Monday, April 14, 2008

Banking Pays the Bills, Non-Profit World Fulfills

He hikes. He bikes. He runs. He fishes, he skis and works out. He plays tennis and golf. As time allows, he reads at home in the city or at a country house in Northwest Connecticut. He carves out time for his family, is an active board member of a half-dozen nonprofit organizations, including ReServe, and travels for business and pleasure. A recent two-week span saw him in Frankfurt, Madrid, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco for business, then on to Antigua and Belize to celebrate his wife’s birthday.

At a special occasion on his 65th birthday, his wife, Anne, toasted him with affection and with this: “I have been married to John Herrmann for 25 years, and I’m exhausted.”

Today, at age 72, John Herrmann Jr. is Vice Chairman of Lincoln International, a global mid-market investment bank which he joined in 2007. After a Yale undergraduate degree and military service, he took a Harvard MBA directly to Lehman Brothers. In 1990 he was recruited by a Japanese bank to start his own firm, which was sold 10 years later to what is now JP Morgan Chase. He retired last September as senior managing director of mergers and acquisitions and immediately put his Midas touch on Lincoln International.

After 40 years in investment banking, Herrmann is still at the top of his game. He has a lifetime record of 1,000 M&A transactions. But, he says, “Success is measured not in the number of transactions, but the number that work.” The average is one in four. His, he says, is one in three.

Herrmann has just arrived from an early breakfast meeting, sartorially correct in a well-tailored suit—and a signature bowtie that he knots himself. His office is on the top floor of a Madison Avenue building. To get there requires an elevator key and a guest pass.

He rests his elbows on a conference room armchair and makes a tent with his fingers as he gathers his thoughts. He recounts how the introduction of Kleenex after World War II saved him from any notion of joining the family business, Herrmann Hankies, linen for men and women—“They Soften the Blow.” In its prime, the company sold men’s handkerchiefs for the breast pocket and the back pocket—“One for Show, One for Blow.” But pocket squares soon were doomed by fashion dictates, paper became the workhorse hanky, and the young Herrmann embarked on a career that would provide well for his family and offer the means to actively support charitable organizations.

Philanthropy is a Herrmann family tradition, beginning a century ago when his paternal grandmother helped found a settlement house on the Lower East Side for newly arrived East European Jews. His mother’s first volunteer work was with the Red Cross in World War II. She later worked at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, of which her son is now president. Herrmann also is chairman of the Steep Rock Association Environmental Trust, serves on the National Public Radio Board and the Visiting Committee of the Yale Music School. His wife and their two sons have given or continue to lend their time and talent to educational projects such as City Year New York and Breakthrough Collaborative. Anne also is on the auxiliary board of Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Center.

After a lifetime of dedication to established high-profile philanthropies, what is the lure of ReServe, a relative fledgling in the non-profit world as spelled out for him by founders Jack Rosenthal and Herb Sturz? “I’d never been in a start-up of a social service agency,” Herrmann says.

Herrmann came on board two years ago, shortly after ReServe’s inception. He says that while he has found it slow getting anything new started, the project has been worthwhile, in part because the idea of paying volunteers has led to an employee-employer relationship. “When you pay someone it is easier to assess performance, to think about how good or not good the worker is.” For the volunteers, most of them retired professionals, he says, “The job gives people an opportunity to continue to have active minds, and the pay gives them a sense of value to their employers.”

ReServe At Work with Citizens Advice Bureau

In 1886, Stanton Coit founded America's first settlement house, the Neighborhood Guild (later renamed University Settlement) on New York City's Lower East Side, influenced by the founders and staff of London's Toynbee Hall and other British social activists who believed that students and people of wealth should "settle" in poverty-stricken neighborhoods both to provide services to help improve the daily quality of life, as well as to evaluate conditions and work for social reform.

From the late 1800s until the mid-1900s, settlement house staff resided in the same buildings in which neighborhood residents participated in programs and activities. Living in close proximity, settlement staff regarded the people who used the settlement as "neighbors," not "clients."

Many settlement staff today continue to live in the same neighborhoods as their settlement’s program participants. The shared sense of community still exists between settlement staff and the people who participate in settlement programs.

--from the Web site of United Neighborhood Houses, the umbrella organization for the settlement house system in New York City.

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is the largest Bronx-based “settlement house.” Their mission is to improve the economic and social well being of individuals, families and communities who are most in need.

Director of Development Ken Small: “Government contracts say you can do very specific, very finite things with the government's money.” In this regard, Ken says, “ReServe helps us fill some very critical internal needs.

“This is the stuff that oftentimes doesn't make the newspapers because it's not glitzy and it's not glamorous.

“But we need folk who have the ability to do this sort of stuff in order to sustain this organization so that we can do the programs, we can do the services,” without interruptions for the clients, especially when regular staff members must stop some work to comply with routine government audits, often with little or no notice.

