Alumni reach out to not-for-profit organizations
Princeton NJ -- The members of the class of 1956, who
have reached an age when they are beginning to retire or
consider retiring, have developed a project to put their
years of accumulated wisdom to good use. The as-yet-unnamed
program, part of the ReachOut '56 group, will pair members
of the class of '56 with schools and not-for-profit
organizations that could use a little help.
"We're endeavoring to marry the time, talent and energy
of our classmates -- who are now about 67 and off the
payroll -- with not-for-profits who could use a few gray
hairs of wisdom," said Jack Fritts, a New York lawyer and
one of the coordinators of the effort.
"There are endless not-for-profits out there that are
being run by somebody who has a wonderful vision but doesn't
know how to build an infrastructure, organize a board or do
the financials," he pointed out. "And we have a bunch of
people who know how to do those things and want to create
some new relationships and not feel like they're just
watching the grass grow."
Wide range of advice
The program will offer guidance on any topic in which its
alumni have expertise. Advice on business tasks like
bookkeeping, buying insurance and maintaining financial
statements will probably be in high demand. The program also
plans to involve alumni in mentoring teachers and school
The program has already helped Storytelling Arts, a
not-for-profit organization in Princeton that sends
professional storytellers to low-income schools and
detention centers. Three members of the class of '56 had an
all-day meeting with the group's board of directors and also
consulted with a fund-raising expert to develop a strategy
for the organization.
"We needed help with development and long-term planning,
the kind of thing that people with experience in the
business world would be able to help with," said Susan
Danoff, the group's executive director and a member of
Princeton's class of 1975. "I came to a non-profit as an
educator, not as a businessperson, so I really needed help
She has found their contributions enormously beneficial.
"They're good listeners, and they have a lot of vision about
how organizations can work," she said. "They've helped us to
think about things in a different way."
The class also is helping a credit union in East Harlem
refine its mission and advising a lake association in Maine
on how to battle an invasive weed. They are looking for
other projects to take on.
To develop a mentoring program, the alumni are teaming up
with the Foundation for Excellent Schools, a national,
not-for-profit organization that works to improve student
performance in low-income schools. Fifteen members of the
class of '56 are spending a day at Paul Robeson High School
in Brooklyn next month to see how the foundation's program
works and think about how they could contribute to it.
"We have hundreds of people in our class, and they all
have hugely different and interesting talents," Fritts said.
"This is a way of giving back some things that they've