An article in the New York Times on paid volunteerism really opened my eyes to the idea of life after retirement. A lot of retirees, themselves financially set, turn towards volunteerism as a way of passing the time, doing some good, and achieving goals that they’ve set for themselves. One concept that this article introduced me to was the idea that some retirees, who have had a lifetime of skills, want to be philanthropic but also want to be paid, albeit a minimum amount. The point of being paid isn’t so much about the amount of the paycheck, but the fact that it is a paycheck and you’re being rewarded for your good work.
Fritz Schwartz (that’s right, Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr. of the family of FAO Schwarz toy store fame), financially set, asked for a salary when he started at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School; saying that “An organization and a person are simply more committed to each other when the person is paid.” He was being paid less than what a starting lawyer was being paid but it was about the principle, he didn’t need the money. He never received a raise and when the Center hit a budget crunch, he surrendered his salary.
In addition to the salary, being paid for your work ensures that you won’t be given busy work. If someone is volunteering and working for free, it’s as if they’re a free resources that can go ignored if someone isn’t being diligent. That’s a point I hadn’t even thought of. “Many retirees have learned, to their irritation, that what they give free is discounted as fluff.” I mean, I’m sure organizations don’t do this on purpose, but it’s a natural progression as things get busy. To an organization, if someone is free, then it’s not like they’re being wasted if they aren’t given meaningful work; to the person, they’re still feeling maligned.
So, if you’re in retirement and volunteering your time to an organization, consider negotiating a salary and good things can happen.