Our veterans are broadly viewed as heroes and role models, but our admiration for their service has not translated into a national agenda to serve our veterans. Many lack access to gainful employment, vocational training, disability services, and support for their families. Mental health issues are widespread, and in 2010, 22 veterans committed suicide every day.
The lack of public resources directed to veterans should be a source of national shame, but the crisis provides foundations and social impact investors with a unique opportunity to build solutions from the ground up by investing in nonprofit innovators working to give veterans comprehensive support.
How can funders and investors break into this potentially risky social issue area with confidence that dollars directed toward nonprofits will have lasting social impact on the veteran population? Our experience working with the Highland Street Foundation, an active partner since 2007, provides an interesting example of how a foundation can come to understand and address the veterans crisis in a meaningful and creative way.
This year, the Highland Street Foundation will sponsor a social issue track called "Expanding Opportunities and Improving Services for Veterans in Massachusetts." Through this track sponsorship, the Highland Street Foundation will:
- Connect with leading nonprofits in the Greater Boston area working with the veteran population
- Participate in a rigorous vetting and selection process to choose the Social Innovator they wish to invest in
- Network with more than 1,500 philanthropists, foundation staff, business people and government officials interested in supporting innovative approaches
- Collaborate with experts on best practices and innovative solutions to social issues
- Position themselves as a leader in this social issue area
- Leverage their dollars to have a bigger impact; every $1 invested through the Social Innovation Forum results in a $3 budget increase for our Social Innovators (within 24 months)
Blake Jordan, executive director of the Highland Street Foundation, described the experience: "Over the past few years, our partnership with the Social Innovation Forum has allowed us to support some of the most effective nonprofits. Our sponsorship of the veterans track is representative of our deep commitment to address the most important social issues of our time."
Both the Social Innovation Forum and the Highland Street Foundation view the "Expanding Opportunities and Improving Services for Veterans in Massachusetts" track as an opportunity to bring extensive support to nonprofits with the most innovative approaches for tackling the issue. The Highland Street Foundation expects to direct $50,000 in support to an innovative nonprofit organization working to address this emerging issue. These resources have helped Social Innovators to grow their organizations at an average annual rate of over 20 percent while Massachusetts and US nonprofit average growth has been declining.
Ultimately, the public sector will need to develop a sense of urgency to serve our veterans in a comprehensive and timely manner. Private donors like Highland can show the way, bringing innovative solutions to life for those who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe. Root Cause is proud to have the opportunity to be a part of this critical effort.
The preceding is a cross-post by Susan Musinsky, Director of Social Innovation Forum, Root Cause. You can read the original post here. Susan joined Root Cause in 2005 as the director of the Social Innovation Forum (SIF). In this role, she works with investors (individuals and foundations) and Social Innovators to help effectively implement the future of strategic philanthropy in Greater Boston and beyond. Currently, she is working on leads to replicate the SIF model in other parts of the country. Contact Susan today at email@example.com or 617.649.1518.