In 2008, the Illumination Fund made Service one of its first focus areas. LMTIF has made grants of approximately $4 million for service-related organizations and initiatives. The programs grew organically, but the evolution and sequence can be considered as three phases:

  • Phase 1) National Policy development and mobilization
  • Phase 2) NYC Infrastructure and Programs
  • Phase 3) Service Years

Phase 1) National Policy development and mobilization

The Illumination Fund provided early funding to Be the Change, Inc. to kick-off ServiceNation, convene a coalition of 200 organizations, and undertake a mobilization and communications campaign to make national and community service a priority in the United States and to support efforts to enact the Serve America Act.

Phase 2) NYC Infrastructure and Programs

Concurrently with the national mobilization, Mayor Bloomberg made service a major focus within his own administration. The City launched NYC Service to promote a new era of volunteerism in New York City. NYC Service expanded or created a set of more than 30 service initiatives designed to direct volunteers toward the City’s areas of greatest need and to make it easier to volunteer and serve.

The Illumination Fund collaborated with the City to build philanthropic support, and provided start-up support for the NYC Civic Corps, an AmeriCorps program though which small teams of specially trained members are assigned to help nonprofit organizations and City agencies to recruit, engage and direct volunteers to meet New York City’s pressing needs.

In 2010, the Illumination Fund launched Service for Impact, a cohort of grantees formed to address some of the consequences of the recession through service and volunteering to meet a growing demand for assistance and maintain quality of life. From 2012 to 2016, we awarded a series of grants that focused on service-inspired social entrepreneurship and leadership development in New York City. These programs were designed to spark new strategies as part of a service progression for young people embarking on careers leading social change.

Phase 3: Service Years

In 2012, Be the Change and the Aspen Institute formed The Franklin Project, a campaign to “make a paid, full-time year of national service a common expectation and opportunity and a civic rite of passage for all young Americans.” The Illumination Fund supported the launch of The Franklin Project, which then joined with ServiceNation and the Service Year Exchange to become a joint venture, the Service Year Alliance.

Mayor Bill de Blasio built upon NYC Service and created new programs, including the City Service Corps. While the Civic Corps focused on increasing the capacity of nonprofit organizations to recruit and train volunteers, the new City Service Corps was designed to expand the reach of New York City’s public agencies serving communities across the City. (see: NYC Service Corps).

Both the NYC Civic Corps and the City Service Corps recruit from New York’s communities, with a focus on “opportunity youth” who are out of school and out of work. The programs provide members with workforce skills and pathways to quality careers with advancement opportunities.


Current Status

The NYC Civic Corps program is an ongoing flagship of NYC Service, and the Illumination Fund is continuing two facets of service year programs within our Civic Engagement programs: national efforts through Service Year Alliance, and New York City programs through the City Service Corps.