Points of Light Foundation

16 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008  

Lucy J. Lowenthal

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Kathryn Terry

affiliation not provided to SSRN


This case details the founding of the Points of Light Foundation, starting with the initial idea put forth by President George H. W. Bush. The original mission of the foundation was to encourage more Americans to become involved in community service. The case illustrates how the consulting firm McKinsey and Company lent management expertise to assist with the early development of the new nonprofit. The case also explores whether Points of Light, once established, should join forces with another national nonprofit to expand its services. Students learn about fundraising and also about the pitfalls of reliance on large chunks of government funding.




The Points of Light Foundation was created in 1990 as a private, independent organization to encourage and empower a growing spirit of service and to direct it toward the social issues that might otherwise consume us.

The Foundation's mission is to motivate leaders to mobilize others to engage in community service directed at serious social problems.

Pat Bland (MBA ‘86), a vice president at the Points of Light Foundation (POLF) in Washington, D.C., was taking a rare opportunity to enjoy a quiet moment in her office. It was July 1991, and Bland was a member of the management team that had successfully steered POLF through its first year of operations. This time had been both very exciting and full of challenges for the management team, and they were proud of what they had accomplished at POLF. As Bland looked over the work on her desk, however, her thoughts turned toward the impending merger between POLF and the National VOLUNTEER Center. This merger would be a big move, fundamentally changing the direction of both organizations.

Since its establishment in May 1990, POLF had primarily concentrated on media efforts to engage the American public in community service. The media campaign had begun to raise the public's awareness, but Bland as well as others at POLF recognized that it needed to develop ways to channel the public's interest toward action at the local level. The National VOLUNTEER Center, with more than 400 affiliated volunteer centers and 60 corporate volunteer councils located in communities throughout the country, seemed to offer that opportunity. The individual centers and councils would work to match the talents and support of interested citizens to the volunteer needs of the community. For its part, POLF would provide national leadership through its board of directors and media outreach. It also possessed the momentum needed to raise awareness about the benefits of volunteer service, and its impact on serious social problems. Bland had some questions. The National VOLUNTEER Center was a financially weak organization; however, during the last 20 years, it had built a well-established reputation in the nonprofit volunteer community. In contrast, POLF was barely 14 months old and still grappled with its identity. This merger looked promising on paper, but how would the two organizations really interact? Was their work truly compatible? Bland was shaken from her thoughts by a phone call. Quiet moments did not last too long in this fledgling organization.

. . .

Keywords: nonprofit

Suggested Citation

Lowenthal, Lucy J. and Terry, Kathryn, Points of Light Foundation. Darden Case No. UVA-NP-0069. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=910354

Lucy J. Lowenthal (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Kathryn Terry

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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