ReServist Asher Yablon and General Counsel Eileen Torres on-site at CAB’s Morris Avenue office in the Bronx.

ReServists Luz Bettancourt and Asher Yablon both come from corporate backgrounds. And both of them were placed to support the work of Eileen Torres, CAB’s General Counsel. But their reasons for connecting with CAB through ReServe are very different.

Says Luz, “For me as a spirit, when I first came to this country I lived in the Bronx. And I'm very familiar with the Bronx.

“I used to work at Calvary Hospital [in the Bronx], which is an excellent institution, and I grew so much there for a very long time. Then when I needed a change, I went to Manhattan,” working as a high level administrative assistant. “But I always had that desire to help others.”

Her work as a Program Administrator in the Human Resources Department has reconnected her to that sense of purpose, and brings her back into community in the Bronx.

Asher’s motives were very straightforward: “My goal was simply just to keep my mind occupied. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really have a burning desire to work for a social service organization. I just was looking to feel that I'm accomplishing something.”

ReServe also has another kind of “success story” at CAB in Ken Kagel, a former tech executive who started at CAB as a ReServist and has moved into a regular staff position as Proxurement Director.

Human Resources Manager Jessica Smith-Houk explains that to bring a family from a situation of homelessness and acute need, “into even just stable housing and a stable family, a tremendous level of service is required.

“It's nice to have the ReServists come with experience and other things. The knowledge base may be coming from another place--the corporate world rather than the nonprofit sector---but the skills translate.”

Driving Transformation in the Field of Aging

On March 26-29, 6000 people gathered in Washington, DC to attend the annual American Society on Aging and National Council on Aging (NCOA) joint conference. We “boomers and beyond” have become a hot topic. ReServe focuses on the talents, skills and experience of those 50+ and how we can help to solve a range of issues in the social, environmental, educational, justice, housing, arts, and health arenas. As the Executive Director of ReServe, it was great for me to have an opportunity to share with attendees some of our collective accomplishments, which include the following.

ReServe was featured in two workshop sessions: one on our Health Navigator Project and the other on how ReServe has built key collaborative relationships with the City of NY, City University of NY, AARP, and Libraries for the Future to extend the reach of ReServists into new areas. The Health Navigator Project workshop attracted about 20 health care professionals who are grappling with the high costs and care needs of many older adults which they face after discharge from a hospital stay. Our Health Navigators, working in collaboration with Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospitals here in NYC, have completed a training course developed by ReServe and augmented by training in benefits entitlement with a NCOA web-based tool – Benefits Check-Up. The goal of our Health Navigators is to serve as the go-between the hospital and home care services, as well as other community based services, such as transportation, money management, and home delivered meals.

ReServe’s Health Navigators come from a wide range of backgrounds; they need not be social workers. Rather, they need to have an interest in the target population and in problem-solving. The rewards are many: seeing an elderly gentleman with diabetes being more independent because our Health Navigators helped him enroll in the NYS EPIC program to obtain his insulin; a low income Hispanic woman whose Spanish speaking Health Navigator is able to negotiate problems with creditors greatly reducing her stress. The program is in its pilot phase with funding from the MetLife Foundation, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, and Continuum Health Partners. The conference attendees who heard about ReServe’s small pilot were very interested in possible replication in their hospitals – given that this is often a missing service that many believe could begin to save the health care system significant dollars and improve the quality of life for frail elderly adults.

At the second workshop entitled “Civic Engagement Using Stipended Professional Volunteers” – I described ReServe’s operating model and how ReServe has developed collaborations for public sector positions with the City of New York – through the City’s Department for the Aging – and with the City University of New York – through the Chancellor’s Office. Both efforts are groundbreaking and have gotten off to solid starts this year. The City project is now involving about 20 City agencies which have identified 88 positions for ReServists – lawyers, social workers, organizational management and human resources experts, finance and information technology professionals, marketers and writers. The agencies tell us that the ReServists are getting jobs done that would have sat on the backburner for a long time or are new consultative roles to help an agency solve a particular problem.

At CUNY, 15 campuses have requested 48 ReServists to assist with mentoring, writing, development, human resources, and engineering work. ReServists are enjoying being engaged with students in these college settings, and the CUNY supervisors report that ReServists bring maturity and skills that are very helpful to students and to faculty members and administrators.

The AARP collaborations with ReServe are several. The first is in the AARP Money Management Program in which ReServists are the Captains of AARP volunteers who assist on a 1 to 1 basis frail, lower income elderly persons in billpaying and money management. This program now about a year old has proven to be a great fit with ReServists’ skills often from the finance and corporate sectors and volunteers who want a direct service experience.

The second collaboration with AARP is with their relatively new WorkSearch Program – a web based program to assess the interests and skills of job seekers over 40 and to match them with local opportunities. ReServists are serving as Employment Navigators to launch the WorkSearch Program at the Queens Library – working with Libraries for the Future – and with AARP’s office in Denver, Colorado. ReServe Board Member and NYS AARP Director Lois Aronstein has been instrumental in forging these mutually productive collaborations.

