More than two million service members have deployed since 2001, leaving behind more than three million immediate family members. More than one third of those family members are children, and 72 percent of those children are school-aged. Half of all military children are under age eight—all they have known is war.
Corporations, foundations, and individual philanthropists have a critical role in helping to pioneer solutions for the challenges facing America’s military families. They are well positioned to direct resources to fund research and support targeted, research-based initiatives.
More research is needed to better understand how military families are coping. Service providers need to be trained to recognize signs of distress before they worsen. Resiliency skills can be taught to help vulnerable military families and to ensure those families that are managing well maintain their health. Agencies and nonprofits need assistance in identifying the military families among the populations they serve and then adapting their programs to address families’ needs.
Individuals and corporations could consider making the well-being of military families the sole focus of your charitable funding. Establish a foundation to support that initiative.
Existing foundations should consider adding a “Military Family Fund” within their existing foundation initiatives – the equivalent of carving out funds within their established missions, but committing to support military families through the duration of this conflict, until the last service member returns home. Foundations with prescribed missions can consider adding military families to their list of targeted populations they support. For example, if your foundation offers scholarships, think about offering a military spouse scholarship. If your focus is health care access, seek proposals from groups focused on health care access issues in the military community.
Foundations could make a one-time commitment of “discretionary” or “Board-waived” funding to support military families.
Sponsor efforts to train national youth organizations in resiliency building programs, which can be replicated in “train the trainer” programs throughout the country.
Fund research, especially projects that can provide insights for service providers on the cumulative effects of war and long-term needs of military families.
Corporations that support the needs of their community build not only goodwill, but also their revenues. Consider the importance of allowing your employees one day off per month to volunteer and encourage them to assist military families in your community.
Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator. To review evaluations of your favorite military charities go to www.charitynavigator.org.
The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) is a charity watchdog service whose purpose is to help donors make informed giving decisions. Visit www.charitywatch.org for more information.
Courage to Care is an electronic health campaign for military and civilian professionals serving the military community, as well as for military men, women and families. To access the fact sheets go to www.usuhs.mil/psy/courage.html.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has created resources to help people make wise donations. To access the BBB Wise Giving Alliance visit www.bbb.org/us/charity.