The Points of Light generally announces the theme of the following year’s Conference on Volunteering and Service at the end of each event. It became pretty clear late last year that they needed to go to Plan B.
The country was so Blue or Red that it appeared there was no chance of reaching compromise on the color of the sky, let along anything else. But, there was one level of agreement, according to Delores Druihet Morton, president of programs for Points of Light (PoL). The agreement was the goal of being one nation and solving problems via service.
ServiceUnites became the conference theme and the 5,000 volunteers and managers convening in Washington, D.C., are being exposed to various points of view on getting to the same place. “When crisis happens, people come together,” she said. Morton cited the images of an elderly man and a younger man helping each other during the attack at the Boston Marathon.
The challenge is getting people to work together without a crisis, she said. The conference program top to bottom matches opposing views getting to a common goal. That included a session that brought together leaders of multiple faiths to discuss service and mutual goals.
The conference has always had a political flavor since PoL was founded on the inspiration of now former President George H.W. Bush. But this year had a heavily political feel and Morton acknowledged the sense. The opening plenary session brought together people of various political people, include conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly and liberal pundit and political strategist Donna Brazile, along with Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, and David Plouffe, former adviser to President Barack Obama.
PoL Board Chair Neil Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush, announced that the 5,000th Daily Point of Light honoree would be announced at a White House ceremony on July 15. The award each day touts the volunteer service in the nation.
O’Reilly spoke of helping to raise between $6 million and $7 million to help pay for sophisticated “track chairs” for disabled veterans. However, he emphasized that the idea for the chairs was from one person who worked on the items one at a time and provided them to veterans. The chair cost $15,000 each.
Brazile said that it is going to take a while for the political divides to become less strident but that there is a democracy of rhetoric or deliberative rhetoric. “We have to focus on the task at hand, be concrete in our goals,” she said.
According to Plouffe, “almost everyone in this country wants to give back. You have to over communicate to volunteers about how important they are.”
Said Rove,” People pick a cause and just get involved. You don’t ask about political views.” He spoke of his wife funding and helping to build a library as a tribute to her mother. It’s in the small town of Valentine, Texas. “She had a role for everyone,” from painting to building book shelves to cooking.
Managing volunteers is a “marriage of strategy and tactics,” said Plouffe. In this media age people expect information in an instant. People who reach out regarding volunteering need information quickly. “If they can’t get an answer in five seconds you’re going to lose them,” he said.
Technology is great, said Rove, “but you need a clarity of message.” You need to explain “in a powerful way what to do and how to do it.”