Showing posts with label NCNCS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NCNCS. Show all posts

Friday, January 2

Delivering Service: AmeriCorps Benefits Nevada

Given economic growth in the United States is still near an all-time low and given the current economic crisis in Nevada, it's not surprising to learn Nevada Volunteers (formerly the Nevada Commission For National & Community Service), will not be included in the governor's budget. The decision will require the commission to seek legislative funding for the next biennium, which is no easy task given that most state budgets are being cut.

This will require state legislators to look long term rather than short term. The cost of losing AmeriCorps in Nevada is far greater than the modest matching funds required to keep the commission operational for the next two years.

The return on investment is $19 in funding for every $1 the state invests.

With a $19 to $1 rate of return and a President-Elect looking to expand AmeriCorps, common sense suggests that the state legislature needs to consider Nevada Volunteers a priority program.

Nevada Volunteers administers AmeriCorps programs in Nevada and works to link community-building organizations with the public and private resources they need. Specifically, with the modest state funding investment of $365,000 over the biennium, the state receives $4.4 million in AmeriCorps programming and $1 million in additional volunteer services.

During the last biennium, Nevada Volunteers administered critical funding for the Great Basin Institute, U.S. Veterans Initiative, Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, Family Resource Centers of Northeastern Nevada, and the United Way of Southern Nevada, among others. In addition, after successful completion of service, AmeriCorps members earn an education award that can be used to pay for college or graduate school or repay qualified student loans.

The return in service outcomes far exceeds the monetary gain.

As impressive as the return of investment is for the State of Nevada, the direct outcome from 156,518 hours of service from 139 AmeriCorps members and 27,178 hours of community service from more than 4,100 AmeriCorps volunteers delivers badly needed services across the state of Nevada. A few highlights across AmeriCorps funded programs include:

• Collected and distributed more than 59,000 pounds of food and clothing to 21,000 Nevadans.
• Provided domestic violence prevention and intervention to 154 Nevada women and children.
• Provided outreach to 1,300 homeless persons, including veterans (with an 88 percent transition success rate).
• Provided direct educational assistance to approximately 200 at-risk children across the state.
• Built, restored, and maintained more than 96 miles of wilderness trails and 38 miles of natural habitats.
• Removed hazardous fuels from more than 386 acres, creating firebreaks, and planted 7,800 trees.
• Conducted 411 Red Cross first aid/CPR classes for more than 4,800 Nevadans.

It doesn't take someone like me, who has served as a governor-appointed state commissioner for seven years, including executive positions on the board for five years, to see that preserving AmeriCorps is vital to the State of Nevada. To do it, however, the commission will need more than a proclamation. It needs several state legislators to step forward and champion the required state administrative match during the 2009 legislative session.

The only question that remains is which legislators it will be and how long it will take. During the last legislative session when no line item programs were to be funded, last-minute legislation for AmeriCorps passed almost unanimously (42-0 in the assembly and 19-1-1 in the senate, with only a single dissenting vote by then State Senator Ann O’Connell) just before midnight as part of one of the last bills presented.

State legislators learned then how important AmeriCorps is to Nevada after realizing that our state will lose millions in federal and private support. One can only hope our new legislators are wise enough to see that cutting AmeriCorps doesn't save $182,500 per year. On the contrary, it will cost the state almost $4 million per year in lost funding and services.

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.


Monday, November 12

Honoring Veterans: Veterans Day

"On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain." — Dwight D. Eisenhower, President

Before my grandfather (16th Infantry, 3rd Bn, 1st Inf Div - Berlin) died a few years ago, he left behind a legacy for others to carry forward with the Berlin Veterans Association. Originally, he served in the Army Air Corps until it became part of the Army Air Forces, which were later disestablished by Congress (thus creating the U.S. Air Force). Among other assignments, he was stationed in Germany during the Berlin Blockade (Also know as the Berlin Airlifts), one of first major crises of the Cold War.

While our family has several veterans and we honor of all them today, I would like to bring attention to the Berlin U.S. Military Veterans Association, the organization that consists of men and women who served with Les and/or were connected to him by serving in Berlin. Their service, like the service of all our veterans, need not be forgotten.

