AmeriCorps is getting things done – but for how long?

As of today, it sounds like legislation that allows the U.S. federal government to fund all programs at 2010 levels will expire in a couple of weeks.

Background

In order to continue funding programs like AmeriCorps and HeadStart, Congress must come together to pass a new budget. Soon the Senate will look to pass a budget, which must be reconciled with the one that the House of Representatives passed Feb. 18th—H.R. 1—which cut $100 billion from President Obama’s proposed budget, and effectively eliminated funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) among other programs.

CNCS, one target of defunding in H.R. 1, is an independent federal agency that oversees several national service programs that allow people over 18 to serve part- or full-time in their local communities.

AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, and Senior Corps members and Foster Grandparents roll up their sleeves every day to:

  • tutor and read with our children,
  • create healthy schools and build affordable housing in our neighborhoods,
  • take care of our forests and rivers,
  • help us access health care when we find ourselves under-insured,
  • assist recent immigrants on the path to U.S. citizenship,
  • help returning Veterans transition to new careers,
  • establish volunteer programs that recruit even more people to help out in local communities,
  • and build the capacity of our organizations that are working to end poverty.

Tens of thousands of people participate in national service programs every year, earning an education award and in some cases a very modest stipend.

The point of the stipend isn’t so much to offer service corps members a wage; national service is different from employment. The point is that in most cases, full-time corps members can support themselves on their stipend. This frees up their time to devote to their communities, and keeps them from competing against unemployed people for scarce jobs.

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Americorps Members, via the Grace Hill St. Louis Flickr feed

National service programs are a network of partnerships between the government and nonprofits, schools, and agencies which receive—and match—funds that put corps members to work.

Because of the partnership model, national service programs are cost effective; offer host organizations valuable, focused, energetic staffing power to start new projects and serve clients at an affordable cost; and create opportunities for people to serve in critical-needs areas in their communities.

Actions to save service

In an effort to rally support for and defend funding for national service, several pro-service organizations have formed a new coalition called Save Service. Last week Save Service, AmeriCorps Alums, and other groups organized thousands of people to participate in District Day visits. People across the country showed up in 441 local House and Senate offices to share stories of the impact of national service programs with 295 Representatives and 83 Senators (and/or their staff). Save Service is offering web tools to help service fans talk with their leaders about the importance of national service and social innovation to their communities. And news media is covering national service like it’s 2008.

Rumor has it that AmeriCorps Week will be moved a week later this year (to May 14-21). As it happens, that is a district work week for Representatives, so as people across the country are celebrating AmeriCorps they can reach out to their Representatives and invite them to see first-hand member impact.

To be fair

We are in debt nationally. Yesterday my colleague Put Barber wrote about the need to make painful changes in order to create a financially sustainable future. We need to make sacrifices.

But surely we can do that without abolishing a valuable, cost-effective, successful, and popular program that involves thousands of communities across the United States and tens of thousands of citizens.

What do you think? Are you speaking up on behalf of service programs?

Cross posted from Idealist.

Go-to Resources for Meaningful Careers in Each Sector

Plotting your next career move? Here’s a sampling of comprehensive go-to resources from the career experts in each sector: corporate citizenship, government, or nonprofit.

Corporate citizenship careers

Net Impact’s Corporate Careers that Make a Difference is a guide to pursuing a career in corporate citizenship either by pushing the boundaries in a more traditional corporate role or by taking on a role specifically dedicated to social or environmental impact. The book shares the stories of dozens of professionals who have blazed trails in this work; it also describes key corporate citizenship career competencies (useful both to help you develop your skills as well as to talk about them during a job search).

Net Impact is a membership organization that is inspiring new generations of professionals who put their business skills to work for social and environmental change across sectors through chapter networks, resources, and outreach to MBA students and schools.

You can download the sneak peek here.

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Federal jobs by region: image from MakingtheDifference.org

Federal careers

MakingtheDifference.org is a website from Partnership for Public Service that introduces pathways to federal government careers. The site explains what the cabinet departments are, what the federal agencies are; describes the diverse roles federal workers play in their careers; offers informational interviews with federal workers; clarifies what and where federal jobs are (did you know that most are not in Washington, D.C.?) as well as internships.

Partnership for Public Service is a nonpartisan organization that attracts young leaders to federal government service through education, advocacy, and resources that demystify the federal job search and clarify pathways to public-sector service.

Nonprofit Careers

Available both in print and online, the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers is an A to Z look at landing a job in the nonprofit sector for professionals who started their careers in other sectors. From helping job seekers understand what the sector is (and isn’t) all the way to closing the deal — or starting a new nonprofit instead.

The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-Time Job Seekers (also available in print and online) features similar content by introducing new professionals to career concepts and skills they may be less familiar with.

A companion to both of these guides is Service Corps to Social Impact Career — a guide I wrote for national and international service participants and recent alumni of all ages. Only available online (and free), the book helps corps members prepare for their post-service career transition, explore career options, and translate their service experience during the job search, and settle into a new professional role.

