About the Talent: People



Cheryl Edmonds


After an 18-year career at Hewlett Packard and an early retirement package, Cheryl Edmonds was ready for a different kind of impact. High tech was “wonderful up to a point, but it lacked heart; there was that heart piece that was missing.”

Cheryl was recruited as an Encore Fellow to enhance the volunteer program at Metropolitan Family Services and other Portland-area nonprofits, working with local businesses to promote volunteerism among baby boomers. Her goal was to develop a skills-based volunteer program meeting the needs of nonprofits as well as expectations of potential volunteers.

She started by asking program managers, “if money were no object and you could bring in someone who could really help you build your program, what would that project be?” When presented with an idea, she would say:

You know what? We could go find you a really great person to come in here and help you with this project, this thing you haven’t been doing because you haven’t had the bandwidth.”

Then they would say something like, ‘Are they going to come in here and tell me what to do, and are they going to be cooperative, and how much time is it going to take to manage this person? I don’t know how to talk to a corporate person—I’ve been in nonprofits for my whole life, and we are very collegial. Are these guys going to be a pain?’

. . . not if they are given enough background about how this all might work for them and there is a clear project plan and clear expectations about your availability, communication preferences, so they know how to reach you.

What you should expect is that these are really highly competent, highly motivated people who know what you want, and know how to access the resources, get out of the way and let them do it, because that’s what they are going to want to do.

Then they would say, ‘So, I’m not going to have to babysit this person?’

No, in fact, if you babysit them you will probably not be happy with what happens because most of these folks don’t want or need to be micro-managed.

With her no-nonsense approach and support from MFS leadership, Cheryl identified two projects for a pilot, selecting enthusiastic project champions willing to invest in making the partnership a success. After its internal = MFS extended the Encore Consultants program to other nonprofits. Cheryl’s developed a toolkit including a recruitment and on-boarding process that attracted high-level encore talent for short-term volunteer capacity building projects. The program was, by all accounts, very effective.

__ years after her fellowship, Cheryl continues to work on special projects for MFS, with successes including the launch of fee-based services within the Encore Consultants program, improved messaging, a state of the art website and an agency-wide database for proving and improving MFS’s impact.

Cheryl commented, I think these pro bono professionals who have time, energy, and desire, are the coolest. They are all over the place and you just have to help them funnel their interests into the right places. I think that is what MFS understood and learned—you figure out what you want, go ask for it, and it happens. 

It seems like the most natural thing to do—to really embrace this idea of aging for those of us coming out of the 1960s era; a lot of us haven’t lost that fervor…to be able to do something that really does have social impact is a wonderful opportunity. I’m very pro Encore Fellow; it’s a solid idea with really great people working to make successful connections.