AmeriCorps is a federally-funded program akin to a domestic Peace Corps. AmeriCorps members commit to terms of service, through which they address compelling American needs. Disaster response and recovery is one of the top-tier performance measures for AmeriCorps. The St. Bernard Project believes using AmeriCorps resources is essential to a prompt, efficient and predictable recovery. AmeriCorps provides a motivated, cost-effective source of stipend volunteers that enables organizations to maximize their impact.

AmeriCorps has three branches, each with their own function, benefits and timeline for access: the National Civilian Conservation Corps, State and National Direct and Vista.

Click here to access the AmeriCorps website.

National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC)

NCCC is a yearlong, team-based service program managed directly by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Organizations may apply to be a part of a regional rotation of NCCC teams and receive the support of an 8-12 member team for a short period, typically six to eight weeks. Often, NCCC teams are available within days of a significant disaster.


NCCC members must engage in direct service. This branch is particularly useful in providing additional manpower before you secure a long-term state and national direct grant. Organizations using NCCC are responsible for providing housing, supervision and meaningful work including tools, supplies and materials for the team.

  • Quickest way to get AmeriCorps members
  • Low cost – pay only for housing
  • Minimal compliance and reporting work
  • Developed team structure-members have been selected and trained by their campus and come with a designated team leader and structure of rules and accountability

  • Short duration means limited opportunity to develop specialized skills.
  • While corps members receive training by their campus, this will not cover the specific tasks they will carry out with your organization. You will need to provide all task-specific training when the team arrives.
  • Selection of members and team composition is decided by the campus, so you will not know the abilities of each corps member and their fit for your organization’s needs prior to arrival.
  • There will be gaps between teams. NCCC teams have four rounds each program year with teams returning to campus before deploying on their next round. These gaps typically run two to four weeks.


Apply directly to each of the NCCC campuses. The deadline to apply differs depending upon the regional campus. An RFP is put out each program year to indicate application deadlines.

NCCC Atlantic Region
VA Medical Center
P.O. Box 27
Perry Point, MD 21902-0027
Tel: 410-642-2411 ext. 6850
Fax: 410-642-1888
E-mail: NCCCAtlantic@cns.gov
States Served: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, PR, RI, USVI, VT *SBP’s current point of contact is Amanda McCarty – amccarty@cns.gov*

NCCC Southwest Region
3001 South Federal Blvd.
Walsh Hall, Room 136
Denver, CO 80236-2711
Tel: 303-844-7400
Fax: 303-844-7410
E-mail: NCCCSouthwest@cns.gov
States Served: AR, AZ, CO, KS, MO, NM, OK, TX

NCCC Pacific Region
3427 Laurel Street
Sacramento, CA 95652
Tel: 916-640-0310
Fax: 916-640-0318
E-mail: NCCCPacific@cns.gov
States Served: AK, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY, Pacific Territories

NCCC North Central Region
1004 G Avenue
Vinton, IA 52349
Tel: 319-472-9664
Fax: 319-472-9666
E-mail: ASarrels@cns.gov
States Served: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI

NCCC Southern Region
2715 Confederate Avenue
Vicksburg, MS 39180
Tel: 601-630-4040
Fax: 601-630-4071
E-mail: NCCCSouthern@cns.gov
States Served: AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV
*SBP’s current point of contact is Stephanie Gittinger – SGittinger@cns.gov*

The application process is two-fold:

  1. Submission of a Concept Form that provides an overview of your organization and project scope.
  2. If your Concept Form has been accepted, you will be asked to complete a Project Application to receive a team for a specific round. If your Project Application is accepted, you will simply need to submit a Project Update Form for each additional round for the program year.
    • You will need to resubmit a Concept Form and Project Applications for each additional program year and campus.


For application instructions

For a blank project concept form

For a blank project update form

To learn more about sponsoring an NCCC

State and National Direct

An allocation of state and national direct MSY’s (Member Service Years) are granted to organizations to engage individuals in direct service to the organization’s mission. Organizations recruit, select, train and supervise each MSY directly. There is a great degree of diversity in state and national AmeriCorps Programs-ranging from the roles members serve in, project scope and deliverables, hour commitment/term length and member benefits/stipends. Organizations have the ability to design their program to suit their needs within their grant application.


SBP’s AmeriCorps members serve for 10 months and must complete at least 1,700 hours of service during their term. In exchange for their service members receive a modest living allowance of $1,210 per month pre-tax, health coverage, training and an education award of $5,550 upon successful term completion. Members serve in five specific roles with clearly defined, and CNCS-approved, activities to carry out during their terms. These roles are: site supervisor, volunteer coordinator, client service coordinator, supply and logistics coordinator and skilled trades specialist.