Another organization worth mentioning today is U.S. Vets. U.S. Vets is the largest non-profit organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk veterans, and a nationally recognized leader in the field of service delivery to veterans. I have been close to this program on a number of occasions as a state commissioner with the Nevada Commission for National and Community Service (NCNCS), which administers AmeriCorps programs in Nevada.

Every year, U.S. Vets helps more than 1,100 homeless veterans return to full time employment. It has one of the most successful homeless rehabilitation models in the country and I’ve been personally touched by their work on more than one occasion — including when a plumber, working on the kitchen sink in my home, shared his homeless story with me. As it turned out, he was graduating from the U.S. Vets program a few weeks later.

And finally, we also extend our heartfelt appreciation to Soldiers’ Angels, which is launching a new holiday program for troops who are currently deployed around the world. (They also have several programs to assist veterans.)

I learned about Solders’ Angels after speaking with Rick Calvert, creator of BlogWorld. We wrote a short piece on how BlogWorld had donated a booth to Soldiers’ Angels on our community blog last week.

Last week, I had planned to share some insights into BlogWorld today, but that can wait until tomorrow. Today is better served by observing and honoring all those who have served so their efforts and sacrifices to this country and other countries are remembered always. Thank you, and bless you, one and all. Our veterans.


Friday, September 14

Making Changes: NBCB

Since April 2005, our company has hosted and administered the National Business Community Blog, which is a national news feed that focuses on businesses doing good.

Today, we gave the blog the first phase of a long overdo face lift. More work needs to be done (and we have yet to add every state), but it's a step in the right direction. Everyday, we publish one example of best business giving practices with the hope to inspire more companies to engage in community service.

In other words, we're always looking for best business giving practices from small businesses and large corporations across the nation. We'd be more than welcome to consider your business giving news; just send a release to the e-mail identified on the site.

In addition to sharing business giving ideas, the blog also benefits Nevada Volunteers (The Nevada Commission for National & Community Service), a state commission that administers AmeriCorps programs and generally works to increase volunteerism in our state.

I've been privileged to serve as appointed state commissioner for several years now. You can learn about the latest commission news here, including the recent announcement to name Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons honorary chairwoman.

There are other state and national non-profit organizations as well. And that doesn't count more than 300 acts of business kindness we're collected on the site. Drop by some time and let us know if you think we're moving one of our other blogs in the right direction.


Friday, January 12

Helping Companies Help People: NBCB

There are many bloggers (and companies) who want to change the world, hopefully for the better. Their reasons, motives, and methods are as different as the variety of causes they take up, whether it is within their community, industry, interests, or something else entirely, like tracking the seemingly infinite details in the life of Britney Spears. That's okay too.

My point is that everyone is passionate about something and, with luck, that passion will lead you to answer one of the most important questions you can ask yourself: is my fundamental motivation as a person to be a beneficial presence in the world … in the lives of all those I touch, whether it be at home, at work, in the community, and on the Internet?

It's not a trick question. I am not alluding to any myriad of issues, critiques, politics, religion, and whatnot. Nor am I asking anyone to ask it of someone else. It's a personal question void of all that. With luck, you can answer “I hope so.”

In June 2002, a diverse group of business leaders came together to create Business Strengthening America (BSA), which established a self-directed, multi-year, peer-to-peer effort to engage thousands of America's business leaders in a campaign to encourage civic engagement and service. If you visit the site, you'll see it's largely static, with the freshest content dating back to 2003. What is not static, however, is the idea nor are the hundreds of non-profit endeavors of more than 700 companies and business organizations that joined BSA years ago.

Much more active and up-to-date is USA Freedom Corps, which is an excellent resource for individuals who want to become involved in something. It's endorsed by President George W. Bush, but you don't have to like him to appreciate the larger body of work. In fact, a good part of the concept came from AmeriCorps, which was the one program that President Bill Clinton (it's okay, you don't have to like him either) asked President Bush to keep around. On that, they agreed, even if their parties did not.

