An information session will be held via Zoom on Monday, November 9th from 2:30-4:30pm discussing this, and other, CAC AmeriCorps program offerings. Register for this presentation here. This will be a great way to learn about VISTA and other resources offered by CAC AmeriCorps and get answers to any specific questions you may have regarding this RFP response.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program that engages individuals in a full year of service (usually August – August) to their communities. Specifically, VISTA members serve to build capacity in organizations that are fighting poverty through access to resources such as job skill development, access to healthy foods, and access to health care. CAC AmeriCorps manages VISTA placements as an intermediary organization and is currently seeking VISTA project proposals.
What is a VISTA Project?
The goal of VISTA projects are to build capacity in organizations that serve low-income populations. Capacity building is defined by AmeriCorps as, “Working with project staff and the community to create, expand, or strengthen systems and processes to increase an organization’s effectiveness.” VISTA members are meant to serve as a short-term resource to help organizations achieve lasting solutions and programming in their fight against poverty. Typically, these projects are meant to be completed by the end of a 3-year cycle, and are able to sustain themselves after the VISTA has left, but can be extended depending on the project.
Note: Though the projects are 3-year cycles, VISTA service years are only 1 year, so you likely will have 3 different VISTA members on each project.
VISTA projects are restricted in allowable activities, and VISTA members are not to participate in direct service. Here are examples of differences in capacity building vs. direct service:
Recruiting volunteers to build houses
Developing a database of mentors
Writing an educational curriculum
Building organizational relationships
Organizing a fundraiser
Teaching a course or hosting a workshop
Delivering Mobile Meals
Providing health screening services
Since VISTAs are meant to be a short-term resource, a sustainability plan must be included in the project proposal so that the legacy of the project can out-live the VISTA resource. Examples of sustainability focused activities include developing handbooks, procedural documents, and strong partnerships, securing project staff through additional funding, and creating project evaluation mechanisms.
General outcomes from VISTA projects include the ability to increase services, a strengthened organizational capacity, improved organizational infrastructure, and increased operational resources.
Note: Though VISTAs can build capacity for your entire organization, VISTA sites that have defined projects members are building capacity for are more successful.
Who is eligible to host a VISTA?
Any tax-exempt organization interested in increasing its capacity to fight poverty is eligible to host a VISTA. However, successfully hosting a VISTA member requires a clear set of achievable goals, a strategic plan for reaching those goals, and the capacity to supervise and mentor the VISTA member. AmeriCorps VISTA members cannot serve in a direct or staff capacity and are not allowed to displace staff members or volunteers.
How are roles and responsibilities divided by CAC AmeriCorps and my organization?
CAC AmeriCorps serves as an intermediary for AmeriCorps programs, which means we do all the behind-the-scenes work so you can continue to fully focus on the projects of your organization while also reaping the benefits of a VISTA member.
CAC AmeriCorps handles most of the recruitment process (you will interview candidates and let us know your preference, AmeriCorps ultimately approves candidates for service), plans all required service days, provides an immersive week long member orientation as well as a mid-year retreat and end of year celebration, supplements the member service experience with monthly corps meetings, provides one-on-one guidance through bi-annual site visits, provides members with service gear, handles grant writing and reporting requirements, and ensures grant compliance.
As a site partner and member supervisor, we ask you to work alongside CAC AmeriCorps to create position descriptions, interview candidates that are sent to you in a timely manner during the recruitment process, provide day-to-day guidance for your VISTA member as needed, include them in all relevant meetings and activities, meet with them weekly, support your member in their reporting requirements to our program, attend an annual site supervisor orientation, and allow the VISTA member to attend all CAC AmeriCorps programming.
What does CAC AmeriCorps report on in their grant?
We report on Healthy Futures (access to care/healthy foods/health knowledge), Economic Opportunity (job and community skill development), Access to Housing, and Education (K-12 success, post-secondary success). CAC AmeriCorps will work with you to identify the best areas to report in. Additionally, we track amounts of cash/grants and in-kind donations leveraged as well as volunteer information. All reporting we do is required to be non-duplicated. All CAC AmeriCorps VISTA partner sites must comply with our reporting standards and be able to contribute to these outcomes.
How do VISTA Benefits work?
VISTA Member benefits are managed on the federal level by AmeriCorps. Through AmeriCorps, members are eligible to receive a modest living allowance, healthcare benefit, childcare assistance, travel assistance, reduction of education costs, leave, and professional development and career opportunities. In addition, the CAC AmeriCorps office is able to provide Telehealth services and connect members to SNAP and LIHEAP Specialists. Your organization is not responsible for administering any benefits to your member. You can find out more about VISTA Member benefits here: https://www.vistacampus.gov/members/benefits-of-service
What can I expect when hosting a VISTA Member?
VISTA Members are generally passionate, community minded individuals with just the right amount of idealism. Often (but not always!), our members are recent college graduates who are interested in the spirit of service, but also interested in how they can leverage their service year to jumpstart their career. We recruit both locally and nationally so our members come from all over the United States with varying professional and life experiences. All VISTA Members are required to complete a background check process that is administered by AmeriCorps on the federal level. Members who have not disclosed findings, or, are found to been convicted of murder or required to register as a Sex Offender are not eligible for service. Overall, you can expect enthusiasm, new perspectives and ideas, the rewarding experience of watching them grow as professionals, and lasting capacity built for your organization.
What is the projected timeline for this process?
· Applications due to CAC AmeriCorps office by November 11, 2020
· CAC AmeriCorps will discuss applications and clarify any questions with you
· Recruitment will begin in early January and will be ongoing until all slots are filled.
· Member service years start in August 2021, OR January 2022, depending on what was discussed
If you are interested in hosting an AmeriCorps VISTA member, please fill out the following application by November 11, 2020.