2015 Philanthropy - Joining Forces Impact Pledge

Vikki Spruill Remarks
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Washington, DC

I’m glad to see so many of you demonstrating your commitment to veterans and their families by joining us here today. With over 2.5 million returning veterans, the scale of the issues facing military families requires an all-hands-on-deck approach that includes community institutions, the private sector, government, and philanthropy.

When we announced this effort last year, we didn’t realize the Impact Pledge would receive contributions from 34 organizations, with commitments of more than $276 million. These pledges are substantial and mark a historically significant commitment from philanthropy.

Today’s event heralds some new investment commitments, but the real advancement here goes far beyond funds.

These organizations have also made the commitment to collaborate over time. Events like this one, the interim meeting in New York last December, and yesterday’s first organized Veterans Philanthropy Exchange meeting provide an opportunity to discuss next steps and build the relationships that will make a difference down the road.

Today, we will spend the afternoon sharing solutions, lessons learned, and works in progress. The forthcoming panel discussions and “solution sessions” are designed to address key challenges and opportunities facing veterans and military families—such as homelessness, employment, and mental health.

We hope you will continue to share these best practices on the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange in coming months.

Today’s event is about so much more than money. It is about a shared desire to focus on what really matters – supporting military families and honoring our commitment to those who have served.

Ultimately, people and relationships, built on mutual respect and trust built over time, are the real source of change. These efforts are only as strong as the people who animate them. If we emphasize impact and build partnerships, we will be so much more than the sum of our parts.

All of you are showing the country what is possible when we show leadership, together.

I want to take a moment to thank some of the people that made this day possible:

  • Koby Langley, Senior Vice President for Service to the Armed Forces, and the team at the Red Cross remain strong partners in this effort, and I thank them for hosting us today.
  • The Secretary of the Veterans Administration Bob McDonald is joining us today, and that’s a really important development. Philanthropy and the private sector can’t address these issues alone, so we need a strong Veterans Administration that is consistently working to improve its service delivery and accountability. I’m committed to working closely with the VA and other government partners in developing impactful public-philanthropic partnerships.
  • General Ivan Denton has devoted himself to overseeing family assistance work for the National Guard, and we’re grateful to have him lend his expertise to our discussion.
  • Lastly, I want to thank Lee Woodruff and Senator Elizabeth Dole for joining us for a conversation on caregiving.

Today, we are releasing a report onthe efforts of Impact Pledge members, which will be shared with the White House, federal agencies, veterans organizations and other stakeholders. This report provides detailed data on the contributions the effort has received and allows us to reflect for a moment on some of the good progress that has been made over the last year.

As the President and CEO of the Council on Foundations, I’m deeply committed from an organizational perspective to raising awareness about these crucial issues in philanthropy, facilitating collaboration within the philanthropic community, and building meaningful partnerships that can make a difference.

My personal commitment to supporting veterans and military families runs much deeper than the advancements we are highlighting today.

Some of you may know, I grew up in a military family. My father served in the Army for more than two decades. Our family was proud that he earned a Purple Heart for his valor in the Battle of the Bulge. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and within a year, I ended up living in my mother’s native country Belgium, while my father fought again for our country in Korea. Our family was reunited in Orleans, France.

After three years of learning to be French, my reward was a one way ticket to Fort Riley in Kansas.

Having seen my family, especially my mother, respond to these transitions, I truly understand the toll that deployments take on families.

This past December, my husband, Jeff, and my daughter, Caroline, spent a frosty day laying wreaths at the headstones of veterans buried in Fort Meyer, including that of my father.

Many of you have dedicated your lives to families like mine. You are addressing the needs and gaps in services for returning veterans and their families. While we’ve made progress over the last year, there is still much more to be done.

With your continued support and engagement, we are showing our men and women in uniform that their community -- their nation -- stands with them, not just now, but for the long haul.

Thank you to everyone here today, and thank-you most of all to those who have served, from the bottom of my heart.