01/29/2013 12:44 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2013

The Power of Partnerships

By Matt Colvin, Strategic Partnerships Associate, IAVA

To support IAVA in The JobRaising Challenge, please click here.

I've heard people say that there are 40,000 nonprofits catering to veterans and their families in the United States. And I know that this seemingly endless "sea of goodwill" can turn into treacherous waters if you haven't had navigation lessons. So what separates the good from the bad? How do veterans looking for help and philanthropists looking for a cause know which organizations are making big waves, so to speak?

It's actually pretty simple. Innovative, research-based programs are what set apart the organizations that are making real transformative change. These adaptable organizations remain flexible in priorities and strategy but stand firm in their mission. These nonprofits that will continue to flourish even in these hard economic times. At any given time, you'll always find them at the intersection of what people need most and how best to get it to them.

IAVA, where I work as a Strategic Partnerships Associate, is one such nonprofit leading its space through smart policy and dynamic partnerships - particularly focused on combating a sky high unemployment rates for post-9/11 vets. You can support us in The JobRaising Challenge by clicking here.

In addition to the legislative work that my colleague Maura wrote about last week, IAVA has taken on the challenge of lowering the unemployment rate for vets through full spectrum programs and partnerships. The fact that so many vets are returning home to an unemployment check is unacceptable. Employers should be clamoring for these people - we are highly trained individuals who have real-world experience under some of the most stressful situations imaginable.

Like most nonprofits, IAVA doesn't have unlimited bandwidth and resources at our disposal to achieve our goals. We rely on the private sector to fill the gaps. By combining the best of IAVA with the power of these companies, IAVA is able offer services that are shaping the conversation around veteran joblessness.

But employers don't always get it, so IAVA does its research and approaches like-minded companies that share our values and our dynamic work-style. It's that synergy that allows for true collaboration and long-term buy-in. Real commitment to both the outputs and the outcomes of a program are essential when building alliances designed to help people.

We've found more than a few partners that fit the bill. Partners like The Fullbridge Program, who built a "business bootcamp" that graduates veterans who are ready to tackle the challenges of corporate life. Partners like Veritas Prep who provide free GMAT prep courses and admissions consulting to IAVA members to ensure they are receiving the best possible education for their dream job.

Both Walmart and JPMorgan Chase (two companies we work with - see here and here) are helping change the landscape of veteran unemployment with their large-scale and long-term commitments to hire veterans. For perspective, these two companies alone are hiring a force roughly the size of the U.S. Marine Corps. They are big private sector players making a significant and critical promise to our men and women coming home. Companies like them get that corporate responsibility isn't about checking a box on an annual review - it's about watching lives change thanks to your work.

It's leadership like this that we need more of - and IAVA is standing by to help make a difference.

If your company is looking for ways to get involved in supporting the New Greatest Generation, email us at

Matt Colvin is a veteran of the Air Force and served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He is a Strategic Partnerships Associate at IAVA.