Beware of the $1 a Year Executive-Part 1

The Baby Boomer generation is one of the first generations that have had the luxury of considering leaving their jobs early in life in order to go to work for a nonprofit organization or charity–often for very little compensation. In our business, we refer to this as the “$1 a Year Executive.”

One contributing factor to this trend has been HalfTime by Bob Buford. In HalfTime, a book about mid-life career transitions, Buford focuses on the possibilities at this stage for revitalization, for catching new vision for living the second, most rewarding half of life. His premise is that the second half of life can be better than the first. Many executives and others who are at this point in their lives have taken Buford’s challenge to heart. One of the results has been that more of these people are considering a second career in the not for profit sector.

While there is certainly a large group of people with incredible business and organizational skills, a word of caution is on order. Make sure that if you bring one of these people into your organization, that s/he is aware of and willing to work as hard as they will have to work to make a go of it with your charity. We have occassionally observed that this is not the case.

Case #1

One example we’ve learned from is an executive who had been fortunate enough to make a small fortune in the IPO of the brokerage house where he worked. He retired from
the brokerage house at 47 and decided that he wanted to work in a nonprofit. He
learned of such an organization that needed his help. After meeting with the President
of this organization he moved his family to be near the organization and began working
for $1/year. About 18 months into the job he realized that he had retired from a very
demanding job that paid him very well to work 70 hours a week for $1/year.

It wasn’t the money that was the issue, but rather the fact that one of the reasons he
had retired was to spend more time with his wife and kids. He was putting in as many
and often more hours with the non-profit than he was with the brokerage house. In the
end, however, he decided that it was in the best interest of the non-profit and his family for him to remain on the Board, but leave his job and be intentional about spending time with his family.

Certainly his intentions in accepting the job with the nonprofit were good. The
organization certainly needed someone with his experience and he was enjoying the
work. The glitch was that in the grand scheme of things, he needed and wanted to
spend more quality time with his family.

Up next: Case #2.

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Dr. Tommy Thomas Tommy Thomas is Lead Partner of JobFitMatters® as well as Board Member and Managing Director of parent entity SIMA® International. He specializes in cabinet-level retained executive search for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.