2012 Election: Implications for the Service Sector

Nov 19, 2012

Today’s guest post is written by Julie Murphy, vice president of government affairs and public policy at Points of Light.

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the nation awoke to a familiar political scene: the re-election of the incumbent President and Congress still split between a Democratic Senate and a Republican House of Representatives. Here are some trends and opportunities for the service and volunteerism sector:

Cooperation, Compromise, Common Purpose

“What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth, the belief that our destiny is shared, that this country only works when we except certain obligations to one another… That's what makes America great.”  President Barack Obama on election night

At Points of Light, we share the president’s view that the greatest hope for our country lies in our impulse to honor the obligations of our citizenship through service. In the next four years, we will work with both the White House and Congress to promote policies and programs that advance and integrate volunteer strategies directed toward national needs across the public sector.  

Some of these strategies may even be derived from our own in-house initiatives:

  • How can HandsOn Schools and generationOn inform education reform and resuscitate federal service-learning policies?
  • How can the work of our disaster team and our affiliates engaged in the response to Hurricane Sandy improve federal disaster response programs? 
  • What are we learning from the Community Blueprint regarding veterans’ and military families’ services?
  • What does the Civic 50 tell us about the potential for greater coordination between private and public sectors and does this imply changes in such areas as tax policy?
  • What can the 750,000 alumni of AmeriCorps over the last 20 years tell us not just about national service but also about social policies writ large?  
  • How has volunteering changed employment strategies in this country over the past four years and does that need to be reflected in federal economic policies? 
  • Are there ideas from our thought leadership agenda such as converting federal student work study programs to “serve study” programs or creating a volunteer background check “fast pass” that are ripe for consideration by Congress? 

Status Quo

An election that yields no substantial shifts in power means we need to renew our relationship with our bipartisan Congressional and White House allies and introduce ourselves to the newbies — quickly. Given that we have status quo, the time and energy needed to hand over the keys and unpack the boxes can now be spent by the White House and Congress on getting busy, and we need to be ready to be the voice for citizen engagement in Washington.

Fiscal Cliff

The looming budget crisis means that we will need to be aggressive and smarter in our opposition to further cuts to the Corporation for National and Community Service. We will need to gather our best stories about the impact of service and volunteering programs such as the Volunteer Generation Fund and rapid fire these into the inboxes of members of Congress. 

Our AmeriCorps alumni, our affiliates and our partners will all be called to become vocal advocates for a resolution to our country’s fiscal problems, a resolution that 1) does not compromise effective volunteer and national service programs; and 2) protects the most vulnerable in our society. 

Demographic Shifts

“What the world saw this week was a picture of America at its best:  edgy, experimental, open-minded – and brilliantly diverse.” Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2012

Zakaria framed it well and we, as a sector, will need to rise to this same challenge to embrace the changes in our country’s demographics to ensure that all Americans have opportunities to serve.

Limited but Energetic Government

David Brooks said this about the 2012 election: “It’s about leaving behind the stale Big Government versus Small Government framework and figuring out how to use limited but energetic government to help people work harder and strive more.” 

We, at Points of Light, believe that an energetic government’s best fuel is its people and our policy agenda for 2013 will include the smartest investment the federal government could make: identifying and replicating volunteer-driven community solutions that show proven results. 

Any thoughts/ideas on what the election means to the volunteer and nonprofit sector? Share in comments.