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Organization That Promotes Public Service by Older People to Break Into Two Groups

Resource type: News

Chronicle of Philanthropy | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

by Suzanne Perry

Experience Corps, a program that recruits older people to mentor and tutor inner-city schoolchildren, is preparing to break away from its parent group, Civic Ventures, and establish itself as an independent charity.

Experience Corps, which has grown from a pilot project in 1995 to a program that now works in 20 cities and serves 20,000 students, is in the process of seeking a chief executive to help it expand further – partly by capitalizing on the growing number of potential volunteers among baby boomers who are reaching traditional retirement age.

The Civic Ventures board decided in February that the program could better meet its potential with its own leader and trustees, said John Gomperts, who holds dual positions as Civic Ventures president and current Experience Corps chief executive. He said Experience Corps plans in October to release the results of a rigorous evaluation of its work by Washington University, which will show that the program helps elementary-school students improve their academic performance. That, he said, is likely to increase demand for its volunteers.

Marc Freedman, an author and prominent advocate for tapping older people to help solve social problems, founded both Experience Corps and Civic Ventures, a think tank and “program incubator” in San Francisco that was set up in 1998. While Experience Corps relies on volunteers, many of whom get stipends, Civic Ventures’ newer efforts put more emphasis on paid public-service work for older Americans, or “encore careers.”

Experience Corps – whose biggest private donor is Atlantic Philanthropies, in New York – operates its national office on a budget of $1.5-million, while the 20 affiliate programs manage budgets of an additional $15-million. The volunteers receive almost $2-million a year in stipends from AmeriCorps, the federal national-service program, Mr. Gomperts said.

The new chief executive will be charged with setting up the independent organization and helping to develop a strategic plan for future growth – which could include expanding to tackle social issues other than education, Mr. Gomperts said. Mr. Gomperts will give up his chief-executive position with Experience Corps once it becomes an independent group, but will stay on as president of Civic Ventures.

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United States


AmeriCorps, Civic Ventures, Experience Corps, senior citizens