• January 25, 2015

Annie E. Casey Foundation Official Tapped to Head National-Service Agency

President Obama announced on Friday he plans to nominate Patrick Corvington, a senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and an expert on nonprofit leadership, as chief executive of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Mr. Corvington succeeds David Eisner, who stepped down from the post last November and handed the reins to Nicola Goren, now acting chief executive. Mr. Obama’s previous pick to head the federal agency — Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation — withdrew in May, citing unnamed health problems.

The nomination now must be approved by the Senate.

The selection comes at a critical time for the corporation, which manages AmeriCorps and other national-service and volunteer programs. The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that became law last spring calls for a big expansion of AmeriCorps, while the agency is also operating new volunteer efforts started by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, like the United We Serve campaign this summer.

The nominee also faces the challenge of heading a federal agency that has been accused of bad management. For example, an inspector general found in August that the corporation had “an organizational structure that may no longer be adequate in view of the size of current programs and operations” and had “insufficiently managed the funds that it received in FY 2008.”

‘One of the Smartest’

The choice of Mr. Corvington won praise from some nonprofit leaders, who said his expertise will help the agency expand — and help charities manage the influx of new volunteers.

“He’s one of the smartest people in the country about leadership and the capacity needs of nonprofits,” said Paul Schmitz, chief executive of Public Allies, a program that trains young AmeriCorps members for public service.

“Patrick’s extensive experience in social-service delivery, capacity building, research, and evaluation equips him exceptionally well to lead the corporation at this time,” Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, a coalition of charities and foundations, said in a statement.

But Rick Cohen, a longtime nonprofit watchdog who is now national correspondent for The Nonprofit Quarterly, while praising Mr. Corvington’s work to help nonprofit groups strengthen their organizations, said the nominee will need to put together “a really tough team that knows management, that knows how to turn around a troubled agency.”

Mr. Corvington will bring a different perspective to the job than Mr. Eisner, a former executive at AOL Time Warner, or Ms. Eitel, who both came from the corporate world. Before joining the Casey foundation, in Baltimore, in 2005, Mr. Corvington was executive director of Innovation Network, a group in Washington that offers planning and evaluation tools to nonprofit groups.

A native of Haiti who grew up in Africa and immigrated to the United States as a teenager, his previous jobs include research associate at the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center, and interim director at the Sykesville (Md.) Group Shelter Home.

Mr. Corvington has also worked as a patient advocate in an HIV/AIDS clinic, a case manager for migrant workers, and a volunteer in a homeless-shelter infirmary.

He sits on the boards of Echoing Green, a group in New York that provides fellowships to entrepreneurial nonprofit leaders; the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers; and the advisory board of the American Humanics Nonprofit Workforce Coalition.

Mr. Corvington is co-author of the reports “Next Shift: Beyond the Nonprofit Leadership Crisis” and “Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out.”

Mr. Schmitz said he’s happy that a person of color will be leading the corporation as the national-service field needs more diversity. “A lot of the people being served are young people of color,” he said. “You look at pictures of people doing the service, they’re often white.”

In response to the August inspector-general’s findings, which were requested by a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee, the corporation said that it was already putting into action many of the report’s recommendations through a Management Action Plan that it adopted in December 2008.

A corporation spokeswoman said Mr. Corvington would not be available for interviews until he has been confirmed by the Senate.

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