This week, I attended an event at the Communities Foundation of Texas in Dallas. explaining the nuances of the Service America Act, signed April 21, 2009, by President Obama. Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, Associate Director of Service and Volunteerism for One Star Foundation in Austin, Texas, presided and peeled away the layers of the complex story like an onion. The bottom line seemed to be that the Act promises to expand possibilities for capacity-building funding for nonprofits, but it’s really all academic until the actual appropriations are approved. The legislation has no teeth until the money arrives. The intent is there. We just need engage, share our voices, and make sure the piper is paid—or at least appropriated.
I am particularly intrigued by the integration of various social media tools — offering platforms for conversation and feedback. Obama appears to be walking his talk with regard to reclaiming our governing process as citizens. There were many interesting nuggets of insight to take away from this presentation, and many of them I did not expect:
Nugget Number One: “The Noise” is Coming
Wow. What an electrifying, yet oddly disconcerting, concept. Rosa Moreno-Mahoney contends that the stampede of service is building momentum. She called it “the noise.” Volunteer mobilization is becoming not just a priority—but a requirement. We can either be part of it or let it wash over us due to lack of relevance. It is just a matter of time, and she issued what seems like a warning to nonprofits to be prepared. Know how to engage volunteers effectively–to ensure fulfillment and optimal organizational impact. Service Nation is driving tidal wave of community engagement programs and passion.
Nugget Number Two: Reframe Your Approach to Volunteer Management
Due to the current social engagement imperative, volunteers are becoming the new philanthropic capital. Grants to recruit, manage , and support volunteers—strengthening volunteer infrastructure and mobilizing volunteer efforts— will help position organizations for “the noise” that is predicted. Rosa said that the days of considering the volunteer coordinator as the expendable staff member are over. She recommended that the volunteer director be a senior, management-level position –driving innovation, planning, and execution of mission-critical projects.
Nugget Number Three: Maximize Federal Draw-Down
Funding will favor unique programs that streamline and increase the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations in paradigm-exploding ways, with particular interest in leveraging public/private partnerships to launch entrepreneurial solutions. Apply to private foundations, such as the Meadows Foundation, one of Dallas’ most venerable funding sources. Bruce Esterline, VP for Grants at Meadows, suggested that asking for matching funds for the Service Act grants could double or even triple “Texas’ federal draw-down.” He confided that he cannot ever remember seeing a proposal for matching AmeriCorps Fund. (Consider this your inside scoop.)
Get ready to make some noise!