Nonprofits Need Vets to Build the Nation

09/07/2011 12:14 pm ET | Updated Sep 26, 2012
  • Richard Buery Deputy Mayor For Strategic Policy Initiatives, City of New York

Last week, in front of a crowd at the annual American Legion convention, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to reducing unemployment among our nation's veterans. President Obama has proposed a Returning Heroes Tax Credit for those companies that hire unemployed veterans and a Wounded Warrior Tax Credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans with a disability.

I applaud President Obama for this solution which both boosts small businesses during a time of economic turmoil and provides jobs for our nation's brave soldiers. However, I would also encourage our president not to overlook the nonprofit sector and the tremendous opportunities these organizations provide for veterans to continue their service in support of our most vulnerable citizens.

Due to current economic conditions, more families rely on nonprofit organizations and their services than ever before. Our country's most under-resourced communities would benefit greatly from the leadership and skills of our veterans, while returning soldiers, especially "9/11 generation veterans," would be able to engage in nation-building here at home.

Because of their commitment to positive social change and dynamic work environments, nonprofits offer veterans unique opportunities to continue their service to America, and the sector can use the support. In a recent survey released by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, a full 85% of the groups surveyed expect an increase in service demand in 2011, and just 46% said they will be able to fully meet the demand. The skills that this generation of veterans learned on the battlefield are similar to the ones being employed daily by nonprofit professionals across the country -- engaging as part of high-performing, cross-disciplinary teams, harnessing the power of new technologies to create efficiencies in service delivery, and partnering with community members to solve deeply entrenched problems.

Using a tax credit to encourage nonprofits to hire veterans would simultaneously lower unemployment while helping to financially support the nonprofit sector. Service organizations would be able to expand their reach and help larger populations of struggling Americans. It would also serve to recognize and reward the long and uniquely American tradition of service. Again, there is ample evidence to suggest that there is not only a need to serve, but an interest. According to Corporation for National and Community Service, the number of Americans volunteering in their communities jumped by 1.6 million last year, the largest increase in six years

A soldier's value does not diminish when he leaves the battlefield, and it should not be solely measured by his/her employment in the corporate sector. Whether it's a response to a natural disaster, or an investment in addressing the socioeconomic challenges of our time -- education, health and wellness, housing -- that disproportionately impact the poor and people of color, we need our veterans to rebuild and reinvest at home.