This Memorial Day takes on new significance for the philanthropic sector as we take our commitment to veterans and their families to another level.
Building on last April’s historic Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge convening, next week on May 12, the Council will host an event in Washington, D.C. to mark the first anniversary of the Impact Pledge and the launch of the Council’s Veterans Philanthropy Exchange. More than 160 grantmakers, veterans and military family organizations, policymakers, service providers and others will gather to laud the new pledges for 2015. To learn more about the Impact Pledge and these funders to date, click here.
The May 12 event will include featured remarks from Robert A. McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Brigadier General Ivan Denton, National Guard Bureau; Lee Woodruff from the Bob Woodruff Foundation; Colonel (Ret.) Miguel Howe with George W. Bush Institute; Senator Elizabeth Dole, founder of The Elizabeth Dole Foundation; and representatives of The White House Joining Forces Initiative. And importantly the discussions will feature solutions and innovations of the philanthropic sector. We will also dig into how philanthropy can continue to work collaboratively with public partners and other private sector partners to ensure veterans and military families experience successful reintegration into communities after they end their volunteer service to the nation.
The Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge, spearheaded by Council members Blue Shield of California Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Lincoln Community Foundation and Robert R. McCormick Foundation, was a response an effort led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to help more than 2 million veterans and their families successfully reintegrate to civilian life after more than a decade of war.
Why this is an important collaboration?
More than 2.2 million U.S. military personnel, including close to one million National Guard members, have been deployed in 3 million tours of duty since 2001, the year the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Persistent combat exposure, redeployments, and separations during the longest period of war in American history have given rise to myriad wellness, education, and employment challenges for our service members. Supporting these service members' transition back into civilian life not only acknowledges the sacrifices they and their families have made on behalf of the American people, but it gives us all a chance to recognize the assets that veterans and military families can bring to our workplaces and communities.
So how did the Council get into this work?
In 2010, Admiral Mike Mullen spoke at the Council’s annual conference in Denver. He asked for the foundation sector to join the growing “Sea of Goodwill” coming together to assist post-9/11 veterans transition back to civilian lives as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started to wind down. Then in 2011, the Council was invited to participate in stakeholder discussions hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs about the transition of service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was a seminal invitation for us.
As the Council began to analyze the challenges and emerging issues, we began to probe the interests of Council members in this public policy arena. We found a solid cadre of funders with histories of working on veterans and/or military family issues. They became the core of an ad hoc Veterans Philanthropy Advisory Group. We found an interest among a broad swath of our foundations in exploring potential response actions, not just in communities with military installations, but those communities wanting to honor the contributions and sacrifices of National Guard and Reserve members who live in thousands of communities across the nation.
To advance this collective work, the Council created the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange to provide a platform for funders to share best practices, identify and address emerging needs, leverage resources and investments for maximum benefit, and grow collaborations. By doing so, we can simultaneously support our public sector partnership objectives of enabling funders and policy makers to connect the dots more effectively around veterans resource gaps and innovation possibilities.
We encourage you learn more about this effort and offer your valued perspective to this important cause. To follow the conversation surrounding the May 12 event, please come back to our RE: Philanthropy blog, where our Impact Pledge partners will be offering their perspectives. Also, join the conversation on social media by following the #pledgeforvets and #leadingtogether hashtags before, during and after the event.
For additional information or questions, please contact Tim Huber, research and policy associate for the Council on Foundations at email@example.com/(703)-879-0693; or Stephanie Powers, senior director for policy and partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org /(703) 879-0626.