How the Points of Light Institute Works

Points of Light Business Units

Judging by the name you may think at first that the Points of Light Institute (PLI) is just a school. However, education on philanthropy is only one way in which this volunteer network is taking strides against poverty in the United States.

Originally called the Points of Light Foundation, the institute was formed after a merger between the HandsOn Network and the Points of Light Foundation in 2007. The organization's main goals include citizen action, civic infrastructure and campaigns for impact [sources: AmeriCorps Alums, Points of Light].

Today, the Points of Light Institute is comprised of three business units: The HandsOn Network, the MissionFish and the Civic Incubator. For each of these units, the overall goal is to enact social change in an effort to diminish poverty in America. The long-term goals of all three sectors are the same. Each business unit runs programs for improving the quality of education and quality of life for people living in low-income situations [source: Points of Light].

However, each unit takes a different approach to accomplishing these goals and each markets its service opportunities to slightly different target audiences. Some programs work directly with nonprofit organizations to produce funding and develop program strategies, while others hone in on specific projects and match volunteers with specialized positions. Detailed information on each of these three PLI sectors is included later in this article, so if you're looking for a unique volunteering opportunity, make sure to keep reading.

The HandsOn sector of the Points of Light Institute is home to programs that bring volunteers together from coast to coast and sometimes across international borders. To find out more on how this massive service network operates, see the next page.