Sometimes, even the advisers need some advice.
As part of an effort to refocus on its core mission, the nonprofit Experience Matters has hired Wendy Cohen as its new executive director. Experience Matters connects retired professionals to nonprofit organizations that need assistance in certain areas.
Cohen was hired after Experience Matters’ board of directors developed and implemented a financial restructuring strategy to manage costs following shortfalls between funding and operating expenses.
“With Experience Matters now financially stable, our immediate goal is to refocus on our core mission and to grow both the number of nonprofits we serve and our pool of talent to help solve social issues in the community,” Cohen said. “We are now at a place where we can build upon that foundation to make an even greater impact throughout Maricopa County.”
Cohen was most recently senior consultant for practice programs with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) in Bethesda, Maryland. Cohen’s recent move to the Valley came about when her husband was named dean of humanities at Arizona State University.
Cohen said Experience Matters has “a very unique organization model.” She added that she also enjoys working for the organization because it is not focused on a certain niche in the nonprofit arena.
“We are broad-based and cover the full spectrum of nonprofits, whether that’s related to education, health care, animals, you name it,” she said.
Cohen is making herself more visible to the community in order to recruit more volunteers and let nonprofits know that Experience Matters is there to help. Experience Matters works with nonprofits of all sizes, so pairing its volunteers’ skills with an organization’s needs is imperative.
“The volunteers at small nonprofits are so overwhelmed,” she said. “They’re focusing on their mission, which is delivering new services, but they have a very limited budget. They feel that there’s no resource for them other than hiring a consultant and they get the sticker shock of seeing that and they shut down and try to do it on their own. That’s were we come in.”
Anne White was in the first cohort of Experience Matters volunteers. She offers nonprofits the skills she developed after working for the American Cancer Society for years. And her skills are vast.
“My focus is usually on the fundraising area, the infrastructure, the board development and strategic planning,” she said. “Some of the organizations that I work with have a multimillion-dollar budget and some of them have budgets under $500,000 or even lower. We can spend a year with them because it takes that long for people to understand what they should be doing, how they should be doing it and to give them all of the tools they need.”
While most Experience Matters volunteers spend six months to a year with a nonprofit, others can find themselves working for years. That was the case with Arnold Jackson, who worked at Honeywell for 27 years before moving to the faith-based nonprofit Tanner Community Development Corporation, where he worked for 13 years.
As he was entering the ministry, he was asked by officials at the city of Maricopa and the Maricopa Association of Governments to help them start an age-friendly initiative.
“It was really supposed to be a year, but one thing led to another and it’s four years later,” he said. “At the end of the month I’m going to be leaving the city of Maricopa, but it’s just because work from the ministry that is taking more and more of my time.”
Even though he will no longer be working with Experience Matters, Jackson said he will continue to be an advocate for the group.
For her part, Cohen not only will continue to recruit volunteers and match them to nonprofits, but she also will communicate with donors about how their money is being used. In addition, as Experience Matters celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, Cohen said the organization will be expanding senior services and will soon announce a partnership with Intel.
“I’m committed to helping nonprofits and the community at large by helping them achieve their goals through our volunteer program.” JN