Leading Practices of Veteran Serving Organizations

The purpose of the study was to identify class-leading practices of veteran serving nonprofits – both generalizable, and uniquely relevant – to serving veterans and their families, for the purpose of: 1) empowering veterans and military families as consumers of these services, and 2) advancing the state of effective practice and service-delivery in support of veterans and military families.

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As part of this research initiative, 25 veteran-serving organizations were selected for case studies. The selection protocol was designed to generate a representative sample of the universe of veteran-serving nonprofits. It was designed to ensure a sufficient degree of variation among the organizations, such as their age, geographic focus, and programming initiatives.

The team developed a comparative case study methodology that was both exploratory and descriptive. It was designed to identify and aggregate processes and practices that are aligned with key veteran themes identified by both The Bush Institute and the IVMF.

This study illustrates and provides evidence that can lead to better organizational practices, donor strategies, and knowledge among veterans and their families. Equally important, this evidence should stimulate dialogue and action about how the public, private, and independent sectors might better align so they can have a positive, lasting impact on the social, economic, and wellness needs of veterans and their families.


Key Highlights

  • Many veteran-serving organizations exhibit a strong pull toward the status quo, such that they are reluctant to move beyond legacy models of process and service-delivery, to best accommodate the changing needs of the veteran population they serve.
  • Funders drive organizational behavior and change, such that the more sophisticated the funder(s), the more sophisticated the organization. This pertains in particular to data collection and performance evaluation, which research found was predominantly driven by, and rarely exceeded, funder mandates.
  • Effective VSOs acknowledge and embrace the inherent differences among veterans. They incorporate those differences into the organization’s processes, practices, and delivery of services.
  • They also create partnerships with complementary providers and collaborate with them in service delivery, recognizing that community-connected relationships are key to a successful transition for veterans.