Research confirms the value of encore work – for social sector employers, for communities and for the individuals involved. Encore talent expands capacity across a wide range of organizations and is scalable, from small, entrepreneurial startups to large, complex organizations.

Encore Impact Project: A Study of Encore Talent at Work

This 2015 study quantifies encore impact across a range of nonprofit engagements. partnered with six organizations to begin to describe the impact of paid and pro-bono encore engagements on social mission, organizational capacity, and service to their communities.

Impact on Community

Contributed skill(s) or labor that the community might not otherwise been able to access

  • 91% 91%

Impact on Social Mission

Contributed labor in direct service of our mission

  • 79% 79%

Impact on Organizational Capacity

Contributed idea(s), approaches to our work, or tools new and useful to the organization

  • 73% 73%

Key Findings

Encore engagements have a big effect on communities.

  • Four in five people in encore roles (80 percent) positively affected five different measures of community impact, e.g., contributing direct labor that the community might not otherwise be able to access and increasing community resilience.
  • Nearly as many (79 percent) contributed direct labor in service of the organizations’ missions.

People in encore roles contribute in ways that are usually associated with professional staff.

When we think about encore engagements, we commonly assume they provide direct service, as indeed they often do. But the 100+ supervisors who were surveyed reported some surprising areas of impact by nearly 1,700 people, most of whom were volunteers.

  • Almost three-quarters of people in encore roles (73 percent) contributed new ideas, approaches or tools to their organizations.
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) provided work that helped (or had the potential to help) scale up the organization’s work.
  • More than half (52 percent) helped to implement approaches to increase visibility to funders.
  • Almost half (49 percent) helped reduce operating costs or improve service delivery.
  • Nearly four in ten (39 percent) were involved in launching new programs.

Characteristics associated with experience and mastery contribute to impact:

  • Two frequently observed characteristics (noted in 86 percent of participants) were having knowledge or background that was helpful to the work and integrating well with the team.

Other frequently observed characteristics:

  • Successfully explaining, mentoring, coaching and building relationships with others (81 percent).
  • Working well with complexity and the dynamics of the role (83 percent).
  • Being able to see others’ perspectives (80 percent).

Encore Fellowships Network: Case Studies on Impact

A 2015 Boston College Center on Aging & Work study presented case studies of three individual Encore Fellows, skilled professionals working in paid, time-limited, high-impact assignments with social-purpose organizations. The study concluded that “the durable impact of their contributions should encourage nonprofits to tap into this growing pool of talent and expertise to help tackle vital issues and problems with the smarts, finesse and ability that experience confers.”

All three Encore Fellows made significant contributions that lasted beyond their fellowship, including the creation of a new Encore Consultant program, increases in business partners and improvements in leadership pipelines and bottom lines. Additionally, all continue to support the work of the organizations they served and continue to pursue social purpose encores.

AARP Foundation Experience Corps: Research Studies

AARP Foundation Experience Corps places over 2,000 trained volunteers age 50+ in elementary classrooms as tutors and mentors in 22 cities across the United States. Multiple, evidence-based studies have demonstrated older adults’ effectiveness in boosting literacy skills of at-risk children. Key findings include:

  • In a 2010 study of 800+ students in 23 urban schools, 60 percent of those participating in the Experience Corps program saw increases on key literacy skills (sounding out words and reading comprehension) – gains equivalent to being in a classroom with 40 percent fewer children (Washington University of St. Louis/Mathematica Policy Research).
  • A 2004 Johns Hopkins University study of 1,194 students showed improved reading scores on performance tests, significantly lower reports of misbehavior, and high teacher and principal satisfaction.
  • Principals gave high ratings to the program, reporting positive impacts on student academic performance; strong personal relationships between Experience Corps members, students and teachers; and cited the program’s reliability, coordination, and multigenerational advantages (Policy Studies Associates, Inc).

For more research on the impact of AARP Experience Corps: website.

An Impact Story: Tempe Elementary School District

Tempe Elementary School District in Tempe, AZ, deployed 61 Experience Corps tutors to promote student literacy. In the 2012-13 school year, they worked with 286 students in seven schools; 60 percent of children who started below grade-level in reading reached reading benchmarks. Nearly all teachers (98 percent) rated Experience Corps volunteers good or excellent.