in 2009 with funding from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Hewlett Packard Company, the Encore Fellows pilot matched 10 former corporate executives, mostly from the high-tech industry, with nine nonprofits in California’s Silicon Valley. The fellows, who received $25,000 stipends, worked at their host nonprofits for six months to a year to help the organizations with projects in marketing, human resources, financial management and other areas.

Through extensive interviews and surveys of key participants, LFA Group retroactively appraised the fellowships’ benefits. All 18 of the fellows and nonprofit executives who responded to the survey said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the program, with almost 90 percent very satisfied.

Two key points:

  • Most of the nonprofit executives estimated the work of their Encore Fellows was worth full-time salaries of $100,000 or more.
  • Nine fellows were offered jobs at the organizations where they spent their fellowships, and eight took permanent or temporary positions at their sponsoring organizations or other nonprofit agencies.

As one nonprofit executive explains, “Our fellow made a great contribution to our organization by participating as a senior staff colleague – across disciplines and departments – and by being the catalyst and driver of innovative approaches to our work.”

The evaluators identify several elements that led to the program’s success, including careful procedures to select experienced – yet humble – fellows and innovative, flexible nonprofits; match the two groups; and help nonprofit executives bring fellows up to speed.

Other important factors leading to success include:

  • High-impact, part-time, yearlong assignments that were personally meaningful to the fellows, accompanied by realistic goals and necessary resources
  • A stipend large enough for the fellows to feel that the nonprofits highly valued their work
  • Monthly meetings that combined peer support with counsel from nonprofit sector experts
  • An intermediary organization (in this case, Civic Ventures) that handled various aspects to support the program, from attracting sponsors and participants to guiding fellows and nonprofits throughout the program.

Fellows also rate the experience positively. One notes that the fellowship “changes you very fundamentally. There is no question that I want to spend the majority of my remaining working life in the nonprofit sector.”

LFA Group concludes that Civic Ventures is poised to replicate Encore Fellowships elsewhere and “provide evidence of the program’s success in different environments.”

Meanwhile, Civic Ventures continues to test the concept. The organization launched a second group of 10 Encore Fellows in Silicon Valley in April 2010 and is developing the Encore Fellowships Network, an alliance of quality Encore Fellows programs. Additional fellowship programs will start in several other cities in the coming year.

“The evidence is clear: Encore Fellowships help nonprofits do more – more effectively – by attracting seasoned, talented and eager individuals from the corporate world,” says Leslye Louie, a 2009 Encore Fellow, now national director of the Encore Fellowships Network. “In turn, those former corporate employees get access to a clear path to encore careers that benefit society. Everybody wins, especially the communities the nonprofits serve.”

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About Civic Ventures (www.encore.org)
Civic Ventures is a national think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.

About LFA Group (www.lfagroup.com)
LFA Group supports learning for action that maximizes impact and sustainability among organizations in the nonprofit, philanthropic and public sectors.