Tips for Commissions

“Recognize our usefulness. We are not charity cases. We are an American asset.”—Iraq/Afghanistan veteran

Program managers, State Commission staff, and veterans themselves offer this advice, drawn from their experience working with veterans and veteran-serving organizations.

  • Veteran service organizations have a long and proud history of serving veterans, so be sure to stress how AmeriCorps seeks to partner with established leaders and represents a network of partnerships with national and local nonprofits, government agencies, and faith-based organizations. Your state department of veterans affairs is a natural place to start your outreach. You can look up the contact information for the department in your state using a link provided in the Resources section.
  • Find opportunities to engage with veterans enrolling in or returning to college through campus programs, offices, and student organizations that serve them. Registration, financial aid, and student activities offices are good first places to start, as their staff will be most familiar with any incentives, policies, or benefits an institution has in place to enroll or support veterans. You can also seek out and work with campus-based, service-oriented groups such as Campus Compact, as well as student clubs organized by and for veterans. Links to some of these campus resources can be found in the Resources section.
  • If you’re recruiting community organizations that haven’t worked with AmeriCorps before, be sure to do the work upfront to introduce them to national service requirements, protocols, and culture. It may be easier to recruit an established grantee to add a veterans-focused component rather than starting from scratch with a new organization, or to partner an established grantee with a group that serves veterans and military families.
  • Enlisting the help of community leaders, particularly those who are veterans or are active in veterans issues, can open doors.
  • Stress that AmeriCorps is another resource for our veterans—not a replacement for veteran-serving organizations.
  • A newly returned veteran may have personal issues that he or she needs to work out before being able to offer help to others.
  • When evaluating a proposal from potential grantees, check to see whether they have included local military bases in their service plans. They may overlook key service sites, particularly if they are new to working with veterans and military families.
  • Recruit National Guard and active-duty or veteran servicemen or women to serve on your own Commission board, and encourage potential grantees to do the same for their advisory boards.
  • Veterans, individually and through veteran service organizations, have enormous influence with their fellow veterans. A fellow veteran who asks can be one of the greatest inducements for veterans to serve.
  • Do your homework, and don’t reinvent the wheel. Talk to other agencies that are already providing services for veterans and consider introducing them to current AmeriCorps grantees.

Tips to Share With Grantees

  • Consider whether you want to engage veterans as part-time or full-time members. Both may require the same amount of supervision and often the full-time member may be more committed and more able to link national service to his or her prior military experience.
  • Pick the right vets and the right sites for placement. While there are a lot of great veterans who may be willing to serve, it’s important to match them with assignments that fit their skills and needs.
  • Multisite management may pose more challenges than managing veterans assigned to one or more sites in close proximity to each other; consider the opportunities veterans will have to network and support each other in their national service work.
  • Consider having a veteran national service member serve as a program manager or in other leadership roles. As one director explains, “It’s a crucial element to keep the fire burning in [members’] bellies.”
  • If you are enrolling veterans as members rather than focusing on programs serving vets, carefully think through the support and training you can offer them. Also, the support they can give each other is powerful.
  • Service members and their families often volunteer in ways that benefit their direct community, so encouraging them to volunteer with outside organizations could be a challenge. Consider partnering with faith communities on base and in the surrounding community and with local nonprofits that have an established presence on base to gain entry and build trust.
  • The following offices, personnel, and media may be helpful in recruitment outreach on military bases:
    • Transition, discharge/separation, and retirement administrators and counselors
    • Family Readiness Group
    • Personnel Office—ideal for spouses
    • Department of Defense schools—reach spouses/parents and young adults of college age
    • Community services office—promotes volunteer opportunities in the community
    • Youth services office—reach spouses/parents, as well as young adults of college age
    • Chaplains
    • Base newsletters/newspapers, e-mail lists, and websites
    • Base-orientation and discharge/transition information packets
“The community doesn’t have to serve us as veterans. We are a part of the community. If everyone did their part, the world would be a better place.”—Iraq/Afghanistan veteran

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