Could A 55-year Old Development Professional Save Your Nonprofit?

Are you biased against hiring older employees? More and more reports have been surfacing about disadvantages in the workplace – many unintended by employers. But what if the answer to the problem at nonprofits is not only in creating awareness, but in creating long-term vision.

From substance abuse to workplace harassment, awareness does solve a certain percentage of the problem. In fact, in an article in the New York Times last week, “Discriminate Against the Old? Even the Old Do It,” I was surprised to realize almost all of us are at least subconsciously prejudiced against a very valuable pool of prospective employees.

It got me thinking about the value of someone 55 and older (often the age at which ageism kicks in). Their invaluable experience is often overlooked due to their higher salaries. I would counter that in an industry in which the eighteen-month turnover rate affects the success of so many organizations – which will cost the organization more – the lack of consistency with donors or the annual salary of a mature, well-versed, experienced sixty-year old?

I used to hear that it wasn’t worth it to hire someone older because the time they learn the ropes they are ready for retirement. I would counter that a 60-year old might be the person to stay for a longer period of time. They are less interested in looking for the next great opportunity and more interested in finding the right fit to work until retirement. And in today’s economy that is often close to 70. Few thirty-year old development professionals will stay in their current position for five to ten years.

One more reason
And here is one more reason to hire an older development professional. It is a good habit to look at the long-term effect of your decisions. Kids who are given immediate satisfaction are considered spoiled. The parents who give into them are criticized as shortsighted. Why is it different with a nonprofit board?

A board that is only concerned with the current fiscal year and is not looking three to five years into the future will have to be concerned with the current fiscal year each and every year. It takes wise investments in employees, in infrastructure, in programming, and in planning to create long term success. And older employees should fit into that strategy with ease.