Findings Friday | Serving Our Vets, Part 2: Reaching Out and Building Capacity

July 02, 2013
| by Editor |

GCN’s Metro Atlanta Veterans’ Services Research Project is the first comprehensive study designed to gain a more holistic understanding of how best to support area veterans.

Both veterans and veteran-service organizations were surveyed in the ten-county metro area, home to approximately 216,000 vets. In this blog series, issues highlighted by the report and potential solutions will be delved into with the intent of enabling nonprofits to promote social reintegration. Topics include the skyrocketing of service usage over time; nonprofits’ capacity to provide veteran-specific assistance; and the mismatch of nonprofits’ focus and veteran needs.

In Metro Atlanta, 146 nonprofits host programs that address veterans’ issues as a component of their overall mission. Forty-five nonprofits in the region are registered as veteran-focused organizations with the National Center for Charitable Statistics. (See Appendix D in the full report for a list of these organizations.)

Yet, returning vets are not accessing the services they need—mental health, physical health, housing, education, financial, etc. This issue of getting individuals into service programs that they require is at least two-fold:

Better outreach is needed for vets who don’t know where to turn. Generally expanding awareness of the veteran community will enable the community to be better targeted, as 96% of surveyed nonprofits are not aware of the number of veterans in the Atlanta area, let alone the demographic representation. From the vet perspective, top suggestions regarding areas of improvement for service providers revolve around accessibility: better location/communication (56%), increased and better targeted advertising (50%), and service delivery speed (48%).

“Nonprofits don’t have funds to reach Vets because they can’t pay for paid advertisements and rely on word of mouth. Need higher visibility.”
VSRP Respondent

Infrastructural and programmatic capacity needs to more appropriately accommodate veteran-specific needs. The study concludes that this will be executed most successfully by emphasizing and growing holistic service while limiting duplication. Currently, 65% of the organizational respondents rely upon other organizations to provide integral components of services they purport to offer to clients, and 87% act as a referral service for services which they do not provide. This allows more individuals to fall through the cracks, potentially exacerbating their already dire needs. While larger, more established organizations receive a large portion of the funder support, the philanthropic community can promote close-knit collaboration with carefully directed funding to smaller, up-and-coming agencies.

“Not enough [mental health] services available, especially outside of the hours 8am-4:30pm.”
VSRP Respondent

Beyond the issue of targeting and providing services to our returning vets is providing the right services. The mismatch between nonprofit provisions and individual utilizations, as well as the misaligned perceptions of needs, is the topic of the next installment in the Serving Our Vets blog series, which will be posted on Friday, July 19.

Tommy Pearce is Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

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