The Connecticut Office of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announces an opportunity, subject to availability of resources, to develop new AmeriCorps VISTA projects in Connecticut. The CNCS Connecticut Office seeks concept papers from innovative, high-performing and outcome-driven organizations that share the VISTA mission of providing long term solutions to poverty. This Request for Concept Papers is open to organizations that are NOT current VISTA project sponsors. Please share this notice with your networks, and contact the CNCS Connecticut Office at CT@cns.gov with any questions.
OVERVIEW OF CNCS
CNCS (www.nationalservice.gov) is a federal government agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its core programs: Senior Corps and AmeriCorps. As the nation’s largest grant-maker for service and volunteering, CNCS plays a critical role in strengthening America’s nonprofit sector and addressing our nation’s challenges through service. The mission of CNCS is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
OVERVIEW OF AMERICORPS VISTA
Founded in 1965, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is a federal national service program that provides needed resources to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to increase their capacity to lift Americans out of poverty. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs, housed at CNCS.
AmeriCorps VISTA supports efforts to alleviate poverty by recruiting Americans 18 years and older from a diverse range of backgrounds to dedicate a year of full-time service with a sponsoring organization to create or expand programs designed to empower individuals and communities in overcoming poverty.
ELIGIBILITY TO SUBMIT VISTA CONCEPT PAPER
Public organizations such as state and local government, Indian Tribes, and non-profit private organizations are eligible to submit a VISTA concept paper with a proposal for a VISTA project. Please note that eligible non-profit private organizations are not limited to those with IRS 501(c)(3) status, but rather all organizations with IRS 501(c) status that focus on anti-poverty community development; organizations that focus solely on advocacy and lobbying are not eligible.
Successful applicants will be able to direct a VISTA project, recruit and supervise the VISTA members, and provide necessary administrative support to complete the goals of the VISTA project. VISTA project sponsors develop and manage projects with the involvement of the communities that will be served.
AMERICORPS VISTA FRAMEWORK
All prospective applicants must review the 2018 AmeriCorps VISTA Program Guidance.
VISTA projects are to be developed in accordance with AmeriCorps VISTA’s core principles:
Anti-Poverty Focus – The purpose of VISTA is to support efforts to fight poverty. The project should address helping individuals and communities out of poverty, not simply making poverty more tolerable through short-term services.
Community Empowerment – Organizations sponsoring VISTA projects ensure that the project engages residents of low-income communities in planning, developing, and implementing the project. The VISTA project must be responsive and relevant to the lives of the community residents, and it should tap into inherent community assets, strengths, and resources.
Capacity Building – VISTA members do not provide direct services to low-income individuals; rather, they work to increase the capacity of organizations to fight poverty. Through activities such as fundraising, establishment of community volunteer recruitment and management systems, community outreach, and collaborative development, VISTA members mobilize local resources to achieve lasting solutions to poverty.
Sustainable Solutions – VISTA members provide short-term human resources to build long-term sustainability of anti-poverty programs. All VISTA projects should be developed with the goal to phase out the need for VISTA members and strengthen the ability of the project to continue without VISTA support.
PROGRAM FOCUS AREAS
Concept papers should address one or more of the following CNCS focus areas:
Economic Opportunity: Improving or creating job skills training programs, connecting families and individuals to emergency housing and transitional services, providing affordable permanent housing, and improving access to financial literacy programs.
Education: Developing or expanding programs that promote school readiness, educational achievement and engagement, and/or post-secondary success among economically disadvantaged children and youth.
Healthy Futures: Improving access to healthy, affordable food and health care, and response to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Veterans and Military Families: Engaging veterans in service and/or serving low-income veterans and military families under one or more of the Economic Opportunity, Education, and Healthy Future focus areas.
Further details can be found in the 2018 AmeriCorps VISTA Program Guidance. (https://www.nationalservice.gov/documents/2017/fy-2018-program-guidance-americorps-vista)
The CNCS Connecticut Office specifically is seeking applications from individual organizations or collaborating organizations that can support a minimum of four VISTA members and preferably more. The CNCS Connecticut Office is also interested in expanding the geographical diversity of current VISTA projects; therefore, organizations serving low-income residents in eastern Connecticut, Waterbury, or Fairfield County will be given special consideration. Furthermore, the CNCS Connecticut Office is seeking applicants to provide programming to address the opioid epidemic. Please visit National Service Response to Opioid Epidemic on the CNCS Web site (www.nationalservice.gov) for more information.
The CNCS Connecticut Office seeks to support organizations that demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed VISTA project in addressing a clearly identified community need. Evidence of effectiveness could include past performance, results from credible research, or results from a similar successful program.
VISTA projects are considered for renewal on a year-to-year basis, depending upon availability of resources, program performance and CNCS priorities. Smaller VISTA projects typically last three years, while larger multi-site projects might be extended for a longer period of time. From the beginning of the VISTA project planning process, organizations and the community must think about how to use the project to phase in other resources and systems to replace the VISTA resources once they end.
