Starting next week, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will no longer invite individuals and organizations to post their volunteer opportunities directly through Serve.gov, a federally operated Web site.
According to an email from Nicola Goren, CNCS’s acting CEO, after October 14, organizations and individuals will be referred to a list of independent organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, competing to provide these services.
As Goren explains:
Over the course of the summer and in the last month, the Corporation has reviewed our role in the volunteer registry function to apply lessons learned during its first months of operation. We have concluded that the most appropriate role for us is to promote service and offer tools that make it easier for Americans to find volunteer opportunities, but not to be in the direct business of operating a volunteer project registry, given the fact that there are a number of existing non-governmental volunteer matching websites that already provide these services.
This decision is a win for the volunteer sector.
VolunteerMatch has had a long working relationship with CNCS. Earlier this year we shared that we didn’t support the decision to launch Serve.gov with a feature for organizations to post opportunities directly. It was our view that this would discourage innovation and put the Corporation in the awkward position of having to compete with some of its key sector allies.
We’ve always felt that independent “registry” services — whether for-profit or not — are better positioned to support the diverse needs of the nonprofit community, especially their training, education, and advocacy needs.
Indeed, for most visitors to Serve.gov, the biggest added value was the ability to use the site as a launching pad for exploring the listings from third-party services like VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Truist, HandsOn Network and other online volunteer engagement sites — all of which support the President’s call to service by providing access to their networks through the aggregation service All For Good.
As a federally-chartered, Congressionally-funded agency, CNCS is subject to both political and budgetary pressure that independent services are not. In operating its own database, CNCS was spending federal time and dollars to duplicate services already available to the field while creating unnecessary political and legal liability for itself.
Ultimately, the thoughtful reconsideration of its policies shows that government can listen, learn and adapt. We applaud Ms. Goren’s decision and see it as a very positive sign for those of us committed to the pursuit of smart government and social enterprise.