National Human Services Assembly: 90 Years of Collective Voice, Action, Impact
Today’s complex and constricted financial and policy climate nonetheless asks nonprofits to step up even more to serve individuals, families and communities. History tells us that hunger, poverty, youth disenfranchisement, and the entire panoply of human service issues respond to smart strategies and commitment. Correspondingly, problems and issues fester when focus falters, resources drop, and inaction transpires.
National nonprofits in the health and human services field comprise the membership of the National Human Services Assembly. These organizations and their constituent services networks collectively touch or are touched by nearly every household in America—as consumers of services, donors or volunteers. They comprise a $60 billion sector that employs some 1.1 million workers, operating from over 150,000 locations.
All of these dynamics rise up as we convene our members, friends and supporters for our annual meeting and reception. On the agenda: A celebration of our many collective accomplishments across our history—and a look at the daunting tasks ahead. In this watershed year of the Assembly’s 90th anniversary, we say thanks to all for harnessing the mutual voices and actions that every day produce a tremendous impact for families in America. In the months ahead, we look forward to sharing with you the discussion from the annual meeting and to continuing the pursuit of our shared mission.
— Irv Katz, CEO, National Human Services Assembly
Children & Youth
Between 1999 and 2011 (the most recent year for which federal long-term trend data are available), the national graduation rate rose from 69 percent to 78.2 percent, according to America’s Promise Alliance. To move toward the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by the end of the decade, the Alliance and its collaborators have updated its online Community Guidebook, which contains 16 ready-to-use tools focused on topics such as: determining actual graduation rates; early warning systems and attendance tracking; student and school performance; and assessments of individual and organizational assets.
The Search Institute launches a new website and a new report to identify key gateways for helping young people build the full framework of 40 developmental assets. These tools further the Search Institute’s strength-based approach to youth development and emphasize a practical, strategic focus.
“Of the 1.25 million students served annually by CIS [Communities in Schools], 97 percent of potential dropouts stay enrolled and 88 percent of seniors graduate on time,” reports the Stanford Social Innovation Review, one of the most influential publications in the social service sector. The magazine examines the why and how of the evidence-based approaches to dropout prevention as executed by NHSA member Communities in Schools.
“Project:Connect – Summer Youth Programming Competition,” announced at a MacArthur Foundation -supported “hackathon” run by Facebook, unleashes a new competition to award $150,000 to libraries, museums and other nonprofits. The objective is to provide hands-on learning opportunities for youth across the country this summer. MacArthur and Born This Way Foundation are supporting the competition. A related international open project is due to be announced June 17, 2013.
America is rapidly changing—by 2042, people of color will be a majority of the population, a fact highlighted on The Generations Initiative’s stunning new website. The website is the initiative’s front door to its mission of harnessing “America's current demographic revolution to our country's advantage” and building “on the strengths of each generation to ensure our democratic and economic vitality.”
Senior volunteering hit a 10-year high in 2011, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). More than 20 million older Americans donated nearly 3 billion hours of social services, valued at $67 billion. CNCS adds, “As our nation’s older population rapidly grows, we have a tremendous opportunity to unleash the power of older volunteers on our most pressing problems.”
Poverty & Community
Consider income inequality and accumulated wealth in order to truly understand the economic gap between whites and minorities, says the Urban Institute. In Less Than Equal: Racial Disparities in Wealth Accumulation, the Urban Institute reports that in 2010 whites on average had two times the income of blacks and Hispanics, but six times the wealth.
Hunger issues have received financial attention through commitments to NHSA member Feeding America from Morgan Stanley and from the AARP Foundation. Morgan Stanley announced an $8 million commitment and an expansion of its employee volunteer arrangement with Feeding America. AARP Foundation awarded Feeding America a $500,000 grant in support of the Senior Grocery Program. Estimates are that nearly 9 million people over age 50 and 4 million over age 60 are at risk of hunger.
The quality of evidence-based programs is often a determinant of an organization’s funding and the growth of its client pool, reports the Vera Institute of Justice. Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice describes how to assess a program and is part of the MacArthur Foundation Models for Change initiative.
Securing and successfully using foundation resources requires a strong plan and organizational commitment but also clear evaluation and two-way communication, asserts a new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy. Based on a survey of 138 nonprofit leaders,Foundation Transparency: What Nonprofits Want found that only 29 percent of respondents had a clear understanding of how foundations use their information, and over 75 percent wanted more transparency about foundations’ impact.
Despite some growth, program-related investments (PRIs) remain a limited tool for foundations, says a new study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. While the total dollar amount between 1990 and 2009 rose from $139 million to $701 million, for example, the number of foundations making PRIs and the number of PRIs made each year declined between 2004 and 2009. Housing, community development, and education were the program areas receiving most of the PRI activity.
NHSA welcomes IEL (Institute for Educational Leadership)/Coalition for Community Schools as the newest member organization. IEL’s mission is to build the capacity of individuals and communities to work together across programmatic boundaries to prepare all children and youth for post-secondary education, careers, and citizenship.
Ruth Standish Baldwin and her husband William Henry Baldwin, Jr., converted their deep concern about the health and welfare of African-American migrants into organization and action. After her husband’s death in 1905, Mrs. Baldwin teamed up with George Edmund Haynes to found the Committee on Urban Conditions among Negroes (CUAN), one of the predecessors to today’s National Urban League. For more than 100 years, the National Urban League has been a critical part of the monumental changes in the African-American community, making the Baldwins and George Edmund Haynes social innovation rock stars whose impact endures today. Find out more about change agents and activists in the human services sector in a series of modestly priced e-books produced under NHSA’s Human Spirit Initiative. Look under “Mobilizing the Human Spirit” at Apple iBookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, as well as many other e-book retailers.