Points of Light Institute

The nonprofit organization Points of Light Institute (POLI) inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. POLI grew out of the vision expressed in President George H. W. Bush's inaugural address of "a thousand points of light" and plays a leadership role advocating public policy to enhance service and volunteering.

Definition

Points of Light Institute (POLI) inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. POLI embraces service and civic engagement as fundamental to a purposeful life and essential to a healthy world. POLI has the history, the scale and reach, the leadership and the strategy to mobilize millions of people to tackle concrete, significant challenges.
 
With more than 20 years of history, a bi-partisan presidential legacy, the largest national volunteer footprint in the nation, Points of Light has the vision and strategy to solve some of the world’s greatest problems.
 
Historic Roots
Service and Civic Engagement: Milestones
1989: President George H. W. Bush’s inaugural address invokes the vision of a "thousand points of light." President Bush establishes the Daily Point of Light Award for individuals making a difference. The award is now administered by Points of Light Institute.
 
1990: In response to President Bush’s call to action, the Points of Light Foundation is created as an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service.
 
1991: The Points of Light Foundation merges with the National Volunteer Center Network.
 
1992: CityCares (later named HandsOn Network) is established as a national umbrella organization to provide a national network for sharing resources.
 
1993: The Corporation for National and Community Service was established to connect Americans with opportunities to give back to their communities. At its inception, the Corporation was directed to manage three main programs: Senior Corps, AmeriCorps (created by President Bill Clinton), and Learn and Serve America.
 
1998: The Corporation for National and Community Service, the Points of Light Foundation and the Volunteer Center National Network join to manage three national service programs: The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), AmeriCorps*VISTA Literacy Connection and AmeriCorps Promise Fellows.
 
2002: President George W. Bush creates USA Freedom Corps in his 2002 State of the Union Address to build on the countless acts of service, sacrifice, and generosity that followed September 11, 2001.
 
2003: President George W. Bush announced the formation of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize American's important contributions through service. The Council also created the President's Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who inspire others to volunteer. Points of Light Institute is the administrating entity for the awards.
 
2004: CityCares changes its name to HandsOn Network and grows its national affiliate base and expands to international communities.
 
2005: HandsOn Network Corporate Council is established with 29 founding corporate leaders of Fortune 500 companies. The council has grown to include more than 60 companies representing our nation’s most powerful businesses and industries.
 
2007: Points of Light Foundation and HandsOn Network merge to become Points of Light Institute, creating the largest volunteer management and civic engagement organization in the nation.
 
2008: ServiceNation is established – an unprecedented coalition of service and volunteer leadership to inspire a new era of voluntary citizen service in America. Organizing committee members include Be the Change Inc., City Year, Civic Enterprises and Points of Light Institute.
 
2009: President Obama signs the historic Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act heralding in the next phase of the nation’s renewed call to service.
 
2010: Points of Light Foundation and Children for Children, The LEAGUE, Learning to Give, and Kids Care Clubs merge to become generationOn, the new youth division of Points of Light Institute.
 
2011: President George H. W. Bush is awarded the United State’s highest civilian award -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom
 
Importance
Points of Light Institute plays an important leadership role advocating public policy to enhance service and volunteering.  POLI strives to advance innovative civic strategies to shape national policy, to achieve impact through service and to build an engaged citizenry.
 
Points of Light Institute is one of four Co-Conveners of Service Nation (servicenation.org), a coalition of almost 200 national and local non-profits, dedicated to the proposition that every American should have an opportunity to serve.
 
With the active support of organizations such as the Points of Light Institute 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 also 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 Institute and HandsOn Network has championed over the last several years.
 
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Through its three business units, Points of Light Institute helps people get involved in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.
 
  • 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 16 countries. HandsOn includes a powerful network of more than 70,000 corporate, faith and nonprofit organizations that are answering the call to serve and creating meaningful change in their communities. Annually, the network delivers approximately 30 million hours of volunteer service valued at about $600 million. 
  • MissionFish is a social enterprise of Points of Light Institute that provides people a vehicle to use their purchasing power to support causes that matter to them. In partnership with eBay, MissionFish enables people to designate a portion of their online sales and purchases to charity. Since 2003, more than 199 million charitable dollars have been raised for nonprofits worldwide.
  • The Civic Incubator is 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.
 
Key Related Ideas
Year-round signature programs and events celebrate the power of volunteers as change agents and direct public attention to the many ways people can become involved in their communities.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
This day marks the beginning of the year of service as millions of Americans honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through volunteering. HandsOn Network supports this day by creating meaningful projects in the spirit of Dr. King’s work and message.

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.

National Conference on Volunteering and Service
Co-convened by the Corporation for National and Community Service and Points of Light Institute, this conference is the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, government, and corporate sectors. 

Season of Service
September kicks off the Season of Service with projects throughout the country that demonstrate the power and purpose of corporate civic engagement through volunteer action. Corporations and businesses leverage resources to collectively engage employees, support neighborhoods, inspire other corporate leaders and increase public awareness about the impact of volunteering.

Make a Difference Day
Make a Difference Day is a celebration of the power of neighbors helping neighbors. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, this international day of service is held every year on the fourth Saturday of October. More than three million people volunteer, making a difference in communities around the world.

Recognizing Service
 
The Extra Mile
This new national monument in the heart of Washington, D.C. is a testament to the tradition, spirit and culture of service in America.  Comprised of a series of bronze medallions, it forms a one-mile walking path just blocks from the White House.
 
Daily Point of Light Awards
The Daily Point of Light Award honors individuals and volunteer groups who are helping to meet critical needs in their communities and creating change every day.
 
President’s Volunteer Service Awards
Created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, this program encourages ongoing involvement in service and civic engagement. Individuals, families and groups are honored at different stages of their service journey by acknowledging annual volunteer hours served and the resulting positive community impact.
 
Corporate Engagement Award of Excellence
The Corporate Engagement Award of Excellence honors companies that have made a commitment to building strong employee volunteer programs and meet the Principles of Excellence for Workplace Volunteering.
 
Important People Related to the Topic
  • 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.”
  • 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 is the CEO of Points of Light Institute and Co-Founder of HandsOn Network.
  • President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, initiating Senior Corps and AmeriCorp.
  • 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.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
  • 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/
  •  HandsOn Network, the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, includes more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers in 16 countries. HandsOn also brings together a powerful network of more than 70,000 corporate, faith and nonprofit organizations that are answering the call to serve and creating meaningful change in their communities. Annually, the network delivers approximately 30 million hours of volunteer service valued at about $600 million. http://www.handsonnetwork.org/
  •  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/
 
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Points of Light Institute website, accessed March 4, 2011 at https://www.pointsoflight.org/