Corporation for National and Community Service needs a makeover?

Paula Beugen was a part of the movement that lead to the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and the Corporation for National and Community Service. But she is now one of many that is not happy about where the Corporation is today:

In sharp contrast to the excitement that I felt when the Act of 1990 first got the ball rolling to create the Corporation and its programs, I now find myself greatly concerned with the Corporation’s lack of impact on volunteer infrastructure and volunteering. Today, the Corporation is struggling for survival – but does it need a serious makeover no matter what funding level Congress approves for it? 

Of particular concern to her – and to many others, including myself – is the recent emphasis the Corporation has placed on deploying AmeriCorps members as “mobilizers of community volunteers.” As Paula notes:

I have observed a dearth of positions for professional managers of volunteer programs in recent years at the same time the Corporation has been promoting and placing AmeriCorps members as volunteer coordinators. There is an important role for AmeriCorps volunteer coordinators to augment the work of volunteer resources managers within organizations but not to take their place.

Little has been done to educate policymakers that there is more to volunteer resources management than “coordinating” volunteers. This works great in the short run, but the long-term sustainability of results-driven volunteer programs requires substantive investment in volunteer resources management infrastructure… AmeriCorps members can be of enormous help to volunteer-involving organizations, but they cannot substitute for experienced volunteer resources leaders with ongoing commitment to best practices in the volunteer resources management profession.  

These quotes are from Paula’s guest turn for the Energize June Hot Topic. It is very much worth your time to read.

I’ve had my own complaints about the Corporation. I complained repeatedly when their “Reimaging Service” report equated volunteer management with human resources management, and became a drive to apply private sector human resources practices to nonprofit organizations: “there’s a lot of work to be done; let’s get people we don’t have to pay to do it!” They ultimately backed off saying this, though it’s obvious from their actions that they still think it. I hesitate to participate in their invitations to voluntarily consult, because not only will my concerns probably not be addressed, they might use my participation to say, “Look, see, this strategy is the result of a consultive process – and look at all these people who contributed to our final strategy!” with no mention of the criticisms I and others have brought up. (in international development, this is called being World Banked).

I hope you will blog about this issue as well. Online pressure is as vital as face-to-face, offline pressure to keep the Corporation on track!

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