  • 10-month term length allows for greater skills development
  • Greatly increases service output over daily/weekly volunteers
  • Full control over recruiting and member selection means members fit the organizational culture and required skill set


  • Reimbursement grant means organization must be able to pay for costs up front
  • Higher cost than other branches-requires organization match starting at 24 percent of overall grant and increase every year thereafter
  • Higher degree of organizational responsibility and investment of staff time for:
    • Member recruitment, interviewing and selection
    • Member orientation, training and management
    • Programmatic and fiscal reporting and compliance
    • Impact and data tracking
  • Timeframe from application to notification of funding is lengthy, which delays members starting


Deadline: Each state served commission sets its own deadline for application. However, the process of application begins in the fall with letters of intent and full applications due in late November/early December.

How to apply: For state: apply to the state serve commission in your community. Follow this link for a list of state serve commissions.

Application format: States may require additional steps prior to the submission of an application including participation in informational webinars and letters of intent. Generally this information is accessible on the serve commission’s website and in the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO).

Allocation of state and national grants roughly follows the process below:

  • Late Nov/Early Dec-Submission of application and budget in e-Grants
  • April/May-Notification of clarification items from Serve Commission
  • April/May-Submission of additional information to address clarification items
  • Late May/June-Notification of funding award
  • Fall-Start of program year

For a sample State and National RFP click here.

VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America)

An allotment of VISTA MSY is granted to organizations directly from the Corporation for National Service’s State Office to engage members to build organizational capacity and fight poverty. Much like the state and national program, organizations recruit, select, train and manage their own members to fill these positions. VISTA members are provided free of charge to first-time grantees for up to three years before converting to a cost-sharing model. These members close a critical gap in staffing and program development and through their service develop the organization’s capacity to be sustainable once VISTA support has ended.


Much like state and national programs, there is a great diversity in the specific program design and member activities for VISTA Programs across the nation. Organizations develop and submit a project proposal that aligns with their organization’s needs and anticipated impact. SBP supports full-time VISTA members that serve for one year in roles as marketing coordinator, development coordinator and VISTA team leader. VISTA members commit to 24/7 service, and are unable to have outside employment or take classes during their term. In exchange for their service, members receive a modest living allowance (defined by their geographic region), health coverage, training, relocation assistance, one year non-competitive hiring status for federal jobs and their choice of an education award of $5,550 or an end of term stipend of $1,500.


  • Zero direct cost (at first)
  • Purpose is to build capacity and sustainability – including fundraising


  • Cost increases after first three years to full stipend amount (approximately $10,500 annually)
  • Deadlines for member selection are defined by CNCS state office and typically require selection at least two months prior to the start date


  • Secure appropriate and available AmeriCorps resources to meet organizational needs and goals
  • Recruit highly motivated and talented candidates for service
  • Support and empower members for success in their roles
  • Run compliant and fiscally responsible program


Contact your CNCS state office to learn about grant application procedures and deadlines.

Apply by visiting this link which provides a complete list of the CNCS State Offices. To find out how to format your application, visit this link which provides a sample VISTA application and instructions.

For more information about becoming a VISTA sponsor, click here.


Position members for success and challenge them to reach their highest humanity.
Serving as an AmeriCorps member is highly demanding and challenging to even the most competitive candidates. Members must be supported in the development of their skills and growing to exceed expectations. Members join AmeriCorps to invest in the community as well as themselves and they must be challenged to their highest potential.

Skill sets are teachable – find members with the right mindset and cultural fit.
Members should not be selected on a skillset alone. Members should be selected based on their values, flexibility, work ethic and compassion. If necessary, they can be taught the skills necessary for their role. Invest the extra energy to recruit candidates who will fit your organization's ethical goals, who have positive energy and empower them with new skills rewarding success along the way.

Leverage national service resources to create maximum impact.
The AmeriCorps program is key to shortening and improving disaster recovery. AmeriCorps members should be placed in mission-critical roles for maximum impact. Pair different branches of AmeriCorps to meet the various facets of the organization.

Adhere to grant regulations and best practices while seeking to innovate.
Compliance to grant regulations are paramount to the success and continued approval of those grants. Ensure that operations and the impact are properly documented based on the grants guidelines. Develop a reciprocal relationship with stakeholders and develop new paths to increase the impact and effectiveness that the AmeriCorps resources provide.