Finally, Making a Difference: A Guide to Personal Profit in a Nonprofit World (also online, also free) from Idealist and the National Endowment for Financial Education offers financial guidance for recent college graduates who are contemplating a nonprofit career and concerned about making ends meet. The book discusses topics like student loans, budgeting, salary search, cost of living, credit and retirement plans.

Of course, there are other sector-specific career guides. What are your favorites? How have they helped you succeed?

Cross posted from Idealist.org.

Inspire Fellow Finds Support + Guidance to Jump Sectors (and You Can Too)

Maurice Matthews, Inspire Fellow

Guest post contributed by Maurice Matthews, Inspire Fellow.

Do you want to know how to make the jump from the corporate sector into the non-profit space?

The short answer is: there is no one way to make the jump, but it can be a great experience if you take time to understand yourself and find the right opportunity.

I am currently working at Year Up through the Inspire Fellowship.

Career beginnings

Before this, I served in the Army and worked as an analyst servicing ultra-high-net-worth individuals at JPMorgan. I know there are many others like me, with hopes of enacting social change but who are either unsure how to make the switch or nervous to leave a healthy paycheck.

After wrapping up my career with JPMorgan and spending time with Harlem Children’s Zone, I pondered what my next step would be. I learned about the Inspire Fellowship, a program geared to take the best and brightest young minds from the corporate sector and bring them into leading non-profits.  I applied last year and was ecstatic to be accepted into the 2010 class.

Year Up

I am working as a Fellow at Year Up National Capital Region. Year Up is a one-year, intensive training program that provides urban young adults 18-24 with a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend, and a corporate internship.

At Year Up I wear several hats. My official title is Special Projects Manager, but I do a mix of finance, operations, special projects, and serve as an advisor for 3 students in the program.

Typical day

I really don’t have a typical day. Usually I’ll sit with my advisees for about 30-45 minutes to discuss their week and any issues that may have arisen. I spend the rest of my day doing work associated with my functional responsibilities.

That may include working on our site’s budget, meeting with an architect about expanding our current office, or hosting a conference call with senior leadership to discuss programs that are funded by social investment organizations.

Advice to Sector Switchers

My advice to future sector switchers is to do your research. There are so many opportunities in the non-profit sector, each with different missions and visions.

  • You have to be honest with yourself in order to find the right fit.
  • Find your passion and connect with it.
  • Look for roles where you can leverage your skills and learn new things.
  • Be genuine with your motives.
  • Be prepared to listen deeply and understand that you will not go into a non-profit and become their savior.

To be successful, you should be adaptable, feel comfortable with ambiguity, bring your ideas to the table, and take initiative to make things happen. If you are wondering whether you could make the jump, the answer is yes.

ProInspire & the Inspire Fellowship

In addition to everything I am learning at Year Up, I meet with my Inspire Fellows class once a month for an all day training that prepares us for future leadership roles in the social sector.

Our seminars have covered topics like situational leadership, project management, becoming powerful communicators, and having great presence. Our workshops are so insightful that they should be mandatory training for leaders in any sector.

Ready to switch? Apply for an Inspire Fellowship

ProInspire is currently recruiting for the 2011 Inspire Fellowship.  If you are interested in making a switch into the nonprofit sector, you should consider applying. The first round deadline is February 25th. Learn more at our website.

Maurice Matthews is an Inspire Fellow at Year Up, a nonprofit that is closing the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. He previously worked as a Private Banking Analyst at JPMorgan and served 2 years as an infantryman within the US Army. Maurice has worked with a number of non-profit organizations throughout his career, including Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem Charter School and Columbia University’s Community Impact. Maurice graduated magna cum laude from Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Political Science and Economics.

Battle in the House over the Continued Existence of AmeriCorps

Will the House kill the Corporation for National and Community Service?

The battle

According to Voices for National Service, this week the U.S. House of Representatives begins consideration of H.R. 1, a Continuing Resolution that will fund the last 7 months of Fiscal Year 2011 and eliminate AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America and the Volunteer Generation Fund.

More info

The youth worker newspaper Youth Today posted:

And The New York Times’s columnist David Brooks wrote more about the budget mess last week.

Take action

Voices for National Service is urging people to contact their Representative and let them know how national and community service programs have made an impact in their lives and communities. From Voices for National Service:

Talking points for Calling the House of Representatives:

  • I am calling to urge you to vote NO on H.R. 1.  Please do not shutdown the Corporation for National and Community Service or eliminate AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America or the Volunteer Generation Fund.
  • The CR will decimate vital services in our communities when millions of Americans need food, shelter, healthcare, job training and educational support.
  • Communities are counting on national service participants and community volunteers to meet the increased demand for services.
  • Provide an example of your local impact and what will be lost if your program is eliminated.  Example: My organization has 140 AmeriCorps members serving in 10 Boston Public Schools.  They are providing targeted and school-wide interventions in literacy, match, attendance and classroom behavior.  If Congress eliminates AmeriCorps, nearly 2,000 high-risk 3rd-9th graders will no longer receive this additional support in the classroom.
  • The CR will only push unemployment rates up.  Unemployment numbers — particularly for young people, veterans and military spouses, older Americans and people of color-remain alarmingly high.
  • For Americans who are struggling to find work, national service programs offer participants the opportunity to earn a subsistence-level stipend, develop skills, and create pathways to future employment.  Eliminating programs like AmeriCorps will result in jobs lost for the corps members and the staff who supervise them.  Example: If Congress eliminates AmeriCorps, our 140 AmeriCorps members and the staff that supervise them will be out of work.
  • The federal investment made in faith based and community organizations through the Corporation for National and Community Service leverages $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources.
  • If you defund the national service programs, whole organizations will shut down and most will not be able to reopen again even if funding is restored.

How to Contact Your Member of Congress:

  • If you need help determining the members of your congressional delegation, visit www.congress.org. This database will provide you with contact information for your elected officials.
  • You can call your Representatives directly or be connected through the House Operator (202-225-3121).  Once connected, identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant in change of national service and education issues.
  • Given the severity of the cuts proposed by the House, you may experience some difficulty calling the Capitol.  It is important that you keep trying.  If you can’t reach your representative by phone, please send a fax communication to their office.  This is time sensitive ask.  Emails or mailed letters will not reach the decision makers in time.  It is critical that our lawmakers hear from the constituents directly impacted by their decisions.

Voices for National Service also highlighted the many weeks this year when the House plans not to be in session, in honor of district “work weeks” when Representatives will be in their home districts. If you’re part of a national service corps, consider inviting Representative(s) for your region to visit service sites, meet with corps members, and see first hand what your program is doing in communities.

It’s hard to imagine that if Congressional Representatives knew what AmeriCorps members actually do, that they could turn their backs on communities in their own backyards by yanking such cost-effective, grassroots, direct & indirect support.

Three Newish Service Corps Recruiting Right Now

Innovative national service and fellowship programs focus creatively to solve serious social and environmental problems in our communities. At the same time, programs offer participants a chance to learn new technical and people skills, develop new social networks, and become part of a solution.

Currently, there are hundreds of diverse service corps working around the world – and right now, three relatively new programs are recruiting. See anything that is right for you?

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Be like the First Lady! (Photo: The White House Flickr feed)

FoodCorps (inaugural year!)
Application deadline: April 10th
Locations: Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon

FoodCorps is a brand-new, year-long service opportunity to help solve the obesity epidemic. Participants will build and/or tend school gardens, teach kids about food and nutrition, and coordinate farm-to-school programs in grassroots nonprofits, local health departments or farms.

Blue Engine (recruiting its second class of fellows)
Application deadline: April 6th
Locations: Public high schools in New York City

Blue Engine is recruiting recent college grads to facilitate daily, differentiated, small-group instruction for high school freshmen in order to increase the rigor of academic preparation for high schoolers so that when the students enter college, they are prepared to succeed there.

ProInspire (recruiting its third class of fellows)
Application deadline: February 25th
Locations: Nonprofits in Washington, DC

ProInspire recruits experienced business-sector professionals to play critical analytical or strategic roles in nonprofits in the Washington, DC-area during one-year Inspire Fellowships.

And that’s not all!

Many, many more service corps exist. Most are for people age 18 and up, and many have no upper age limit. The key to success in participating in a corps is to find the right one for you. To see a long list of corps and coalitions, check out The New Service blog and explore the Service Corps pages in our Career Center.

Are you thinking of a term of service? What programs are you considering?

Cross posted from Idealist.org.

HealthCorps Interview: Calvin Lambert

Calvin Lambert

Guest post by HealthCorps Coordinator Nathan Allen.

Calvin Lambert is an exceptional HealthCorps Coordinator at a High School in Brooklyn, NY.  Apart from his brilliant work with HealthCorps, Calvin is known for having a laugh that can bring an entire room together.

Calvin is concluding is term with HealthCorps this year and has been admitted to several top-tier medical schools (which he asked to remain undisclosed, as his decision is still pending).  I was fortunate to find a short break in his world-changing to catch up and throw a few questions at him.

Nathan:  I read, on your phenomenal school blog, that you intend to start a program for students where you will serve as a positive male role model for students who may not have one. What will this look like?

Calvin: I envision a forum where young men can come and discuss issues that they are passionate about…there are lots of things these kids deal with day-to-day that they don’t get a chance to express and this will be a place to open up about these feelings. I also want to design workshops here to address things like how to be a gentleman, things like respect, attitude, being professional, sexual education…

I noticed how many guys don’t seem to have respect for themselves and a lot of the time these guys are not focused in the classroom. I know there is a reason for this. I want to give them an opportunity to talk about these things so I can understand and then try to pull the potential out of them.

Nathan: It seems that improving health in all communities requires multifaceted approaches. Some things Continue reading