COST SHARE OF AMERICORPS VISTA MEMBERS
While VISTA regulations do not require a non-federal match, the Corporation for National and Community Service looks to VISTA project sponsors to help pay the living allowances for some of the project’s VISTA members. This allows CNCS to maximize federal resources and to keep the federal cost of VISTA members to a minimum.
Currently, the living allowances for Connecticut VISTA members range from $12,300 to $21,600 per year. Organizations that are able to financially support one or more VISTA members’ living allowances should indicate this in their concept paper.
The goal of the CNCS Connecticut Office is to have the cost of one out of every four VISTA members shared by the sponsoring organization in year one (Example: programs with four VISTA members would have one VISTA member would be a “cost share” member, with the VISTA project sponsor paying the living allowance amount of $12,300-$21,600).
CRITERIA FOR APPROVAL
Criteria for approval are based on whether the proposed project does the following:
- Clearly documents how the proposed project fits with one or more of the CNCS focus areas.
- Addresses the needs of low-income communities.
- Leads to building organizational capacity so that the project can continue once VISTA resources are withdrawn.
- Involves beneficiaries of the service and the low-income community in project development and implementation.
- Designed to generate public and/or private-sector resources.
- Promotes local volunteer service.
- Complies with the provisions of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, as amended; 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, VISTA regulations; and VISTA policies.
Approval is also based on whether the applicant meets the following criteria:
- Has been designated as a non-profit by the Internal Revenue Service, or is a local or state government agency, or is a Native American Tribe.
- Has resources available for VISTA members to perform their activities, such as space, supplies, and on-the-job transportation, and is able to provide emergency cash advances to VISTAs when needed.
- Has the management capacity and commitment to recruit, train, supervise, and otherwise support VISTAs recruited locally and nationally.
- Understands and is committed to promoting national and community service.
- Has the capacity to build community partnerships and collaborative efforts to achieve project self-sufficiency.
The CNCS Connecticut Office will hold a technical assistance call/webinar about this Request for Concept Papers on Tuesday, November 7 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Please email CT@cns.gov with your name, organization name, email, and phone number to register and receive dial-in details.
CONCEPT PAPER SUBMISSION
CNCS requires that all applicants submit applications electronically via the CNCS web-based application system, eGrants. For VISTA applications this is a two-step process which includes a concept paper application and a full application.
Prior to submitting a concept paper, first download a copy of the AmeriCorps VISTA Concept Paper Instructions. (https://www.nationalservice.gov/documents/2016/americorps-vista-concept-paper-instructions)
If your organization has not used the CNCS eGrants system before, you will need to create an account using the instructions on this page: http://www.nationalservice.gov/egrants/
When you are ready to apply, go to: https://egrants.cns.gov/espan/main/login.jsp
Once you have logged into your eGrants account, select Concept Paper under Creating an Application. The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) name is FY 2018 AmeriCorps VISTA STATE.
eGrants is designed and tested to work with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Applicants experiencing technical issues with eGrants should contact the National Service Hotline by phone at 1-800-942-2677 or by submitting a Web form at: https://questions.nationalservice.gov/app/ask
Only concept papers submitted by 11:59 p.m. on December 1, 2017 will be considered.
Successful applicants will demonstrate familiarity with the following resources (all available at www.nationalservice.gov or www.VISTAcampus.gov):
2018 AmeriCorps VISTA Program Guidance
AmeriCorps VISTA Concept Paper Instructions
Sponsor an AmeriCorps VISTA Project
Developing Performance Measures
VISTA 101: Understanding VISTA (online tutorial)
VISTA 201: How to apply for an AmeriCorps VISTA Project
How to Create and Manage an eGrants Account
(Online learning environment for the AmeriCorps VISTA community; contains tutorials,
interactive courses, toolkits, guides, manuals, and links to resources)
October 24, 2017
Request for Concept Papers issued.
October 31, 2017
Deadline to register for November 7 Webinar by emailing CT@cns.gov.
November 7, 2017
Technical assistance Webinar for interested applicants to be held at 10:00 a.m. For those unable to attend, email CT@cns.gov to request alternate date/time.
December 1, 2017
Deadline for submitting concept papers.
Week of December 26, 2017
CNCS staff will notify organizations if their concept papers have been approved and provide guidance to approved applicants on the next steps of the application process. A Webinar will be held during the month of January 2017 for successful applicants.
February 9, 2018
Deadline for organizations with approved concept papers to submit a full project application via eGrants. All supporting documents are also due on February 9.
March 2, 2018
CNCS staff will notify organizations of decisions on applications and proceed with final approval processing of accepted applications.
April 17-20, 2018
Projects attend supervisor orientation
Projects begin recruiting VISTA candidates
June 15, 2018
Projects submit VISTA candidate recommendations to CNCS for final approval.
August 7-10, 2018
VISTA candidates attend pre-service orientation.
August 11, 2018
VISTA members begin 12-month term of service.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Corporation for National and Community Service, 135 High Street, Room 272, Hartford, CT 06103,
860-240-3240 OR 860-240-3237, CT@cns.gov