Invest in relationships with others – both members and AmeriCorps funding agencies – to increase impact in the short and long term.
Operating a successful, impactful AmeriCorps Program requires a high level of organizational investment and attention. Cultivate relationships of trust and respect with members, fellow managers and stakeholders at CNCS. Constantly seek to achieve the greatest organizational impact, while promoting the interests and achievements of stakeholders, this allows them to see the value of the partnership and encourages them to deepen their future investment.

Responsibilities and Tactics

Secure appropriate and available AmeriCorps resources to meet organizational needs and goals

  • Design a program that national service agencies will want to support.
  • Identify organizational needs that are strategic in pairing different AmeriCorps resources to holistically meet them.

Recruit and onboard highly motivated and talented candidates

  • Spread the word to generate a robust candidate pool.
  • Ensure a uniform selection process that screens for key attributes – grit, resilience and a flexible mindset.

Support and empower members for success in their roles

  • Empower members with the resources they need to be successful within their role, the larger organization and the new community they have entered.
  • Implementing and constantly refining a training curriculum and performance-appraisal system that promotes continual growth.
  • Fostering a rigorous, yet positive, environment within the organization.
  • Challenging members to grow professionally through their term and supporting them in their next steps.

Run compliant program

  • Ensure proper usage of resources received through proper fiscal and program management.
  • Document and highlight the programs impact and the AmeriCorps’ brand.

Key Terms and Stakeholders

Allowable/unallowable member activities: The service tasks that have been approved in your grant application and are defined in your member position descriptions. These are the activities that members will carry out on a daily basis and for which they may accrue hours. Unallowable member activities include any activities that are not within the scope of your position descriptions and program design. Additionally, members are prohibited from certain types of fundraising, political activities and religious activities when serving hours. Unallowable activities should be avoided at all times as they jeopardize the health of your program and can lead to the rejection of member service hours and unreimbursable costs.

AmeriCorps portal/nationalservice.gov: The website through which organizations seeking to sponsor an AmeriCorps program and individuals looking to serve can access information about national service. Most notably, organizations sponsoring AmeriCorps programs can post service listings advertising their opportunities which potential applicants can search based upon a number of criteria. AmeriCorps applicants create profiles and can apply and manage their terms of service via the AmeriCorps portal.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
Established in 1993, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that engages Americans in services via its core programs-Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund. CNCS is the nation’s largest grantmaker for service and volunteering, and is responsible for the oversight and monitoring of AmeriCorps programs nationwide.

Corps member: A participant in an AmeriCorps program. As AmeriCorps members are full time volunteers and not engaged in an employment relationship with your organization, it’s never appropriate to refer to them as staff or employees.

Education award: Currently set at $5,550, the education award is earned upon successful completion (both of the contract dates and hour requirements) of a national term of service. The National Service Trust, requiring no resources from the sponsoring agency, provides education awards to members. The education award has myriad uses, including paying back current student loans, paying for future schooling, covering the cost of required educational materials/expenses and more. The education award is a powerful incentive for individuals interested in AmeriCorps service. For more information about the AmeriCorps education award, visit this link.

E-grants: The website used to manage most aspects of AmeriCorps grants. E-grants are used for the following tasks:

  • Submitting AmeriCorps State and National and VISTA applications and amendments
  • Creating service listings to promote your program on nationalservice.gov
  • Receiving and reviewing applications from potential AmeriCorps members submitted via nationalservice.gov
  • Enrolling, suspending and exiting AmeriCorps members participating in your program
  • Submitting progress/impact reports

Grants officer: A staff member at CNCS whose role is to support and monitor all aspects of fiscal reporting and compliance. Your finance department will want to develop lines of open communication with your grants officer.

Living allowance/stipend: The money members receive to support themselves during their terms of service. Stipends are distributed bi-monthly by the organization for state/national members (or CNCS for VISTA members). As members are not employees of the organization, but rather full time volunteers, It’s never appropriate to refer to a stipend as a wage. Additionally, stipend amounts are not contingent upon the number of hours served. Members will receive the same stipend amount regardless of having served 90 hours or 5 hours during a payroll period. Organizations are also unable to withhold any amount of money from a member stipend. Stipends are taxed.

Member service year (MSY): An indication of the AmeriCorps resources being granted to an organization. There are numerous types of MSY: full-time (1,700 hours), part-time (900 hours), quarter time (450 hours) and minimum time (300 hours). The number of each type of MSY you have been awarded indicates the number of members you will have in your program.

