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Hurricane Volunteer Support Fund
In the wake of the recent hurricanes, the Corporation is coordinating volunteers to assist with repair and relief efforts in areas affected by this devastating storm. Your donation will support volunteers in providing food and shelter, managing donations, helping victims get necessary assistance, and long-term rebuilding efforts.
USA Freedom Corps Partnering to Answer the President’s Call to Service

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Office of the CEO


Opening Plenary Remarks at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service by David Eisner


Good morning Seattle and welcome to all of our National Conference attendees!

It is my honor — as CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and co-convener along with the Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network — to greet you at another of our annual conferences which are so critical for our volunteering and service sectors.

I’d like to thank and acknowledge the contributions of all our special guests and speakers, our sponsors, and the wonderful Seattle Host Committee – which has been so ably chaired by John Rindlaub of Wells Fargo.

Together, we are bringing to you a first-rate conference program that I know you will find valuable and inspiring.

I especially want to thank The Points of Light Foundation and my partner, CEO Bob Goodwin, for his leadership in the sector. We will all hear from Bob a little later this morning.

Finally, this is Father’s Day, and I know that this wasn’t the ideal weekend to be away from home. So I want to send a special thanks to all of the fathers here and not here – for everything they’ve done to support us in our lives and our careers.

I miss being with my kids today as much as so many of you miss being with yours — but we are here for a very worthy purpose.

In a typical year, I would begin my remarks by extolling your hard work and urging you to continue your great efforts to deepen the spirit of service throughout the nation.

But I think we can agree that the last 12 months did not represent a typical year. This past year brought us truly unprecedented challenges.

As you witnessed during the opening of this morning’s session – and as so many of you have experienced firsthand – Americans were at their best this year when nature was at its worst.

As a representative of the federal government, I will readily acknowledge places where the government fell short during our hour of crisis. But I am also incredibly proud of what the service and volunteering community accomplished together.

Your nonprofits, your companies, your communities of faith, and your volunteers – aided by the resources of national service… provided shelter, raised dollars, shipped goods and led the efforts to rebuild communities — and rebuild lives.

I salute you for the tremendous efforts you have made. In fact, just this Spring when I toured the Gulf region with President Bush, I saw the theme of this conference – “climbing mountains, lifting lives” – on vivid display.

I saw countless examples of how powerful and life-affirming both national service and volunteering can be. It was inspiring… it was moving… and it reminded me why I do what I do…And why all of us here today do what we do.

Now, in June, we are on the cusp of another hurricane season. And the upcoming first anniversary of Katrina and the 5th anniversary of 9-11 reminds us that disaster response — whether triggered by natural or man-made events — is a bigger priority than ever.

But I am here today to tell you that yes, natural disasters like the hurricanes present the most dramatic images of adversity in America. But the storms also laid bare some longstanding social and economic needs that are disasters in their own right.

Just consider the needs of some of our average citizens, in cities and towns throughout America:

  • The needs of the 15 percent of American children who live below the poverty line…
  • The needs of 25 million children who, on this Father’s Day, have no father in their homes…
  • The needs for emergency shelter and food assistance that are up in a majority of our cities. And…
  • The needs of retiring boomers, who represent both an opportunity for service, but an expanded burden on our social services systems.

I believe, we must view large scale disasters, and these ongoing social needs, as a clarion call for us to grow the number of people committed to serving. And that involvement will help bring healing and revival to our communities.

For, as we all know, service is a double-healer. At the same time that we extend our hands to our fellow humans in need, we find that service acts as a glue to bring us together.

All of us, the leaders in this hall, must today recommit to spread this spirit of service at every level. And what you learn at this conference, and the passion that you take home, has never mattered more.

The trends I’ve been describing are the motivating factors behind a number of initiatives the Corporation has launched since the last time we all met in Washington.

Our efforts are focused on…

  • Ensuring a brighter future for youth
  • Engaging students in communities, and
  • Harnessing Baby Boomers’ experience

And their success depends upon working with each of you in this room, and your partners back home, to expand the base of people who serve.

The encouraging news is that we have expanded the universe of Americans who serve. In fact, together, we grew that population by six million Americans over the past 5 years.

But that’s not enough. 65 million out of 300 million is not enough… especially in light of the challenges that are facing us.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Life’s urgent and most important question is what are you doing for others?”

