By Beth Levine
For 30 years, Ruth Sovronsky, 62, had a successful career as a lawyer in a Long Island firm. But she felt something was missing.
“I had always felt that giving back was an important part of what I needed to do,” she said.
After moving to Connecticut in 2010 and eventually settling in West Hartford, Sovronsky took a long look at what she wanted to do with her future.
“My interest in the nonprofit world came forward again and again, but I didn’t know how to begin.” Her husband saw a newspaper article about Encore!Hartford in 2012, and she immediately applied.
Encore!Hartford, run by the Nonprofit Leadership Program of the University of Connecticut in partnership with Leadership of Greater Hartford, Capital Workforce Partners and other nonprofit and state government agencies, targets unemployed, experienced professionals and trains them in an immersive program for managerial posts in nonprofit organizations.
Financial aid available
AARP Connecticut has contributed $8,000 to the University of Connecticut Foundation to support financial aid for participants from the Stamford/Bridgeport area. The full program fee is $2,850.
In addition, AARP Connecticut is working with five other nonprofit organizations in that area that will take on the students as interns. It is also helping to publicize the program, which attracts people statewide.
“Finding a job in today’s economy is challenging, especially for those over age 50. We want to help experienced workers find more than just a job, but a way to fulfill their passion,” said Nora Duncan, AARP Connecticut state director.
Additional financial aid is available through the Connecticut Department of Labor.
While the Encore!Hartford program is open to all ages statewide, accepted applicants tend to be over 50 because they have a long history of professional experience.
“Not everyone is accepted. Applicants have to bring in a skill set, and we must feel that this is really what this person wants to do—to move into the nonprofit sector,” said David Garvey, director of the Nonprofit Leadership Program in the university’s Department of Public Policy.
Begun in 2010, Encore!Hartford is a four-month program: Two months involve twice-a-week classes in which guest lecturers explain the differences between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.
During the last two months, the students are placed in various Connecticut nonprofit organizations, where they work and learn alongside professionals who help them sharpen skills such as project management, strategic planning, marketing, finance, human relations management and grant writing.
Each year, more than 100 leaders from nonprofit groups around the state are involved in the program, providing teaching, informational interviews and fellowships.
“The students develop networks within the nonprofit sector. They also are able to put the Encore!Hartford experience on their résumés and use the nonprofit CEO and other professionals who oversaw their fellowship as a reference,” said Garvey.
Proven track record
Encore!Hartford’s track record shows that it works: Of the 70 graduates in the program’s first three years, 87 percent found full-time or part-time employment; 75 percent of them are working in the nonprofit sector. Before attending Encore!Hartford, fewer that 10 percent of the students who applied for nonprofit jobs were called for an interview. After Encore!Hartford, 95 percent were interviewed.
Sovronsky worked at Manchester Community College during her fellowship and graduated in 2012. Through referrals she met there she found a job at a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as a development officer. “I couldn’t have gotten this position without my Encore!Hartford connections,” she said. “One of my instructors saw the job posting and thought it would be a good match for me.”
For more information about Encore!Hartford, call 860-570-9282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The next class begins in March and ends in June. Applications must be submitted by Jan. 17.
Beth Levine is a freelance writer who lives in Stamford, Conn.