National service knowledge network: A centralized hub of best practices and information sharing on all aspects of operating an AmeriCorps program. This is a great resource for accessing documents from other AmeriCorps programs that you can use as a jumping off platform for structuring your program. Visit the website.

NCCC campus: Five service sites located in Vicksburg, MS; Perrypoint, MD; Vinton, IA; Sacramento; Denver (where NCCC teams are based). NCCC teams are housed and trained at their regional campus until they are deployed for each round. Each campus functions independently from the others and has their own staff, deadlines and applications that you will need to access.

Performance measures: The common focal point for CNCS’s work and structured categories for AmeriCorps programs to define and quantify the nature of their service work and its impact. CNCS has defined the following priority areas for the programs, and each have performance indicators within them.

  • Disaster services
  • Economic opportunity
  • Education
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Healthy futures
  • Veterans and military families
  • Capacity building

Selecting a top tier priority area/performance measure may give you a higher chance of getting funded. CNCS is increasingly focused on having a quantifiable, data-driven indicator for the impact of national service, so performance measures and data reporting/tracking should be a high area of focus for your AmeriCorps program. For more information about Performance Measures, visit this link.

Program officer: A staff member at CNCS whose role is to support and monitor all aspects of programmatic reporting and compliance. Your AmeriCorps program manager will want to develop a robust relationship with your program officer.

Position description: A document that indicates the specific tasks and activities members will be engaging in during their terms of service. Members are only allowed to engage in the activities detailed in your approved position descriptions-activities outside of the scope of the position description are considered unallowable and service hours may not be counted. Position descriptions are also randomly audited throughout the year by CNCS to screen for unallowable activities, so make sure your position descriptions are thorough and compliant.

Pre-service orientation (PSO): A regionally coordinated and executed training that takes place for all VISTA members prior to the start of the term of service. PSO educates members on the VISTA program and strategies for trying to fight poverty. The dates of PSO will dictate the date your VISTA members can start their terms, as well as your deadlines for member nomination, so it’s important to keep these in mind.

State service commission: The agency within each state that oversees national service and volunteer efforts within the state. State Service Commissions receive funding from CNCS to award grants to organizations seeking to run AmeriCorps programs within the state. The State Service Commission are responsible for the oversight and monitoring of the organizations receiving their AmeriCorps resources. If you are a single state operation, you will work with your State Serve Commission to operate your AmeriCorps Program. If you are a multiple state entity, you will receive your funding directly from CNCS and only need to consult with your State Service Commissions.

Term of service: The time period an AmeriCorps member commits to serving when they enroll in an AmeriCorps program. SBP’s state/national members commit to both a date (10 month) and hour (1,700) requirement upon enrollment. If a member completes 1,700 hours before the 10-month term has ended, they are still expected to continue to serve through the end of the 10 months to successfully meet their term requirements. The dates of a term of service should be indicated in a member contract signed by the member and program staff.

VISTA campus: A hub of best practices and information sharing on all aspects of operating an AmeriCorps VISTA program. There are also great resources on this website for your VISTA members as well. Visit the website.

Position Descriptions and Member Activities

There is a great degree of diversity among AmeriCorps programs nationwide. The roles and activities that members serve in should be integral to meeting the community’s needs, allowable according to AmeriCorps regulations and clearly defined in your project application.

The St. Bernard Project found the following roles are well suited for AmeriCorps members, and integral for the successful operation of our model for post-disaster residential reconstruction.

National Direct

  • Site supervisor
  • Supply and logistics coordinator
  • Skilled specialist (electric, plumbing and carpentry)
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Client services coordinator


  • Development VISTA
  • Marketing VISTA


  • Assistant site supervisor – Either prior to a grant of AmeriCorps State/National members or to assist your state/national members in volunteer and site management
  • Supply Runner and Warehouse Assistant – Either prior to a grant of AmeriCorps state/national members or to assist your state/national members in supply delivery and tool maintenance

Common Barriers and Stumbling Blocks

Need to Recruit Enough Members, With the Right Mindset and Attributes

Not enough focus, attention and resources invested in recruitment and interviews. It can be challenging to find a deep pool of talented candidates willing to live in poverty to be of service to your community. You’ll need to be innovative and dedicated in spreading the word and ensuring you are following an aggressive, yet realistic timeline to recruit, interview, select and onboard your members.

Failure to interview for mindset and approach. The interview process is vital for the selection of members that will be successful in their roles and in completing the term. A standardized interviewing system that is consistently used by all individuals conducting interviews is paramount for your success.

