When you ask the military and veteran community what support organizations they know of, you will hear the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), USO, and a few more. Yet there is one organization doing ground-breaking work in this space that many don’t even know exists.
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) has experienced exponential growth since its inception on the campus of Syracuse University in 2011. They have quietly grown from 65 veterans served in its first year to over 60,000 transitioning service members, veterans, and military families over the past five years.
How is IVMF Different?
The easiest way to illustrate this difference is by comparison. Most veteran organizations are focused on a specific need or program with less focus on the military community as a whole. IVMF is like St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They not only have innovative programs around veteran employment, entrepreneurship, and community support, but they are leaders in research and openly share knowledge gained with public and private organizations to better serve the community.
“Our goal has been and continues to be advancing the post-service lives of those who have worn our nation’s uniform and their families,” said Vice Chancellor of Strategic Initiatives and Innovation and IVMF Founder, Mike Haynie. “The single, greatest opportunity we have to create even more impact going forward is through connecting veterans and their families to the wealth of resources available to them.”
A Different Approach
We researched many different veterans’ organizations and found a reoccurring model of “philanthropic churn”, where the impact is secondary to their focus on donations and member dues. At IVMF, it appears that results are pushed to the forefront – something more risky, but in the spirit of military ethos. Accountability and innovation are two principles that have made the American military strong. These also strengthen IVMF.
Innovation is a particular focus of IVMF. We noticed that their data-driven approach gives them almost real-time feedback on their programs. The Institute is quick to learn and implement improvements to benefit the programs and support of the community.
Many are Noticing
Some of the premiere organizations have seen IVMF’s work and are backing its expansion in a big way. The organization pushes forward innovative programs with support from founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a host of other corporate, philanthropic, government and individual supporters. Just last month, the Walmart Foundation gave a $5 million-dollar grant to the IVMF to support its AmericaServes initiative – the largest grant the Walmart Foundation has ever given to a veterans support organization.
More Collaboration. Less Conflict.
Many might be surprised how “territorial” some veterans charities are. In fact, they will sometimes speak to de-position other organizations in the space. However, IVMF has made progress by openly sharing with fellow organizations supporting the veteran community. This tenor helps all organizations bring better support to the community.
An example of this is IVMF’s Veterans Strategic Analysis and Research Tool (V-START). It allows users to easily search, analyze and compare extensive demographic, educational and employment data down to the county level.
IVMF and Deloitte developed the tool for multiple audiences with the capability for them to add in their own program-specific data. Government agencies can look at levels of support for veterans and identify gaps and areas where service delivery can be improved. Employers can apply the data to boost their recruitment strategies by geography as well as for improving retention. For nonprofit institutions like IVMF, V-START can inform program development and delivery.
In addition to leading research, IVMF has created a model of converging all community support around the veteran community. The AmericaServes initiative launched in 2013 to streamline and connect the services available in communities and create the nation’s first coordinated system of public, private and non-profit organizations—a network—working together to serve veterans, transitioning service-members and their families. Through increased accuracy, speed and accountability the initiative is producing strong results in areas like North Carolina where the NCServes network has reached 300 percent more veterans and their families in the first year and delivered a 500 percent increase in closed casework. Building on momentum, the network has expanded to communities in New York, North Carolina and South Carolina, Virginia, Washington State, and launching in November, San Antonio, Texas.
In its efforts to be a strong national and local community partner, the IVMF is creating convening space in the new National Veterans Research Complex at Syracuse University. The complex will be a first-of-its-kind facility dedicated to servicing the nation’s veterans and military-connected families through advancing academic research, programs and community engagement. The project is underway, and completion is set for spring/summer 2019. For more information and to track the progress of the project visit nvrc.syr.edu.