Each year, Strong City Baltimore brings together a cohort of AmeriCorps VISTA members who are passionate about service and community development. VISTA members serve for one year terms as full-time volunteers at a nonprofit organization, community group, or government agency. They work to eradicate poverty by fighting illiteracy, improving health services, strengthening community groups, and much more. Strong City-sponsored VISTAs are passionate, committed, and hard working individuals who can leverage their skills and experiences for your organization.
Our program focuses on supporting sites and members throughout their service term. Strong City VISTA members are supported by our VISTA Leaders throughout the year with a focus on personal and professional development. Through the connections and training provided by the Strong City model, sites who receive sponsorship through our VISTA program are able to tap into a network of individuals and organizations making a difference in the state of Maryland. By partnering with Strong City VISTA, you are becoming a part of a legacy of commitment to Maryland’s success. For more than four decades, Strong City has been a proud sponsor of the AmeriCorps VISTA program and we are pleased to invite you to take part in this wonderful national service opportunity.
What is AmeriCorps VISTA?
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a national service program dedicated to ending poverty by building the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public agencies that serve clients in need.
AmeriCorps VISTA’s mission is to strengthen and supplement efforts in low-income communities to alleviate poverty by engaging volunteers from all walks of life, all geographical areas, and all age groups in a year of full-time service.
VISTA differs from other national service programs in that it aims to build capacity in nonprofit organizations and public agencies. This enables these organizations to more effectively generate the commitment of private sector resources, to encourage volunteer service at the local level, and empower individuals and communities to raise their standards of living.
AmeriCorps VISTA Core Principles
To achieve its program purpose, VISTA operates under the following core principles:
Anti-Poverty Focus: The purpose of VISTA is to support efforts to fight poverty. Any nonprofit organization, educational institution, or tribal or public agency that has a program explicitly designed to alleviate poverty may become a VISTA project sponsor. The project’s goal should address helping bring individuals and communities out of poverty, rather than on making poverty more tolerable. The project should strengthen long-term solutions, not merely provide short-term services.
Community Empowerment: Sponsors must ensure the involvement of community residents in planning, developing, and implementing the VISTA project. The project must be responsive and relevant to the lives of the community residents, and should tap into existing community strengths and resources.
Capacity-Building: VISTA achieves its mission by assigning VISTAs to organizations to expand the ability of those organizations to fight poverty. Rather than providing services to low-income individuals and communities, VISTAs strengthen and support organizations by building infrastructure, expanding community partnerships, securing long-term resources, and numerous other activities that strengthen anti-poverty efforts.
Sustainable Solutions: VISTAs are a short-term resource to help sponsoring organizations address a new or existing program area related to their mission. VISTAs are assigned to help build an organization to implement its anti-poverty program on its own after a period (typically three to five years). Organizations should develop a long-term sustainability plan beginning in year one of the project’s existence, showing the eventual phase-out of the VISTA resource.
What is Strong City VISTA?
Each year, Strong City develops and supports nonprofit and community leaders who are passionate about service and community development.
Strong City Baltimore is proud to sponsor the largest AmeriCorps VISTA intermediary program in Maryland. We believe that AmeriCorps VISTA projects are integral to positive community empowerment. We leverage our resources and expertise to support and build the capacity of Maryland’s changemakers by offering recruitment, project development, administrative, and supervisory support.
Members serve for 365 days as full-time volunteers at a nonprofit organization, religious organization, or government agency. They work to eradicate poverty by fighting illiteracy, improving health services, strengthening community groups, and much more. Strong City-sponsored AmeriCorps VISTA members receive a solid foundation of skills they can use as a springboard for careers in government, nonprofits, education, and beyond.
The Strong City VISTA Cohort implements sustainable solutions and expands the impact of education, economic opportunity, and healthy futures projects in Baltimore City as well as Montgomery, Prince George’s, Washington, and Howard counties. We continue to seek out partners across Maryland to offer National Service opportunities and placements.
What does it mean to be a VISTA Service Site?
- A VISTA member will focus their efforts on sustainably building the organizational and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and overall assist low-income communities to rise out of poverty. VISTAs develop programs to meet a need, write grants, and recruit and train volunteers.
- Service Site VISTA Supervisor
- Plays an important role in the VISTA member’s year of service, providing supervision and mentorship
- Sponsor Site Support
- VISTA Leader: A seasoned VISTA member will provide support through professional development, recruitment, and assist with communication with State office. Essentially, the VISTA Leader is a coach, mentor, advocate, liaison, ambassador and facilitator.
- Director of VISTA Programming: A Strong City staff member provides leadership, coordination, and training for VISTA service sites as well as administers the VISTA Program, including managing grant reporting, special event planning, and supervision of the VISTA Leaders.
