Tuesday, November 11

Understanding ROI: U.S. Vets


While many social media experts and communicators tend to think "sales" anytime someone mentions return on investment (ROI), serving as a state commissioner for Nevada Volunteers (formerly Nevada Commission for National & Community Service, Inc.), provides a different perspective. Return on investment doesn't always mean profit margins; it means outcomes.

U.S. Vets On Veterans Day

U.S. Vets, one of several AmeriCorps-supported programs administered by this commission in Nevada, provides safe, sober, clinically supported housing and employment assistance to help rehabilitate homeless veterans. Here in Nevada, U.S. Vets helps more than 750 veterans transition from being homeless to self-sufficient every year.

They accomplish this by initiating contact with homeless veterans; providing a needs assessment; relocating them to transitionary housing, offering legal services, life skills, family support, job training, and full-time employment. I've spoken with and interviewed many graduates of the U.S. Vets over the last six years I've served as a commissioner.

From Nevada's perspective, every dollar the state invests is matched with the equivalent of about $10 in federal funding, one of the highest returns on investment for any non-profit organization in the state. Amazingly, although it would be enough, U.S. Vets is not the only AmeriCorps program to benefit.

Outcomes from various programs include: the reforestation and the reduction of fire hazards across hundreds of acres near rural communities, educational assistance to hundreds of at-risk students who increased their proficiency by two grade levels, and delivering thousands of residents medical case management and badly needed food. There's more, but the point is significant. ROI is about outcomes.

ROI is about a plumber who visited my home a few years ago. As he was passing back and forth from his van to my sink, he noticed President Bush on television and smiled.

"I know a lot of people who don't like him, but I do because he supports AmeriCorps," he said. "Without AmeriCorps, I would still be homeless, but now I have a full-time job and am graduating to move into my own apartment next week."

As you might expect, we talked for some time as he shared how he came to be homeless and how U.S. Vets helped him restart his life. I shared with him how AmeriCorps occasionally becomes a political football, but how it's also one of the most efficient bipartisan programs in the country. Originally, AmeriCorps was brought into existence by President Bill Clinton and later saved by President Bush through his Call To Service (and now highlighted on President-Elect Obama's transitional Web site. Why? Because of individual success stories just like this.

My Son On Veterans Day

His story also reminds me of something else today. The people who serve as AmeriCorps volunteers all over our country are inspiring Americans because they demonstrate how Americans do not have to be "forced to be generous" as I heard one politician recently claim. On the contrary, they only need to be engaged.

Today, my son became engaged after learning about the Adopt A Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine program organized by Soldiers' Angels. For the next six months, he will write a serviceman or servicewoman stationed abroad, sending a card or letter each week and care packages once or twice a month. It might not seem like much, but it's an important self-chosen step for a 9-year-old to take in developing what may one day become a legacy of service, inspired by our veterans and servicemen and women. And that too is ROI.

For our veterans, thank you and bless you.

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1 comments:

Rich on 11/14/08, 3:29 PM said...

More words:

My son received his introduction packet and is looking forward to writing her.

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