Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

National and Community Service at CNCS

And that's the point I want to emphasize today: that service isn't separate from our national priorities, or secondary to our national priorities –- it's integral to achieving our national priorities. It's how we will meet the challenges of our time.
 - President Barack Obama, October 16, 2009


President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are committed to engaging more Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service that has an impact. The Administration is committed to expanding federal national and community service opportunities through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the key Federal agency focused on service.


  • On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the most sweeping expansion of national service in a generation, at the SEED School in Washington, D.C.  The Act:
    • Sets AmeriCorps on a path to more than triple in size from 75,000 members annually to 250,000 by 2017;
    • Drives service as a solution in the areas of education, health, clean energy, veterans, economic opportunity and other national priorities;
    • Ties the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to the maximum Pell Grant level;
    • Created the Social Innovation Fund, which will identify promising, innovative solutions that have the potential to scale to meet the needs of other communities;
    • Improves service options for experienced Americans by expanding age and income eligibility for Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions, and creates a Silver Scholars program, under which individuals 55 and older who perform 350 hours of service receive a $1,000 education award;
    • Strengthens the nation's civic infrastructure through the creation of a Volunteer Generation Fund to help nonprofits recruit, manage, and support volunteers and the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program to improve nonprofits' performance in communities facing resource hardships;
    • Provides an onramp for millions of working Americans to serve by establishing a nationwide call to service campaign, later named United We Serve and announced by the President and First Lady; and,
    • Establishes September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
  • To implement the Serve America Act, President Obama proposed and Congress approved a  Fiscal Year 2010 budget that provides $1.149 billion for the Corporation and its programs, the largest in history, and the President’s FY 2011 request of $1.4 billion will continue this path of growth, innovation, and impact;
  • On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided $200 million to support more than 15,000 AmeriCorps members serving in our most economically distressed communities. These members are offering job counseling and placement services, helping prevent foreclosures, weatherizing homes, strengthening food banks, supporting health care and independent living services, and more.  The Corporation acted swiftly to implement the law, swearing in the first AmeriCorps VISTA members two months after enactment and making AmeriCorps grants a month later, allowing help to get quickly to communities in need; and,
  • The Administration from the President and First Lady to Cabinet Secretaries and their federal employees across the country have participated in service activities and amplified the power of service through their activities and remarks.

Guiding Principles

Given the many social needs facing our communities – and the growing interest in service by Americans of all ages – this is a moment of unprecedented need and opportunity for service in our nation. 

Build a New Foundation for Growth

As our nation continues on the road to economic recovery, volunteer service plays a vital role in addressing our national and local challenges.  The Administration believes that citizen service and community solutions are important for our long-term growth and prosperity. 

Drive Service as a Solution

We will focus on targeting resources to tackle national priorities and identify where service has an important role to play and direct resources to address these issues.

Expand Opportunities to Serve

The Administration will work to provide citizens from a wide range of communities, backgrounds, and perspectives to easily accessible service opportunities to fit their needs and engaging them in a lifetime of service. 

Build Enduring Capacity

We will work to enable individuals, organizations and communities to become more effective at addressing pressing challenges and better able to leverage service as a lasting solution.

Embrace Innovation

We will invest in national and community service models that work, find new ways of doing business, and serve as a connector of knowledge and ideas for local communities.  All across America, groups are creating and growing innovative solutions to local problems. The Administration, through CNCS and other federal agency programs, is committed to supporting the expansion of these opportunities to achieve results and address our national priorities.

Shared Responsibility

We must recognize that while government must do its part, government can’t do it alone.  To meet today’s social and economic challenges, we need to renew America’s spirit of voluntary service, of compassion and responsibility, of innovation and local initiative, that that has always sustained us through hard times.  We know that each sector plays a needed and distinct role that is often dependent on the roles of the other sectors. We will work with the nonprofit, private, academic, and philanthropic sectors, as well as at all levels of government, to maximize the impact of service through strategic partnerships.