I was a foundation officer and government official in the White House and Pentagon before I became a military family member…before there was a war. Before the Marine I married deployed to combat three times. Before I knew neighbors who faced the knock of a Chaplain and a Casualty Assistance Officer in dress uniform. Before my tenth grader attended ten schools.
Living in the military community showed me the heavy lift this community carries - the ones in uniform and those who serve as family members. The fact is this lift is so heavy that we can't carry alone. We need the country's help. People in the military-connected community frequently know best what the problems are and the solutions they need, but they often don't have a voice. And in some circumstances, the available solutions are tough to access or untested.
Five years ago I joined other military family members to develop Blue Star Families (BSF) - a nonprofit
peer-based organization with a dynamic mission is to strengthen military families and connect America to the military. Because of my previous work opportunities, I learned the value and importance of working with foundations. Their unique insights allow them to see broadly and utilize knowledge of diverse solutions in corporate spaces that might work well in the nonprofit world. And that government has a piece of the solution too. Nonprofits by themselves can't singularly solve the challenges our military community. We only get really robust solutions when we engage the smart minds in philanthropy and use peer support to mentor, share
best practices, and create standards for success. That's what the Philanthropy Joining Forces Impact Pledge (PJFP) is all about.
Since 2011, BSF has partnered with key influencers to host the America Joining Forces with Military Families (White Oak) Retreat. This bi-annual convening brings together senior leaders in government, the nonprofit world, philanthropies, and the military to create think-tank solutions outside of individual organization's mission statements. Very quickly, the White Oak coalition realized the need to mobilize the foundation sector on veterans and military family issues. The Council on Foundations and the extraordinary leaders on the steering committee stepped up, and working with the First Lady's Joining Forces and a White Oak Steering Committee, created the Philanthropy Joining Forces Impact Pledge.
I am so hopeful about the energy, intelligence, and opportunity for smart change that this initiative brings.
Many nonprofits and subject matter experts participate in this gathering. It is a sense of shared purpose and optimism that brings us all together. And it is realization of PJFIP that attracts many of the major organizations, innovators, and government stakeholders to network in one place and combine their efforts at building sustainable solutions…that's a powerful thing.
The PJFIP helps us find other partners, and at BSF we've strongly encouraged our existing funders to take part in the Pledge - because together we are all stronger. Our funders help our staff with professional development, which has a multiplicative effect, and they've fostered strong partnerships for us with other nonprofits. PJFIP also allows us to make potent introductions to government officials who otherwise might not have a framework to meet with private organizations. The creativity we've seen flow in the space as a result of this initiative is truly exciting. We are so delighted to once again support PJFIP!