The Philanthropy Roundtable recently hosted a major conference to help donors decode effective giving to veterans and military families. In addition to a full day of presentations and discussion, the Roundtable released a rich new guidebook, Serving Those Who Served: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Assisting Veterans and Military Families.
The new book provides funders with an introduction to practical veteran’s philanthropy, a collection of 20 case studies in excellent giving, a section collecting crucial facts and figures, and lists of open opportunities for savvy philanthropists. Also featured is a cautionary essay by a severely wounded soldier on how well-intentioned philanthropy can harm veterans if it undercuts economic self-reliance.
Among the many topics addressed at the conference, several key concepts came to the forefront:
Today’s veteran population differs from that of past wars.
Catherine Freeman of the George W. Bush Institute unveiled a fresh batch of statistics on what veterans are getting from non-profits today. Vivian Greentree of Blue Star Families shared new findings on the experiences and needs of military families and spouses. As Swords to Plowshares’s Amy Fairweather and other participants pointed out, today’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are in remarkably different situations than their older peers, and are often misjudged to be more needy than they really are.
Veterans bring countless assets to their communities.
From Mike Haynie’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (an industry-leading entrepreneurship training module) to Rebecca Edwards’s work with the Get Skills to Work Initiative at General Electric (a program matching veterans with advanced manufacturing positions), panelists debunked harmful myths about hiring veterans and made a compelling case for seeing them as a valuable national resource. From an education standpoint, Debbie Bial of the Posse Foundation is partnering with elite universities to bring cohorts of veterans to campus, using an already successful model to bring diversity to otherwise veteran-free environments.
The models you need for philanthropic success may already be in existence.
Eric Weingartner of the Robin Hood Foundation described how the foundation’s investments encouraged already exemplary non-profits to add veterans to their portfolios. Catherine Grimes at Bristol Meyers Squibb Foundation is funding careful studies of mental-health programs to help funders and users know whether these interventions are effective. Others, like Barbara Van Dahlen of Give an Hour and Margaret Middleton from the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, have mastered the art of recruiting professionals to donate their time and talents to serving veterans and military families pro bono.
The Roundtable’s new manager of veterans philanthropy, Thomas Meyer, will be visiting interested funders around the country in coming months to share ideas and resources. If you are interested in learning more about veterans philanthropy or hosting a seminar for funders in your region, please contact Thomas at 202.600.8333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.