Career Tip: Paying Your Dues — Is it a Necessity?

From shawncampbell via Flickr's Creative Commons

Originally posted on the Idealist.org homepage blog by resident career transitions expert Meg Busse. Meg recently recorded a podcast answering common questions about nonprofit careers. To listen, click here.

I was on a panel a few weeks ago at a retreat for Executive Directors (EDs). The panel was focused on supporting emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector and featured four people to speak to our experiences as 30(ish)-year-olds in leadership roles. The other panelists were fantastic: Matthew Bennett and Michelle Cote of the Purpose Project and Fahd Vahidy, Executive Director of Public Allies Connecticut.

One of the most interesting moments of the session came at the very end when one Executive Director commented that young hires don’t want to pay their dues. This created a bit of a Continue reading

NCVS Opening Plenary Monday Night

Michelle Obama speaking at NCVS 09

Michelle Obama speaking at NCVS 09

The launch of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service Monday night brought a huge crowd of people out to hear First Lady Michelle Obama speak, among other familiar faces.

When I arrived, the throngs of people waiting in line to go through security matched the throngs of people already inside the hall, and everyone was waiting for Michelle Obama. Helping the time fly was comic/emcee Wally Collins who made fun of individual audience members between introducing musical acts like Sondre Lerche and the Glide Ensemble. Also in the lead-in to the main event, Shawn Rubin accepted the Eli Segal Award from AmeriCorps Alums, Alan Khazei of Be the Change, Inc., spoke introducing corporate sponsor Shannon Schuyler of PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The highlight of the night didn’t come at the end, as I would have expected. Michelle Obama took the stage somewhere in the middle of the opening event, and everyone in the crowd cheered and stood if they could. Her words were inspiring of course, but I was more stunned by the simple fact of her presence—the President’s wife chose to spend time with us. She used to run a Public Allies AmeriCorps program—and said to start that she was with her people. What I liked the best about what she said was the reaction she and President Obama received when they each decided to forego lucrative careers for nonprofit jobs—Mrs. Obama at Public Allies and Pres. Obama at various nonprofits like the Developing Communities Project where he was a community organizer. She said, regarding people in our lives who dismiss our career choices: “But what these folks don’t understand is that the story of progress in this nation has always been the story of people who chose — in times of trial and struggle — to serve it.”

Mrs. Obama also announced the launch of the United We Serve summer of service initiative, which will last through Sept. 11th of this year, which will make community service easy to do for anyone, and focus on health care, energy Continue reading

Connecting Service to Employment for Members of All Abilities

Participating in national and community service is one way for people with and without disabilities to gain valuable experience and skills toward employment. The National Service Inclusion Project is currently looking for success stories from service members with disabilities about how his or her service experience has linked them to full or part time work. If you are a service member with a disability who would be interested in sharing your story of your transition from service to employment, please submit your story here.

Below is Michael Agyin’s story of how his service experience led to his current position within the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Service.

During his term of service in 2000-2001 with National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), Michael Continue reading

Michelle Obama Visits the Corporation for National Service-Through My Lens

Michelle Obama speaking last week

Michelle Obama speaking last week Photo by Katrina Mathis

A first-hand account of encountering the First Lady.

“I shook her hand.” I can’t recall the number of times I uttered or texted those words exactly a week ago today. “I…SHOOK…HER…HAND!”  “I shook Michelle Obama’s hand.”  I am still elated. But that’s how the event ended.  Let’s start from the beginning.

I arrived early to ensure a good seat.  It was a closed affair, just for us—Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) employees, but that wasn’t going to guarantee prime seating, so I made my way to the venue, down 13th street as fast as my wedges would allow.

I was excited about the First Lady’s visit, but was a little anxious because I wasn’t as familiar with my camera as I would have liked. Buying a Nikon D-40 had been on my To-Do list for a while and news of the First Lady’s visit made it a-night-before-the-big-event purchase. Thus, I had less than 24 hours to learn to use it. Yikes!

I scored a great seat: second row center. It was like being in the orchestra section at the Kennedy Center, sans the price of admission. As more CNCS Continue reading

Obama’s Remarks on Signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

Today, President Obama made the following remarks before signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

Barack Obama on national service

The transcript was released by the Office of the White House Press Secretary. Re-play the signing and hear the speech for yourself on CSPAN.

Thank you.  Please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, what an extraordinary day.  It is good to be here with all of you.

I want to, first of all, thank President Bill Clinton for joining us here today — where’s President Clinton? — (applause) — for his lifetime of service to our country, but also the fact that he created AmeriCorps, and that not only made this day possible, it has directly enlisted more than half a million Americans in service to their country; service that has touched the lives of millions more.

Now, it just so happens that one of those people who have been touched by AmeriCorps was FLOTUS, otherwise known as First Lady of the United States — (laughter) — Michelle Obama, who ran a AmeriCorps-sponsored Continue reading

Public Allies Featured on Equality Arizona Radio

Representatives of a national AmeriCorps program that prepares the newest generation of nonprofit leaders speak with Equality Arizona host Donna Rossi.

Link to the show!

Public Allies Arizona guests include:

  • Program Director Michelle Lyons-Mayer
  • Program Assistant Andrea Glenn
  • Alum Celia Williams
  • Currently-serving Ally Milo Neild

They talk about the Public Allies program, how to apply, and personal experiences in the program that have helped them grow personally and professionally, while making a huge impact in their communities.

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Why It’s Wrong to Assume that All Service Participants are Young

How branding national service as an opportunity only for young people does more harm to the movement than good.

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

While many service corps do have upper age limits — City Year, AmeriCorps*NCCC, Public Allies, and many other team-based programs — most programs do not have an upper age limit.

In fact, several programs specifically recruit professionalsExperience Corps, Atlas Corps, CUSO-VSO (the Canadian VSO), Volunteers for Prosperity, and United Nations Volunteers just to name a few. Others like Peace Corps and AmeriCorps*VISTA recruit almost entirely college graduates because of the skill required in carrying out service.

And yet when people speak of service they almost always describe it as an opportunity for young people to give back, receive scholarship money, develop leadership skills, and go an an adventure before settling down with a real job.

What difference does it make if most people think of national or international service as a pursuit for the young?

Here are some reasons:

Recruitment:

If we assume only young people will enlist in a citizen service corps, we won’t recruit new corps members as creatively Continue reading