Many people hope to bring what they learned in the private sector to the nonprofit world in a second act.
Ron Gold, 68, found a way to do just that at the New York City-area marketing firm he founded a decade ago. Serving 15 non-profit clients, including the food bank Long Island Cares, he finds his job especially gratifying.
“I envision working until I’m at least 80,” says Gold. “I simply love what I do.”
The story of how Gold arrived at running his own business will be familiar to many 50-something workers: a layoff led to the launch.
But his path to this work he loves so much involved a second reinvention along the way.
The push that led to the leap
A veteran general manager at radio stations, Gold was let go when his station was sold in 1997. Soon after he started his own ad agency, Advertising Works, with his wife Eileen Hattersley, who’d had a career in media sales. Together they created print, radio, and TV advertising campaigns for local businesses.
“I remember when I came into the house from our big office in the radio station and asked my wife, ‘Who is going to answer the phones for me?’” he says.
“You are,” she said, he recalls with a laugh.
Although Hattersley eventually left that business—the two found they preferred keeping their work and personal lives separate—Gold continued to run it until 2008.
When one reinvention isn’t enough
Around that time, Gold decided it was time to reinvent his career— again.
“People weren’t advertising in magazines anymore,” he says. “Radio buys were getting smaller and smaller.”
Figuring his skills in selling and picking up clients would transfer well, he moved into marketing and public relations, changing the name of his firm to Marketing Works. (Meanwhile, Hattersley, a passionate dog lover, started a business breeding labradoodles in 2006, at age 55.)
Gold got a lucky break when, through the sister of a client from his previous advertising agency, he won a gig running an event for the leaders of nonprofits throughout his region.
After the event, he was invited to meet with an executive at Lifespire, a nonprofit that assists people with disabilities. The organization wanted help with its website—but needed to keep the budget in check.
“I said, ‘I can do it for about $15,000,’” recalls Gold, who turned to his agency’s art director to design the website and an outside web development company for the build. “He said, ‘You’re hired! The prices I’m getting out of Manhattan are $50,000 to $100,000.’”
Gold offered to do PR for the client on a trial basis at no charge, an engagement that became a paid one after three months and went on to last five years.
Making his calling his calling card
Finding he enjoyed working for clients who were focused on giving back, Gold gradually began adding more of them and, in 2011, decided to focus mainly on nonprofit clients.
Developing his expertise and reputation as a specialist in the nonprofit world helped his business grow.
“When you’re dealing with the same type of clientele, you know the industry,” he says. “Each one has the same type of problems.”
Public relations is a high-stress occupation, and sometimes Gold’s work has be challenging. Occasionally, clients want to be kept out of the headlines. That was the case when a local news station started investigating the lawsuit one client was facing.
Gold decided full transparency was the best policy, and, with the nonprofit’s cooperation, he invited the reporter for a visit. She decided after meeting with the team and checking things out for herself that she would not go ahead with the story.
No letting up now
Although situations like that can be unpredictable and challenging, Gold finds he thrives on managing them—and on running his business.
Today his firm has grown to two employees and five freelancers, bringing in about $500,000 in annual revenue.
“It was the best move I could have made,” he says.
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