Posts Tagged ‘Volunteers for Prosperity’

Obama signs Serve America Act, w/ international volunteer provisions included

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We mentioned when it passed through the Senate earlier this year, but now it’s official: President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (also known as the Serve America Act, or S.277) yesterday afternoon at the charter SEED School of Washington, DC. The bill is a “landmark” and would greatly expand the nation’s volunteer corps and start new programs to expand innovative social programs, help small charities get management advice, and make volunteerism more effective, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

A section of the bill focuses on the Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) program, which promotes international volunteer service by skilled American professionals. Working in cooperation with the USA Freedom Corps and the Global Giving Foundation, VfP provides eligible skilled professionals with fixed amount stipends to offset the travel and living costs of volunteering abroad. Volunteers must supply a dollar-for-dollar match for a VfP stipend, either through the organization with which the individual is serving (info on participating organizations and how to get involved in a project is on the Global Giving site), or by raising private funds.

The entire Serve America bill is a coup for Obama and for the country but, while the VfP program is great, it is also rather limited in scope in who it assists to volunteer abroad. Another bill introduced earlier this year by Sen. Feingold (D-WI) called for the establishment of a Global Service Fellowship Program, which seems to be much broader in scope:

[The] bill would reduce financial barriers by awarding fellowships designed to defray some of the costs associated with volunteering. The fellowship can be applied toward many of the costs associated with such travel including airfare, housing, or program costs. By providing financial assistance, the Global Service Fellowship program opens the door for more Americans to participate—not just those with the resources to pay for it.

This program is not a part of the Serve America Act, as VfP is, and hasn’t seen any action in Congress since early March. More updates as they come.

Volunteers for Prosperity (VFP)

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which got its final passage through the Senate on Tuesday, authorizes the Volunteers for Prosperity (VFP) initiative (recently discussed in this space here) at USAID and provides “matching grants for service stipends to deploy highly skilled professionals to address issues such as extreme poverty, clean water, preventable diseases, universal education, and business and information technology through participating nongovernmental organizations.” From what I gather, it all works like this:

  1. Go to the Global Giving website (Global Giving being a private foundation that helps administer VFP) and create yourself an account.
  2. Search the list of VFP partner organizations (full list after the jump, for your convenience).
  3. Contact tour VFP partner of choice and with them develop a volunteer assignment (the meaning of “develop,” I’m sure, is relative to each organization).
  4. Complete the online application for a VFP grant.
  5. Fundraise to qualify for a grant.

A few important points to note: VFP grants are for skilled professionals only—I’m sure what that means, exactly, is at least somewhat fluid, but the list of skills quoted above are a good starting point to know if you might qualify; VFP grants are for those who have a volunteer assignment through a designated org—you cannot develop an independent volunteer plan and then apply for VFP funding to pay for it; and you are required to do do local fundraising: “Grants match at least an equal amount of funds raised by volunteers locally.”

The VFP grant program is much more specific than I realized (not that this is a bad thing, it is just for a more specific group of professionals), though the Global Service Fellowship Program, introduced by Sen. Feingold this year, seems to be targeted at a much broader audience of potential international volunteers. It’s currently making its way through Congress, so I’ll report as soon as I know more.

Don’t forget, after the jump, VFP partner orgs…