The Bank of America 500 Military Partner Summit convened to share knowledge between key military and veteran service organizations from around the country
According to the Center for New American Security (CNAS) there are an estimated 42,000 military and veteran service organizations across the country helping service members transition to civilian careers.
With so many veterans’ needs needing integrated solutions, veteran and military service organizations are beginning to partner, or collaborate, to better meet the needs of the veterans and their families that seek their help. Recognizing the value of this collaboration, Bank of America recently brought together several non-profit partners to share best practices.
Held just prior to the Bank of America 500, the bank’s Military Partner Collaborative Summit brought together leaders from more than a dozen national and local non-profits to focus on bringing nonprofits, businesses, and local governments together to support veterans and military families.
The landscape of community efforts to serve veterans
In just six years, Team Red White and Blue (Team RWB) has grown from a fledgling non-profit focused on connecting veterans through physical activity, to a national organization with nearly 200 chapters and 114,000 members. Its chapters host fitness activities, social gatherings, and community service events to strengthen a veteran’s connection to their community, aiding in their transition from the military. “Many veterans come to us because our approach doesn’t feel clinical,” said Blayne Smith, Executive Director of Team RWB. “As a result of this, we’re often the first point of contact for veterans in the community. But, we quickly discovered that many had more acute needs that we couldn’t immediately address with our programs. That’s when we recognized the critical need for collaboration – in order to connect those veterans with organizations that can provide specific assistance. We and our peers need a way to integrate into the bigger infrastructure of military and veteran service organizations to get a veteran to the right spot.”
Team RWB is in not alone in recognizing the value of collaboration. In its new report – “A continuum of collaboration: examining the landscape of community efforts to serve veterans” – CNAS found that 65 percent of the nation’s 100 largest communities have some type of collaborative activity to assist veterans. However, it also found that there is little way to measure the success in order to create similar strategic collaborations elsewhere, and provide consistency for the veterans they serve. “There is a need to define performance metrics, build a diverse resource portfolio that is sustainable, and to have measurable outcomes that are shareable across communities – within nonprofits, government agencies and funders,” said Philip Carter, Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at CNAS.
Outcomes vs. outputs
Casey Littlefield, Director of Social Investments at Social Finance agrees that organizations should measure the impact of their programs, and direct resources based on how well those programs help the veterans and families they serve.
“It’s not just about the number of veterans served, or finding a homeless veteran a home or a job.” said Littlefield, “Those are important outputs, but we also care about those outcomes that indicate long-term success –sustained engagement in a healthy and connected life without the need for additional intensive services.”
Social Finance is a nonprofit organization focused on Pay for Success, an innovative funding model that drives government resources toward better, more effective programs.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the service member or veteran that you serve,” said John Falkenbury, President of USO of NC.
Investing in a collaborative infrastructure
The NCServes network is a public, private, and non-profit collaboration of 40 service providers across eight counties in North Carolina which helps veterans and their families. Providers include Charlotte Bridge Home, IVMF, Goodwill and Mecklenburg County, who attended the bank’s Summit. Since forming, NCServes has closed 1,800 cases of service members and veterans seeking resources as they transition from the military. Blake Bourne, Executive Director of Charlotte Bridge Home, shared the keys to network’s early success. “The key is to stay interconnected and communicative, with each organization specializing in what it does best,” he said.
NCServes has also dedicated resources to help connect the partners and measure intended outputs. According to Lewis Runnion, Public Policy Director on Bank of America Military Affairs team, in a collaborative model, a strong infrastructure is the critical. “We’ve found there are challenges for nonprofits when trying to staff a collaborative and outcome based model. An organization needs dedicated resources to this work – to secure the capital, manage the relationship, enter the data and measure the outcome.”
Miguel Howe with the George W. Bush Institute shared common best practices non-profits should use when developing a collaborative models. “Set a clear objective, define performance metrics and build a diverse resource portfolio that is sustainable over the long term."
Bank of America was honored to be joined by a host of the its nonprofit partners, including America’s Warrior Partnership, The Bush Institute, Charlotte Bridge Home, CNAS, Central Piedmont Community College, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Mecklenburg County Veteran Service Office, Military Warriors Support Foundation, Social Finance, Student Veterans of America, Team RWB (Red, White, Blue), Univ. of Southern California, USO (national), and USO of North Carolina.