Develop a standardized interviewing matrix and train your interviewers. Set clear expectations for the turnaround time for your interviewers to keep candidates moving through the vetting process. See SBP’s sample interviewing matrix in the AmeriCorps documents folder.

Create compelling language that will intrigue the types of individuals you want on your team. Make sure to stress this is not a job, but a stipend-volunteer opportunity, so you do not waste your time on candidates that will not be a fit. Think about how you can stress both the impact members will have and the skill set they will develop. Be innovative about how you spread the word among your networks, the Internet and social media. See samples of SBP’s recruitment materials in the AmeriCorps documents folder.

Lack of Clarity on Grant Regulations

AmeriCorps is a complex, federal grant with specific regulations for both programmatic and fiscal operations, compliance and information maintenance. The need to be organized and nuanced in your understanding of these requirements is extremely important for the health and continued funding of your program. Being out of compliance or lacking the proper documentation can mean you will have to pay back funds you receive or even lose your program.

Educate yourself, it may sound obvious, but read through the whole request for proposal for the programs you are applying and attend the webinars/conference calls. Use sites like National Resource Network and VISTA Campus prior to starting your program so you are informed. Hire an AmeriCorps program manager who will maintain the health of your program. Chances are, all or most of, this person’s salary will be reimbursable to your grant. If they are an AmeriCorps alum, so much the better.

Build up your networks. Invest in your relationships with your program officer and grant officer so you feel comfortable seeking their guidance. Ultimately, they win if your program is a success. Reach out to other AmeriCorps programs in your community to create a dialogue about best practices.

Understand your capabilities, and seek out the appropriate resources. Programs like NCCC and AmeriCorps VISTA require far less organizational investment in program and fiscal operations, compliance and reporting. Operating your own state/national program can be cumbersome, so perhaps it makes more sense to start off by seeking out an organization that grants out teams of members within your community. Be aggressive yet realistic about your organization’s capacity to support, and then identify the resources to match.

Managers Lack of Understanding of AmeriCorps and Their Involvement with Members

While AmeriCorps is a great resource for increasing your organizational impact, there are additional challenges inherent in the program that your staff will need to be aware of. The 10- month term length means a high level of turnover and consistent retraining. Full-time volunteer service is different than employment and members have different motivations than a traditional employee. Members may have less professional experience or role-specific skill sets upon entering the program.

Proper discussion with your management team to review these obstacles and explain the value of AmeriCorps members to your organization will ensure that managers approach their interaction with members with the right mindset. Indicating the passion and energy that members will bring to the project can be powerful motivators to get your managers excited about high-expectations in the AmeriCorps program. Selecting strong members and creating a culture for performance and accountability will ensure that managers see the value and results of their investment.

Insufficient Systems for Fiscal and Program Grant Management and Data Tracking-Be Audit Ready

AmeriCorps requires heavy amounts of fiscal and programmatic compliance and information tracking in order to make sure you are able to provide the necessary back-up documentation to demonstrate your impact and adherence to regulations. Of particular importance – member confidential/personnel files, service hour tracking, performance measure tracking, performance evaluations, position descriptions and fiscal documentation to indicate both CNCS and match funds expended. Insufficient documentation can result in penalties, fines and potentially the loss of your program grant.

The development of fiscal and programmatic systems and standards prior to the start of program will be extremely important in making sure you have the necessary documentation. Reach out to your resources-other AmeriCorps programs, staff at your Service – as well as visit websites, such as the National Service Knowledge Network and VISTA Campus, to gather examples of successful systems and best practices. Make compliance and information storage a priority for your staff, and invest time into making sure this is done correctly.

Ineffective Training and Poor Member Performance. Decline in Member Morale and Compassion Fatigue. Finishing Strong When the End is in Sight.

Transitioning between jobs can be a stressful experience. Since members have a defined term of service, typically 10 months, your organization will continually have to confront members in this situation. Some members will decide to stay for an additional term of service, or have clearly defined post-term job or school plans – while others may face uncertainty. This may cause a dip in morale and member output may decrease. This can have negative implications on your organizational goals, as well as frustrate members who are continuing to serve with your organization.

Invest in supporting members in their post-term planning. At SBP, we offer interviewing and resume workshops-both to members as a group and during individual counseling sessions-in the months preceding the end of the term. Managers throughout the organization also invest energy into assisting members in networking within their field of interest.


AmeriCorps: Become a part of the St.Bernard Project

AmeriCorps: VISTA project application instructions

Introduction to AmeriCorps members: A presentation for Americorp grant applicants

SBP’s AmeriCorps application

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