Got a plan? Need some hands?
AmeriCorps Members serve in community organizations, helping them achieve their mission through direct service and expanding community volunteer support. Community agencies design the program and service activities for AmeriCorps members to carry out. Individuals who want to serve apply directly to AmeriCorps programs that match their interests.
- What is AmeriCorps?
It is a National Service program that
- helps community organizations implement proven solutions to local needs. engages citizens of all ages in service that is more intensive than that of local volunteers.
- provides additional volunteer human resources to community agencies dealing with pressing human, environmental, educational, and public safety needs.
- AmeriCorps service terms vary from 300 to 1700 hours per year.
- in which the size of the crew is determined by the program you design.
- AmeriCorps programs do not have "just one." It's a team effort by 5 to 100 AmeriCorps members.
- fosters local collaboration.
- AmeriCorps programs are designed by sets of partners working on a common issue. Each may host an AmeriCorps member to work on a specific element of the solution but all are working towards the same change.
- awards 3-year grants of certified positions and funding to support the AmeriCorps members during their term of service.
- shares the cost of AmeriCorps program efforts with the program grantee and community.
- What AmeriCorps can do in Maine
AmeriCorps members serve with a single organization for up to 12 months at a time and help in one of three ways:
- Increase the amount of service provided through an evidence-based program in order to overcome unusual demand or delay in accessing the service.
- Provide new services to an organization’s clients/customers through an evidence-based program in order to address an unmet need.
- Extend to a new population or region a proven program model that addresses a local need.
AmeriCorps service is focused on
- Public safety including disaster response and recovery;
- Education in schools and the community including literacy, workforce readiness, ESL, STEM, and school readiness;
- Environmental stewardship, climate adaptation, and community resilience;
- Housing issues including home repairs, increasing accessibility, retrofitting for energy conservation, and addressing needs of unhoused people;
- Human needs including health, jobs, food security, aging, support for military families, veterans services, substance misuse prevention and recovery, and more;
- Building the capacity of communities and agencies to engage citizen volunteers in the services provided.
- AmeriCorps is the “Domestic Peace Corps.”
As AmeriCorps members carry out the direct service, they also build the capacity of the grant recipient to sustain the work after the start-up and implementation “boost” from AmeriCorps. During their service, AmeriCorps members recruit community volunteers to serve alongside them and implement volunteer management systems that help the agency document volunteer contributions to service accomplishments.
The third goal of AmeriCorps is to develop the skills, knowledge, and abilities of those who serve. The development focuses not only on the service work but also community and civic engagement, enabling these individuals to lead community initiatives after their year of service. The training, certifications, and skill development AmeriCorps members gain during service prepares them for jobs and enhances their employment opportunities.
- Who funds AmeriCorps?
Grant funds for AmeriCorps programs are federal dollars in the approved budget of the federal AmeriCorps agency. Created by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, AmeriCorps is the federal agency for national service and volunteerism. It provides opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds to serve their country, address the nation’s most pressing challenges, and improve lives and communities.
Volunteer Maine, the state service commission, awards the state AmeriCorps program grants using funds allocated to Maine. The Commission also provides training and technical assistance to potential applicants. Requests for applications are issued at least twice each year and the Commission selects grant recipients through a the competitive selection process.
- What organizations are eligible to apply for AmeriCorps grants?
Maine AmeriCorps programs are funded by grant awards to
- state, regional, and local government agencies,
- faith-based organizations, and
- educational institutions, school districts, colleges, or universities.
AmeriCorps State programs must operate only in Maine and benefit the residents of Maine communities. Local partners can be any type of organization listed above.
- Traits of a strong AmeriCorps program
AmeriCorps programs have all the traits of a high quality volunteer program.
High quality volunteer program means grantees:
- have a thorough understanding of the scale and scope of the local community issue that includes consulting with those who are directly effected by the problem;
- identified a service activity to meet the need, one that has been proven effective by evaluators;
- have designed roles, responsibilities, tasks, training, supervision, and supports for volunteers including a workplan that sequences program implementation;
- have a recruitment plan for volunteers that is based on the roles and an outreach plan to engage service beneficiaries;
- know what performance data and evaluation tools will help assess program quality, efficiency, and impact;
- engaged committed partners who will help with training, supervision, implementation, evaluation, the local share of funding, and connections to the community or individuals that will benefit.
- AmeriCorps grants provide two resources
AmeriCorps grants award certified positions - with special status under labor laws - and funding to support the AmeriCorps members. AmeriCorps members must add value to an agency. By law, they may not take on or replace the work of employees or existing volunteers.
AmeriCorps grants partially cover the expense of operating an AmeriCorps program and do not cover general organizational expenses. Additional cash and in-kind resources are required.
Some federal agencies (notably (HUD, OJJDP, Interior, Education, FEMA, USDA) allow their funds to be used as part of the AmeriCorps grantee share. For more information, reach out to Commission staff.
Every program must raise some non-federal cash as part of the local share. State or municipal public funds as well as private donations from corporate, philanthropic, nonprofit, or individuals can be used as match. Grantees must also follow state and federal regulations for receiving and using public funds.
In AmeriCorps, the term “in-kind” is restricted to non-cash resources provided to the program by third parties. Resources paid by the applicant organization from unrestricted funds (space, office supplies, etc.) are considered cash support because these can be identified in the agency accounting system. Both in-kind and cash typically make up the local grantee share.
- How to get started
Volunteer Maine frequently offers one year planning grants that let community coalitions and organizations design a strong AmeriCorps program. There are also local agencies who have hosted AmeriCorps members for years and are ready to "run their own show" by having a grant for their own program.
To explore your idea or discuss any of the options for planning, contact Michael Ashmore, Program Development and Training, at the Commission. (Michael.Ashmore@maine.gov, 207-624-7792)