We, the leaders of our respective organizations—must take it upon ourselves to accelerate growth in service — and to do it in thoughtful and strategic ways.

That’s one reason I’m very proud of a groundbreaking new tool that the Corporation unveiled last week and that some of you may already have seen: the study’s entitled “Volunteering in America: State Trends and Rankings.”

The study is based on census interviews with 100,000 individuals.

That means we have unprecedented data that we can use to get even smarter about where the opportunities lie for greater engagement and how we can get there.

The study will help you see:

  • Is your state closer to the head-turning 48% rate we find in Utah?
  • Or is your rate too close to the 18% rate at the bottom of the list?
  • Is your state under-involved in certain types of volunteer activities?
  • Check out your level of engagement by gender, by age, by race.
  • Take one example. Iowa has the 4th highest overall volunteering rate in the nation at 40% — fantastic! — but it ranks 28th for college student engagement.

That’s an opportunity!

We may already have a sense for these answers based on our every day work.

Now, we can arm ourselves with a new level of information, and analyze what we can do to bring more people into the circle of service.

Because we cannot accept status quo, moderate growth. In fact, I want to issue a very specific challenge today: Let us all commit to grow the number of Americans who volunteer by 10 million over the next five years!

That brings us to 75 million volunteers by 2010 – a 15% increase! 10 million additional volunteers by 2010. That’s right: “10 by 10!” Can we do it?

It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s an achievable one. We can do it.

And it is a goal that we can pursue while maintaining, and even enhancing, the quality and results of our service opportunities.

Now I know you realize that this kind of goal requires a plan of action. Let me tell you what our plan is – and what we are already doing at the Corporation.

According to our recently adopted five-year strategic plan:

We will continue our core national initiatives, with a special push aimed at boomers, students and America’s youth. I know you’ll hear more from Bob Goodwin about the Foundation’s exciting plans around Family Volunteering.

We will find new ways to leverage 4 million community volunteers who are recruited and managed within our NCCC, VISTA, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America national service programs.

We will redouble efforts to make life-long servers out of AmeriCorps members.

We will continue to increase our investment in community volunteering — building on the $65 million dollars we awarded to Points of Light, Hands On and United Way volunteer centers in just the last 3 years.

We will work hard with states, like Washington and Governor Gregoire, to set clear goals and develop tactics for growing volunteering.

But there is much we try to do from Washington, DC to address these issues, we know for a fact that we can only grow volunteering if it is a priority at the local and state levels.

We need you to help us reach 10 by 10…Here’s what you need to do:

First – Plan toward growth!

Set definable, measurable goals for your own organization

Use the tools and resources available to target the right people and activities. And…

In your planning, make sure you always emphasize quality as well as growth.

Second- Collaborate more widely than ever! That means:

Make public-private coordination a priority

Work across silos, with Volunteer Centers AmeriCorps Programs, Senior Programs, Service Learning Programs and others sharing best practices

And third, advocate advocate advocate more strenuously than ever!

That means:

Make promotion of volunteering a topic of conversation among politicians, within civic groups, at the local PTA… and

Help convene state leaders to think about ways to support long-term growth in service

You may have noticed when you walked in that we’ve given you a symbolic way to get started. Take a look at the “10 by 10” pledge card that you found in this hall — remember ? 10 million new volunteer by 2010 ? – and sign on to this mission today.

And no matter what the size of the organization – we should each have a plan in place to re-energize each organization’s volunteering effort by the 2007 Martin Luther King Day of service.

Use that day, January 15th, 2007, to kick off your campaign by serving and engaging others in service in a high profile event.

Then come to Philadelphia for next year’s conference and tell us about it!

You know, a long time ago a rather wise man named Aristotle declared that “The only way to achieve true success is to express yourself completely in service to society.”

I know that you understand that message and I so admire that you have dedicated your careers to its spirit.

Now, if we join together in this ambitious goal, the pay-off will be far bigger than any impressive statistic about the number of volunteers.

If we can commit and follow through, we will:

  • Make sure every child who needs one has a mentor
  • Meet the needs of our expanding ranks of seniors
  • Overcome our national teacher shortage
  • Rekindle the sense of community through out our country
  • And help our nation live up to its promises of justice, fairness and opportunity for all.

As the government agency tasked with leading this effort, we pledge our total commitment. And I know we can count on yours. Thank you.


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