The Senior and the PC: Mystery Out, Mastery In

Tom Kamber’s organization does what many people think is the impossible: teaching PC skills to New York City’s seniors sector. Kamber is founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), which reaches out to older adults and draws them into the information age. One of its attractions is a Web site:

By learning PC basics, seniors can search the Iinternet and connect to the digital community of neighbors, friends and family. “If they're not online, then digital community becomes something only young people can do,” Kamber says. And seniors are great community-builders.

Kamber says OATS is the only organization in the city solely dedicated to helping senior citizens with technology. “It's all we do,” he says. “We do a variety of different kinds of training programs and we work at 26 different locations across the city.” City Councilmember Gale Brewer has been a major champion of OATS – as the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Technology and as an elected official who is a major advocate of issues affecting New Yorkers over 60.

Since 2004, this nonprofit organization has offered programs at senior centers, community technology labs, and other locations around the city. To date, OATS has served over 3500 older adults and has taught over 3200 sessions of technology training.

OATS does not advertise to find participants. Rather, they work to create partnerships with senior centers, which are natural community hubs of information. Word-of-mouth is their greatest recruiting tool.

OATS currently has ten trainers at 30 sites across the city.
Kamber says the best teachers for OATS aren’t necessarily the techies because his classes want to learn how to use a computer more than how it works. So he looks for teachers who are patient, friendly and interested in working with seniors.

He cites the success of OATS trainer Renee Martinez, a former customer service representative at West Elm. While she was still at the furniture and accessory retailer, Kamber says a customer called to say the slats had not been delivered with the bed.

As related to him: “The woman was really irate, so they put her on with Renee. And Renee was like, ‘Well, we've got some slats here on the shelf from another bed. Listen, you're not too far from me - I'll just bring them over right now.’

When she arrived, Rene picked the mattress up off the bed and she put the slats down, put the bed back down, and she said, ‘There, I think that'll work pretty well for you.’ ”The woman was beside herself with joy that somebody actually took care of her problem in a direct and immediate way, and was patient with her, and listened to her concern, and solved it immediately.”

“That kind of ability to communicate is our first concern,” he says.

OATS is helping to train several ReServists in conjunction with their placements at non-profits and civic institutions. Among them is Thai Jason, a ReServist relationship manager at ReServe. She enrolled in a workforce development class to get the training she never had the time or need to acquire in her 27 years of running a firm that produced jingles for advertising. She brings the skills she’s learning back to ReServe, and immediately puts them to use.

Thai’s OATS experience and other stories of bridging the technology divide have been documented in Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap, a book written by OATS board member Rob Salkowitz. (Published by John Wiley & Sons, a Microsoft Executive Leadership Series book.)

Kamber says the Web site,, is "just getting its own little life. Right now we've got about 600 people using it every month, which from a Web site perspective is kind of small, but for a program which serves senior citizens, it isn't so bad. Then we send calendar blast emails to another 1500, which is really solid.

“But I'd like to see 10,000 users on that a month. I can see them swapping information and commentary and blogs and recipes. I think those are the coolest things that we do, those three areas.”

Can teaching seniors how to text message on their cell phones be far behind?

You can visit the Senior Planet Web site at

For more on Rob Salkowitz’s book Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap, visit

Conference Board Issues a Call for Your Stories

Boomers, Experienced Workers and the Move into Nonprofits: Tell us your stories!

The Conference Board, an independent business research and membership group, is reaching out to learn more about the challenges and successes of boomers and experienced workers, age 50 and over, who have moved, or want to move, from for-profit or government jobs into the nonprofit sector, as well as the experiences of nonprofits that recruit and/or hire boomers and experienced workers from other sectors.

The Conference Board Research Working Group on Managing an Aging Workforce at Nonprofits, part of the Mature Workforce Initiative, is surveying boomers and experienced workers to better understand the key challenges (cultural, generational, intergenerational) they face, and which pathways they find most effective in moving to the nonprofit sector. We’re also surveying nonprofit organizations to better understand how they reach out to this talent pool and which recruitment and “crossover” strategies work best.

If you are an experienced worker who has moved or wants to move into the nonprofit sector from a for-profit or government job, or if your organization has recruited and/or hired experienced workers from these other sectors, we invite you to participate. For the survey going to nonprofit organizations, we would advise a senior level person responsible for human resource policy decisions, including recruitment and hiring practices, to fill this out.

There are the three survey links on nonprofit transitions, which are labeled:

"Employer"—for nonprofit organizations
"Job Seekers"—for individuals seeking nonprofit jobs
"Job Holders"—for individuals who have transitioned into nonprofit jobs

Click on any link above to go directly to the corresponding survey.

For further information, please contact