News and analysis
April 29, 2011

Head of National Service Agency to Step Down

Corporation for National and Community Service

Patrick A. Corvington

Patrick Corvington, the chief executive of the Corporation for National and Community Service, said this afternoon he will step down from his role with the agency on May 27.

In a letter sent to the staff, Mr. Corvington said he was resigning to take an “opportunity in the nonprofit community” but did not specify where his next job would be. Ranit Schmelzer, a spokeswoman, said she couldn’t answer questions about Mr. Corvington’s new position.

“I leave CNCS with both tremendous pride and sadness and can sincerely say that this experience has been one of the most rewarding in my life,” he wrote in the letter.

Mr. Corvington’s tenure was short: He was sworn in as chief executive of the agency in February 2010, at a time when the organization was quickly expanding following the passage in 2009 of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

The law aimed to significantly increase the number of participants in AmeriCorps, the flagship national-service program. It also created several new programs, including the Social Innovation Fund, which awards grants to help nonprofit groups expand effective social programs.

But the agency is now facing a much different political climate. The recently approved 2011 federal budget allocated roughly $74.6-million less to the corporation than in 2010, leaving it at $1.08 billion. President Obama had proposed increasing its budget to $1.4-billion.

In the letter, Mr. Corvington said that the agency was still working with the White House on details of the leadership transition and would provide more information as it becomes available.

The announcement took many who work in national service by surprise.

“I got a lot of e-mails over the weekend saying, ‘What happened? What happened?’ and I had no idea,” says AnnMaura Connolly, an executive at City Year, an AmeriCorps program for young people, and campaign manager of Save Service in America, a coalition that is working to fend off budget cuts to national-service programs.

Ms. Connolly says she is sorry to see Mr. Corvington go, noting that he was a “great partner” for national-service advocates. “All of us are incredibly grateful for his leadership,” she says. “It’s been a very difficult year.”

However, the timing of his departure is not great, she adds, given that the Corporation for National and Community Service must gear up to defend its budget as Congress begins work on a 2012 spending plan.

Among other battles, she and others are hoping to convince lawmakers to restore money for Learn and Serve America, a community-service program for students that was completely eliminated in the 2011 budget.

“It’s too bad the corporation will be leaderless, at least for a bit,” Ms. Connolly says. “All of us would like them to figure out what plan is going forward as soon as possible.”

The search for a replacement is likely to take some time, especially given the appointment needs Senate confirmation. This will not be the first time the national-service agency has operated without a chief executive.  The post had been open for more than a year when Mr. Corvington took over. President Obama’s earlier pick for the position, Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation, had withdrawn the previous spring, citing unspecified health problems.

The agency’s board is also still missing seven members. President Obama nominated people to take those seats almost a year ago and re-nominated them at the beginning of the new Congressional session in January, but the Senate has not yet approved them.

Mr. Corvington, a native of Haiti who grew up in Africa and immigrated to the United States as a teenager, had previously been a senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. He has specialized in nonprofit management issues throughout his career.

Editor's Note: This is an updated version of a story that was initially posted on April 29.