The military spouse community has an abundance of riches -- organizations that exist to support the educational, career and personal lives of those who love those who serve. Of this vibrant community of military family nonprofits, many are run by military spouses. After all, there is no better subject matter expert.
In the all-volunteer force, families are the ones who get drafted, moving from place to place with little say in their next destination, not only for love of country but for love of their service member. To cope with this constant change, military spouses have learned to adapt and support one another not only through military service-sponsored organizations such as Family Readiness Groups but also through nonprofit work.
Dozens, even hundreds of nonprofit organizations exist to serve military spouses and families. Most nonprofits are small and under-resourced (both in human and financial capital), leaving little opportunity to focus on anything other than the core mission. A mission-focused perspective can hamper a more global view of what other organizations are doing both in and outside of their area of expertise, leading military spouse-led organizations to miss opportunities for cross-organizational support and promotion among their peers.
As leaders in the military spouse support space, we’ve experienced this first hand -- Patty through her work as Director of Family Readiness at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) and Josie as a part of the professional organization Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN). We have watched new organizations rise and flourish while others failed, sometimes at a remarkable pace. Both of us are excited to see the expanding landscape of support for military spouses and families but we’re worried that we might be missing opportunities to connect and create opportunities to magnify our collective impact for our military community.
At the same time that more and more military spouse support organizations are being formed, serious decreases in funding from government and foundations for military family support functions are leaving gaps. A 2015 report from the Center for a New American Security, titled “Charting the Sea of Goodwill,” analyzed the landscape for nonprofit organizations serving the veterans and military community and their funding sources and concluded that a gap is emerging between need and resources in this sector. The study focused on veteran and military organizations, but the conclusions ring true for our military spouse and family nonprofits as well. If we want to remain a strong, successful spouse community, we must work together closely and collaborate to fill the gaps in services left from a decreasing funding environment.
To facilitate this strong community, this summer we are convening an event to bring together military spouse-led nonprofits that serve military families, to educate, encourage collaboration and provide tools to make organizations more effective. Our event, Learning & Leaning In, connects military spouse-support organizations with others supporting spouses, national stakeholders in military family policy and resources and tools that support nonprofits to better sustain our community.
The full day of learning, led by military family nonprofits that have been working in the military family support space for years, may well be only the beginning of the conversation. The bulk of the day will be conversations with attendees -- you -- to better build a collaborative community of support for our organizations. We are stronger together, and we hope you will be a part of building strength in our military family community.
Here are the details. We hope to see you there!
Learning & Leaning In
Military Spouse Nonprofits Supporting One Another
Friday, August 26, 2016
Association of the United States Army, Arlington, VA
Josie Beets is an attorney, a military spouse, and the incoming president of the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), a bar association for military spouses. Patty Barron is a longtime military spouse and director of military family programs at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA).