Credit Worthy

NEW YORK The Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency behind volunteer service programs such as AmeriCorps, regularly provides support to local churches and grassroots organizations. The 16-year-old organization, however, doesn’t always get credit for its work.
That brand identity problem is partly driving CNS’s search for an agency to lead its marketing efforts, according to a request for proposals issued by the organization. The account will provide as much as $3 million in revenue annually for up to five years, per the RFP.

“The corporation must do a better job communicating with its network [of local grantees] and engaging in media and outreach strategies that not only raise awareness of local projects and organizations, but also the resources that the corporation and its programs bring to bear,” the document states. “A successful communications strategy will require tapping this large decentralized network to provide consistent coordinated messages to intended audiences.”

While its revenue isn’t huge, the assignment has the potential to be high profile, given President Obama’s recurring call for increased volunteerism and the expansion of AmeriCorps, which builds affordable housing, tutors youth, and cleans up parks and streams. In a speech on Martin Luther King Day, Obama told a crowd of volunteers at a high school in Washington, D.C., that “government will do its part to open up more opportunities for citizens to participate” — a pledge he made during his presidential campaign as well.

“They have grand goals” for AmeriCorps, said the CEO of an agency that plans to respond to the RFP. “The administration thinks it’s going to be a major plank.”

Beyond traditional advertising, the RFP notes that CNS needs help in direct marketing, public relations, interactive marketing and “strengthening its online presence [through] Web 2.0 tools and technologies and outreach to new forms of media.”

Strategically, CNS wants to expand and diversify its pool of volunteers, grantees and supporters, according to the RFP. Among volunteers, for example, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and recent retirees are “underrepresented,” the RFP states.

Another challenge is raising the profile of lesser-known programs such as Senior Corps — which supplies adult volunteers 55-years-old and older to schools, police departments and at the scenes of natural disasters — and Learn and Serve America, which introduces students to service activities linked to academic achievement.

The RFP, originally due back on Feb. 27, is now returnable on March 9, according to an amendment posted on www.fedbiz CNS representatives could not be reached.