For the last 15 years of her midlife career, Francesca Vollaro was an executive in the global relocation field. She managed teams providing Fortune 500 companies with full-service global relocation programs for their employees and specialized in opening new divisions and service centers. In 2017, she became an Encore Fellow at Girl Scouts of the USA national headquarters in New York City. In 2018, she accepted an offer to work there full time.
While starting my consulting business in 2016 and getting involved in local volunteering, I remarked to someone at my church that I was doing so much volunteer work that I should find work in the nonprofit arena. And she said to me, “You should check out Encore.org.” I went home that afternoon looked on the website and got really excited about it. I loved the idea of giving back after all my years in the corporate world. So I put in an application for an Encore Fellowship the next day and promptly forgot about it while building up my business.
A few months later, I got a call from Encore.org. They asked me if I might be interested in a position with the Girl Scouts as a change management manager. I was doing a lot of work with helping women and children at risk, and I had experience with change management, so it seemed to be a perfect fit. I interviewed with the chief enterprise integration officer, the woman who would be my manager, and we hit it off immediately.
I was a Girl Scout from ages 5 to 13, and I had forgotten how impactful it was to my life and the confidence and leadership skills it gave me. To be working for an organization whose mission is to help girls build their confidence and leadership skills and become people of character means a lot to me. I’ve fallen in love with the organization and all it stands for.
I’m now the senior director of process improvement and change management for the Girl Scouts of the USA. I’m working in an area called enterprise integration, which is responsible for developing and implementing cutting-edge technology and related initiatives. I’m fortunate to be able to help translate the changes we’re going through for our 400 staff members and 111 national councils and overseas locations. We’re working to bring efficiency and exciting new opportunities to girls and volunteers worldwide.
Some tangible and ongoing outcomes of the change management work include the development and facilitation of monthly employee forums to foster cross-functional dialogue, a monthly newsletter to socialize new initiatives, professional development opportunities through a lunch-and-learn series for the staff, a wiki-like common language playbook of all the slang new employees need to know, and an integrated calendar providing everyone with easy-to-use access to all activities and events throughout GSUSA.
I also started a Toastmasters Club with the goal of elevating leadership and communication skills within GSUSA. The added benefit is that colleagues come together to connect with each other, hear each other’s stories, learn a bit more about what each of us does and the passion that brings us here. It helps each of us develop our skills and work more closely together, no matter what age we are, no matter our background.
An Age-Integrated Workforce
I work with a multigenerational team at Girl Scouts of the USA — some people have recently graduated college or business school and some are in their sixties or older. It’s very energizing to work in a multigenerational space where you feel like you’re not siloed into age groups and everyone brings the value of their perspective. It’s really just a great mix and an amazing way to work.
Through the Encore Fellowship, I learned that really the sky’s the limit, that I have so much more energy and so much more to give and so much more to learn. I learned that there’s so much more out in front of me, I just can’t even see the end of it.
Advice to Potential Encore Fellows
Just go for it. Fill out the application, explore the website. You never know where it’s going to take you. You’re going to learn things about yourself and new ways to translate the many skills you have developed over your career. Go in with the mindset of a servant leader and you will see that you will gain as much as you give. You’re going to learn how much energy you still have and how much you can still give to organizations that really need the skills that you’ve developed all your life.
Advice to Nonprofits Considering Hiring Encore Fellows
It’s amazing what extra things can be accomplished with an Encore Fellow. And with the right job description and the right Encore Fellow, it really can take you much further than you think in a short period of time. It’s a great way to enhance your capacity! We now budget for Encore Fellows every year. I was able to bring on three more Encore Fellows last year, and two of those roles have been converted to full-time positions.
What Encore.org is doing with Encore Fellowships is amazing in and of itself. But what Encore.org is doing connecting the generations is amazing, too. I’m a total supporter.