Points of Light Institute
By Erin Wuertz
Points of Light plays an important leadership role advocating public policy to enhance service and volunteering. POL strives to advance innovative civic strategies to shape national policy, to achieve impact through service and to build an engaged citizenry. POL is dedicated to engage a wide range of people in order to build an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for all.
Points of Light Institute is one of four Co-Conveners of Service Nation (servicenation.org), a coalition of more than 200 national and local non-profits, dedicated to the proposition that every American should have an opportunity to serve. Points of Light mobilizes organizations and individuals in more than 250 cities across 37 countries around the globe to use their time, talent and resources to change the world.
With the active support of organizations such as the Points of Light and its affiliate base, HandsOn Network, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act passed both houses of Congress in the spring of 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on March 31, 2009. The Act includes both expansions of existing national service programs such as AmeriCorps and authorizes several new programs including the Volunteer Generation Fund.
The Volunteer Generation Fund provides competitive grants to volunteer connector agencies and state service commissions to expand the supply of volunteers and to improve the capacity of nonprofits, faith-based and other organizations to utilize these new volunteers. This provision authorizes a total of $360 million over the next five years to invest exclusively, and for the first time, in volunteer infrastructure—a proposal which Points of Light and HandsOn Network has championed.
- HandsOn Network, the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, is the largest volunteer network in the nation and includes more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers in 37 countries. HandsOn includes a powerful network of more than 5 million volunteers through nonprofit affiliates, community partners and corporations that are answering the call to serve and creating meaningful change in their communities. Annually, the network delivers approximately 20 million hours of volunteer service valued at about $500 million. (Energ!ze INC, 2007)
- The Civic Incubator (now the Civic Accelerator) was a business unit of Points of Light Institute with the purpose of creating innovation in civic activation. The Incubator brings together and supports emerging civic solutions and new ideas through social enterprise, mergers and joint ventures. The projects they have incubated include AmeriCorps Alums, a youth service division called generationOn, global volunteerism (international HandsOn organizations), and corporate strategy and volunteerism. The Civic Accelerator joined +Acumen in 2019. (The Acumen Civic Accelerator, 2019)
- Service Enterprise, an organization that strategically leverages volunteers to achieve operational efficiency and greater social impact started in 2010. Points of Light brings this program to nonprofit organizations all around the world to help them strengthen their capacity through the fundamental and strategic use of volunteers and skills to address the needs of the community. Becoming a service enterprise gains an organization access to a comprehensive diagnostic of their organizations, volunteers engagement trainings, coaching, certification, a network of peers to offer peer-to-peer support, and research and resources.
- National Volunteer Week
National Volunteer Week, Celebrating People in Action, is a call to action for Americans to volunteer and a week to inspire by example. For more than two decades, Points of Light Institute has provided resources to enable nonprofits to commemorate this signature week of volunteer recognition. (Points of Light - National Volunteer Week 2019)
- Points of Light Conference
A conference for nonprofits, government, business and civic leaders to learn about volunteering and connect about how to change the world. This conference is geared towards leaders who wish to collaborate and connect with other people doing good all over the world. (Points of Light Conference 2019)
- Good Deeds Day
A celebration that connected people from all over the world to do good deeds. Good Deeds Day is usually held at the end of March and showcases how people can come together to benefit others and our planet. (Points of Light - Days Of Service 2019)
- Daily Point of Light Awards
The Daily Point of Light Award honors individuals who are helping to meet critical needs in their communities and creating change every day. More than 6500 individuals have been honored with a daily point of light award. (Points of Light - Daily Point of Light 2019)
- President George H. W. Bush brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values and a determination to engage the country in becoming "a force for good." In his Inaugural Address, President Bush called on Americans to engage in hands-on, active service to their country and communities. He called the individuals and groups doing this kind of work “points of light.” On November 30th, 2018 President George H.W. Bush passed away. (Nunn 2018)
- Neil Bush is the third of five children of President George H. W. and Mrs. Barbara Bush. This former governor of the State of Florida is Chair of the Points of Light Board.
- Michelle Nunn former CEO of Points of Light and Co-Founder of HandsOn Network. Michelle stepped down in 2013 and now sits on the board of directors.
- President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009 and awarded President George H. W. Bush the United State’s highest civilian award the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
- Natalye Paquin current CEO and president of Points of Light.
- The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. https://www.nationalservice.gov/
- Senior Corps mobilizes people over 55 as coaches or companions to people in need, or to contribute their job skills and expertise to community projects and organizations. Conceived during John F. Kennedy's presidency, Senior Corps links more than 500,000 Americans to service opportunities. https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/rsvp
- AmeriCorps offers opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. AmeriCorps members address critical needs in communities all across America. https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps
- ServiceNation is a campaign to increase service opportunities and elevate service as a core ideal and problem-solving strategy in our society. https://www.servicenation.org/
- GenerationOn is the global youth service movement igniting the power of all kids to make their mark on the world. GenerationOn is the new Points of Light youth division. It was formed by joining Children for Children, The LEAGUE, Learning to Give and Kids Care Clubs. https://www.generationon.org/
Points of Light is connected to more than 485 nonprofits that are certified as Service Enterprises.
- Points of Light Institute website, accessed December 9th, 2019 at https://www.pointsoflight.org/
- Historical Context of the Merger Between POL and HO article in Energ!ze INC, accessed December 9th, 2019 at https://www.energizeinc.com/hot-topics/2007/appendix
- The Acumen Civic Accelerator (formally known as The Civic Incubator) website, accessed December 9th, 2019 at https://cvcx.org/
- CNN article “Points of light: Why service to others was the real hallmark of President Bush’s life”, written December 2nd, 2018 at https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/01/us/iyw-president-bush-service-nunn/index.html
This briefing paper was updated by a student taking a philanthropic studies course in 2019 at The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.