What is it like to work with a VISTA member?
- A VISTA member is not an employee.
- A VISTA member fulfills a one-year, full-time volunteer position.
- VISTA members are passionate about social justice and that is why they sacrifice a year of their live to work on an assignment that will strengthen low-income communities.
- VISTA members are hired and trained to uniquely focus on successfully completing a project that will sustainably combat poverty in the United States
- VISTA members live modestly and often qualify for food stamps.
VISTA members should:
- Perform and facilitate indirect service to build your organizations capacity (for examples, please refer to the following chart).
- Focus on building project sustainability.
- Follow their VISTA Assignment Description (VAD).
- Be provided with a clear outline of what is expected of them during their year of service.
VISTA members should not:
- Be utilized to work on direct service projects.
- Be asked to deviate drastically from their VAD and Performance Measures, without consultation with Strong City VISTA staff.
- Be intended to replace, or perform the duties of, permanent staff.
|Indirect Service||Direct Service|
|Recruit and coordinate volunteers to repaint walls in community center||Paint walls in community center|
|Organize a phone tree to recruit volunteer street clean up||Answer phones in the front desk|
|Evaluate a financial literacy course and provide recommendations||Teach a financial literacy course|
|Create policies and procedures for a volunteer training program||Lead a volunteer training|
|Create promotional materials for community outreach||Lead a community meeting|
|Research business resources and update organization’s website with new resource information||Provide business counseling to a small business owner.|
Should my organization develop a VISTA Project?
- You might be a good fit if you can answer yes to all or most of the following questions:
- Do we have clear work for a VISTA to do, that will build the capacity of our organization and that is not “direct service”?
- Can we provide a VISTA with a phone, computer, email/internet access, desk space and other aspects of a basic work environment?
- Can we provide the on-site orientation and job training a VISA will need to be successful? Can we designate one supervisor who can provide support for a full time volunteer?
- Are we willing to give the time needed to make the program work – supporting the VISTA member and reporting?
- Is our organization able to meet the financial requirement associated with sponsoring a VISTA, including living allowance?
What should Service Sites expect from Strong City?
Recruitment: Strong City posts available VISTA slots on AmeriCorps recruitment websites, facilitates initial screening of applicants for all service sites and manages VISTA member enrollment for candidates selected by service sites.
Supervision: Strong City provides a VISTA Supervisor to manage the overall VISTA project, including goals, logistics, reporting deadlines and the relationship with the CNCS state office. Strong City alsoprovides VISTA Leaders, whose goal is to provide training and support for all VISTA members on the project. Strong City also provides a recommended super visory infrastructure to service sites. Strong Citywill safeguard the safety of the VISTA member while in service.
Project Management and Reporting: Strong City creates an individual Memorandum of Agreement with each service site. Strong City provides service sites with a template for the VAD, as well as support incompleting it. Strong City also provides templates for, collects and tracks VISTA weekly, monthly and semi -annual reports. Strong City meets individually with service sites to discuss the progress of eachproject, as well as facilitates meetings of all service sites as needed.
- Financial: Strong City is responsible for financial oversight of the CNCS grant, as well as providing monthly travel stipends and telephone payments to all VISTAs. According to each individual site’s cost
share agreement, Strong City is responsible for invoicing service sites.
What will Strong City expect from Service Sites?
Recruitment: Service sites receive information for qualified and interested applicants to their project from Strong City and interview each, then notify Strong City which one has been selected to serve as the VISTA member for the project.
Supervision: Service sites provide daily supervision of their project VISTA member. Regular supervisory meetings should be scheduled, and VISTAs are to be formally evaluated on their performance once every six months.
Project Management and Reporting: Service sites are primarily responsible for the implementation and execution of their VISTA project. Any changes to the project goal or performance milestones should be reported to Strong City. Service sites are responsible for meeting all project reporting deadlines as established by Strong City. Service sites will be responsible for attending all scheduled progress meetings with Strong City.
Financial: According to each individual MOU, service sites will be responsible for remitting their agreed upon Cost Share for the VISTA project to Strong City. Strong City, along with all of the Sub Sites included in the Cohort support a cost share for up to 25% of the total positions allowed in the grant. In addition, Strong City commits approximately $175,000 in organizational resources to support the administration of the VISTA project annually. Strong City asks partner Service Sites under this grant to contribute an administrative fee to assist with the costs of managing the program. Strong City anticipates that the total Service Site contribution will be no more than $7,500 for the 2018-19 project year. This contribution represents an investment, not only in the VISTA resource and demonstrates the service site’s commitment to the VISTA project.