Citation: AmeriCorps expects State Commissions and National Direct applicants to consult and coordinate activities at the local level, as specified in Section 131 of the National and Community Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 12583).
AmeriCorps State and National programs both place members in communities to provide direct service that addresses a local need. AmeriCorps State programs are selected and funded by each state service commission. Volunteer Maine is a state service commission. AmeriCorps National Direct programs are operated by multi-state organizations (e.g., nationwide or regional agencies). They apply directly to the federal AmeriCorps agency, are selected through a federally-run process, and administered directly by the federal agency.
This parallel process for directing AmeriCorps resources to communities has many potential pitfalls that require coordination. The federal AmeriCorps law addressed this issue by requiring every organization applying for an AmeriCorps National Direct program, must consult with each state in which the applicant proposes to place service members during development of a proposal (i.e., before submitting a proposal). Consultation means providing information about the overall AmeriCorps program and information about how many members will be placed, where members will serve in a state, what they will be doing, and the goals for the placement.
Consultation with Volunteer Maine is not just about fulfilling the requirement. Commissions are charged with identifying the needs of their state and using National Service resources to address the needs, there is significant opportunity for national AmeriCorps programs to be out of step with Commission efforts and for AmeriCorps members serving in a state to be isolated from others serving nearby.
Commissions advise CNCS about the “fit” or desire to have these programs in their states using a limited feedback loop. The request for feedback and deadline is always short but is predictably in February because the federal review process needs the information as it starts considering applications submitted. .
When asked by the federal AmeriCorps agency to provide input on state support for a proposal, the Maine Commission's Grant Selection and Performance Task Force uses a formal process and policy. The uniform consultation form (see below) provides the summary of the proposal and Commission staff report whether consultation has occurred. According to policy, each proposal submitted to the federal AmeriCorps agency gets one of these ratings in the federal grant system:
- Support: Consultation occurred in a timely manner. The proposed project addresses a need identified by the Commission as a priority issue to be addressed by national service programs. The partners or affiliates in Maine that would host AmeriCorps members are likely to succeed in meeting the need, involving the community, and supporting the AmeriCorps member. If there is a potential conflict with an existing AmeriCorps program (State, National, or VISTA), the applicant has shown a willingness to collaborate in order to maximize impact of both programs and minimize competition or confusion in the community.
- Neutral: Consultation occurred in a timely manner. The proposed project does not address a need identified by the Commission as a priority issue to be addressed by national service programs. It is unclear whether the partners or affiliates in Maine that would host AmeriCorps members are likely to succeed in meeting the need, involving the community, and supporting the AmeriCorps member. If there is a potential conflict with an existing AmeriCorps program (State, National, or VISTA), the applicant’s willingness to collaborate in order to maximize impact of both programs and minimize competition or confusion in the community is unclear or absent.
- Do not support: Consultation did not occur. The purpose of the project, need to be addressed, involvement of the community, targets for impact, and other key aspects of the proposal are unknown.
Summary Consultation Form (one for all states)
America's Service Commissions (ASC)* hosts and distributes the online National Direct Consultation single form to initiate and streamline consultation between multi-state applicants and state service commissions. For several years, 100% have used this system and use of the online form initiates the consultation process.
Consultation requirements may vary by state. Consultation is not completed unless you meet all the requirements by an individual state service commission. ASC strongly encourages multi-state applicants (national directs) to contact the relevant state service commission(s) as early as possible in order to begin a dialogue related to your proposed placement of AmeriCorps members. This may help inform your application to AmeriCorps based on suggestions the state service commission(s) may offer based on need in the state, existing AmeriCorps program placement, and other factors to consider.
Use the link above (red button) to access a PDF of the consultation form (use to prepare information), the link to the online form, and a list of state commission contacts for consultation.
*ASC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization representing and promoting state service commissions across the United States and territories. It is a peer network of governor-appointed commissioners and state service commission professional staff.