After 36 years at IBM, Greg Burnett became an Encore Fellow at The Salvation Army of Stamford, Connecticut. He worked full time for five months, focusing on strategic planning, community outreach and program development (he helped to create a new scholarship program for the Brownsville Brooklyn Salvation Army Corps). In 2019, Greg became the program director for the New York region of the Encore Fellowship Network.
I’ve always volunteered with organizations, different agencies within the community, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to be dedicated to a specific cause or initiative, and the Encore Fellowship program was the perfect avenue.
I worked on putting together a long- and short-term strategic plan. I interviewed each of the leaders and key stakeholders, identifying priorities, capturing strengths and weaknesses, collecting ideas for how we could get better, and determining what we needed to do to sustain our work. I hope the blueprint we created serves as a guide my colleagues continually check to see, ‘Are we on the right track? Are we doing the things we want to do?’
I also opened doors to community leaders. Now the Stamford Salvation Army Corps’s leaders and the mayor’s chief of staff are on a first-name basis. I’m hoping that over time these connections will lead to more community support and more funding.
I think my fellowship enhanced the visibility of the work that’s being done by The Salvation Army in the Stamford community and helped establish a higher sense of business acumen and business focus within the organization.
I was the oldest member of the team — and the only one with extensive corporate experience. Over time, I found that people were coming to me, asking, “Can I bounce this off of you?” They were seeking my input…and I valued being a mentor.
I delivered a lesson about what it means to be an engineer to a group of kids who were part of a youth program at The Salvation Army. Their assignment was to build a bridge with just tape and paper. The activity teaches students how to work together as a team, do project management, ideate, and implement their design. They were all able to make it work!
Advice to Potential Encore Fellows
At the end of the day, it’s extremely rewarding to know that the work you’re doing directly affects the lives of individuals and families and the growth of a community organization. That’s something that can’t be replaced. It was just an unbelievable experience.
One of the greatest things is when I speak to people who have spent their entire lives in the corporate environment, and they come across the opportunity to become an Encore Fellow. They just rave about it! So many people want to give back, and the Encore Fellowship allows that in a very fulfilling, professional and enlightening manner.
There’s an old sports analogy: “You’ll never make the shots that you never take.” You never know what doors might open, what opportunities might present themselves. Now I’m the program director for the New York region of the Encore Fellowship Network, and I have the unbelievable, great role of identifying Encore Fellows and matching them with opportunities. I’m just elated to be part of the team.
Visit the The Salvation Army of Stamford, CT website.
Apply for a fellowship.
Published: June 17, 2019