Anyway, I know a little about AmeriCorps because I serve as a state commissioner in Nevada. My experience on this commission as well as dozens of other non-pofit organizations and associations is what drives me to maintain another, much less read, blog called the Nevada Business Community Blog. In truth, it's probably less of blog than a newsfeed, highlighting at least one company's charitable action every day (with luck).

The blog doesn't take much effort, really. And, I would strongly support anyone duplicating the idea in their home state: a community web log and news feed for businesses releasing information about their non-profit contributions and volunteer efforts. Why? Well, there really are many ways to change the world and by sharing a daily example of business giving, it might inspire more companies to do so. After all, strategic philanthropy, a concept and practice of business giving has existed in the United States since the early 1950s, has always received a return that exceeds investment. Some companies just don't know that. They also don't know that, if done correctly, strategic philanthropy fits nicely into a strategic communication plan.

Who knows? Perhaps business giving could even inspire some employees (or other interested individuals) to funnel some of their more creative passions into other activities that have a direct, positive, and lasting impact on people, animals, the environment, or whatever else they might think up. I've taken up a few over the years; too many sometimes, I am told. But that's not so bad.

You see, I always hope such efforts (even when I use a living case study in communication as an example on this blog) will eventually lead me to the same answer at the end of the day, a chance to say “I hope so.”

Thursday, June 16

Missing A Promo Moment

Last March, Copywrite, Ink. was recognized with two awards of excellence during the Las Vegas Advertising Federation's Addy Awards, which is part of the AAF's annual competition here in Las Vegas.

While winning awards three months ago hardly seems worth the mention, it is news to us and our project partners. I received the call the day before yesterday; the Ad Fed was wondering when we were going to pick the awards up. I didn't know because I was traveling on business when the event was held.

The first award of excellence was earned for the Nevada Commission for National and Community Service's Governor's Points of Light program, which folds down into a triangular U.S. flag (not shown, but likely to be included in the portfolio section of our site redesign). Earlier in the year, it earned a Bronze Quill (top award) from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). We contracted Las Vegas-based 3rd Degree Burns to assist on this project. We provided creative direction and copywriting while Brian Burns executed the design and covered the press checks. We've won several awards with him.

The second piece to receive an award was our first with Colorado-based Aisle 9 Design (one panel shown here). I was especially pleased to learn this one received recognition because the piece was a cooperative self-promotional direct mailer we've been field testing in select markets. My thinking is that since the piece targets ad agency creative directors (and the judges were major market ad agency CDs), we successfully hit our target audience. I also like that the piece dispels one of the myths about award competitions: you do not need a huge project budget for a competent, creative, and effective piece.

This was the third or fourth project we've done with Ryan Burke at Aisle 9 and we're looking forward to our next. We complement each other's work well, with each building upon the other's area of expertise. Even better, it's always a positive, productive experience. I'd recommend him to anyone; but I hoping our our next gig together will be as a team.

And no, I'm not just saying this because of the award. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the abundance of awards given out in our industry. Sure, peer review can always be healthy, but sometimes there is a tendency to place too much emphasis on awards and not enough on results (I've seen too many industry folks have their feelings bruised over acrylic). The real merit of a piece should always be based on its ability to meet its objective. There are many times I've considered swearing off award competitions all together.

But then I reconsider, largely for two reasons. First, it's an excellent promotional opportunity that, as a company that agencies outsource to, always attracts the attention of our primary target audience. Second, and more importantly, since we never tell anyone what we've entered, it's always a pleasant surprise for them to learn they were recognized, client or vendor. We really do appreciate the people who work with us.

In closing, since I have yet to update the award PDFs on our site, we received recognition for a few other projects at the Bronze Quills Awards that I mentioned: a second Bronze Quill for the Southern Hills Hospital Grand Opening postcard (completed with The Idea Factory), excellences for Writing Portfolio, GPOL Silent Auction Support Letter, and merits for the Swiss Medica Trade Show Booth (with former client Eclipse), a news release for Nevada Shakespeare in the Park, and a television spot for Cadillac called Summer Trip (with longtime client The Idea Factory).

Sunday, April 10

Creating A Community Blog

On Friday, it was my privilege to speak about how blogs are transforming everything we know about business communication to about 35 professional communicators and UNLV communication students. The luncheon was hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators at the Las Vegas Country Club.

Although technological limitations prevented me from sharing our preliminary PowerPoint presentation, attendees were still very interested in the data we had pulled together and our analysis on the impact that blogs are having on communication. Given the time constraints of working without a visual presentation, I was only able to touch briefly on the idea that the application of blogs as a strategic communication tool is still in its infancy.

Case in point: today, my company launched the first phase of a new blog that will be maintained as a partnership with the Nevada Commission for National & Community Service, Inc., a non-profit organization that administers AmeriCorps programs in Nevada (yes, the same commission I posted about last Wednesday). The purpose of the Nevada Business Community Blog (NBCB) is two-fold: recognize the dedication, commitment, and determination of businesses supporting non-profit organizations throughout Nevada and to promote increased business giving and volunteerism throughout the state.

The idea is one that I've given considerable thought to for several months; creating an online news feed for companies that give back to their community in Nevada as well as companies that are interested in developing a business giving program on any level. Sure, this idea has been around for some time, but never in the form of a statewide web log, which is ideal for the abundance of community service-related news releases sent out daily by companies throughout our state.

It's my hope that companies that have yet to embrace business giving will find the practice is much more prevalent and worthwhile than previously thought, which is why there is no cost to Nevada businesses to share their non-profit related news on the blog. If you're interested in a living example of how blogs can be applied to do good for our businesses and communities, visit NBCB. We've launched the first phase and will begin posting releases from the business community beginning April 15.

I would also like to offer special thanks to my partner (vice president of Copywrite, Ink.), Kim Becker, for bringing blogs to my attention almost a year ago and to Shawn Lecker-Pomaville, executive director of the Nevada Commission for National & Community Service, Inc., for embracing the idea and adding it as yet another way the commission can engage Nevadans of all ages and backgrounds in community-based service.

Wednesday, April 6

Sharing Community Service

Yesterday, along with Craig Warner, state program director for the Corporation for National and Community Service, I had the honor of representing the Nevada Commission for National & Community Service (NCNCS), which oversees seven AmeriCorps programs in Nevada, to recognize three outstanding individuals at the National Service Summit in Las Vegas. The awards were for outstanding service through either AmeriCorps, VISTA or SeniorCorps.

As vice chair of the NCNCS, I was asked to recognize the AmeriCorps award recipient, Raul Gomez, who serves as a AmeriCorps member at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas. Over the last couple years, he has developed several dozen programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs to benefit area youth.

Even more amazing to me, he is one of 160 highly skilled AmeriCorps members in Nevada who dedicate between three and 12 months of their lives to community service in exchange for modest living conditions and a small education award so they may go on to college upon completion of their civic contribution. It's an excellent program, one that I've been thrilled to be part of since Gov. Kenny Guinn first appointed me to the commission almost four years ago.

More than any other reason, my motivation to serve is because of individuals like Gomez. Their dedication, humility, and passion to help others is nothing less than inspirational. Collectively, these individuals have helped more than 194,000 Nevadans during the 2003-04 fiscal year and they do it with minimal program funding, recognition, or reward.

As far as return on investment for the state, few programs come close to AmeriCorps in Nevada, which is involved in everything from increasing literacy and supporting at-risk youth, to providing job training and rehabilitation for homeless veterans, and environmental programs that restore our state's natural resources while reducing the risk of forest fires near rural and metropolitan areas.

Considering Nevada often ranks near the bottom in terms of overall charitable giving when compared to most states, I have always found it encouraging that AmeriCorps members and hundreds of other volunteers throughout Nevada remain unwavering in their commitment to make a difference. It makes me wonder, perhaps, if we should sometimes pay more attention to such positive examples and stellar role models in our state and less time on statistics that frequently ask the wrong questions.

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