21-22 Guidance & Curriculum for AmeriCorps Planning Grantees

Date: 
09/07/2021
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Guidance & Curriculum for AmeriCorps Planning Grantees 2021-2022

 

 
   

 

Guidance. 2

Volunteer Iowa 2021-2022 Planning Grant Curriculum.. 12

Self Assessment & Learning Plan. 12

Introduction to AmeriCorps, National Service, and Volunteer Iowa. 13

Financial Management 15

Theory of Change & Logic Model 16

Performance Measures & Data Collection. 18

Budget Development & Budget Management 20

Member Human Resources- Recruitment, Enrollment, & Files. 21

Member Human Resources- Member Activities, Time Tracking, & Exits. 23

Member Human Resources & Member Support- Member Benefits & Training. 25

Host Site Management 26

Program Management Policies & Procedures, including National Service Criminal History Checks  27

Theory of Change- Part II, including Continuous Improvement 28

Member HR & Support- Part II, including Education Awards & Life After AmeriCorps. 28

Financial Management- Part II, including Sustainability. 28

AmeriCorps Program Staff Professional & Leadership Development 28

 

 

 

Guidance

 

Part 1: Introduction

The overarching goal of an AmeriCorps Planning Grant is to help your organization explore AmeriCorps and National Service and create the foundational elements for future successful application for and implementation of an AmeriCorps program.  The curriculum, webinars, and other support provided during the initial planning grant period will help you develop narratives and other tools to write an application for an AmeriCorps grant.  Should you determine that AmeriCorps State is a good fit and you move forward to the final stage of the planning period, you will also prepare to implement an AmeriCorps program. Throughout the entire planning grant process, you will be building your organizational capacity to manage an AmeriCorps State (and other) federal grant.

 

Structure of the Planning Grant

Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State planning grant award recipients will spend up to one year planning for and developing the necessary tools to operate a successful AmeriCorps State program.  Volunteer Iowa has divided the year into Phase 1 and Phase 2.  Phase 1 lasts for approximately 6 months, at which time you can request an extension for an additional 6 months (Phase 2) for up to 12 total months of planning time. Phase I is focused primarily on the goal of developing the components of a strong program design prior to submitting the application for program funding to Volunteer Iowa, while Phase II is focused primarily on the goal of developing forms, policies, procedures, and systems (if they don’t already exist) to ensure a successful and compliant AmeriCorps program.

This guidance document is intended to provide a brief introduction to management of an AmeriCorps planning grant, highlight support and resources available, help you consider some program planning topics, and give you a jump start on learning the key rules and regulations (and where to find them) that are critical to managing a strong AmeriCorps program.  It will also give you guidance about the expectations for developing the infrastructure to support a strong AmeriCorps program. 

The curriculum outlined at the end of this document is a guide and will be continually updated as we discover new materials and finalize what activities should be included in the last stages of the planning grant period.  The curriculum involves participating in training and completing assignments; some of which will be delivered by Volunteer Iowa and some which is self-guided.  You will submit reports of your progress on a quarterly basis.  You will be supported through regular check-in calls to discuss accomplishments and answer questions.

You will also regularly reference the “21-22 Required Documents for Planning Grantees,” the Training Calendar, and other resources.  Please reach out to Volunteer Iowa staff with questions as you go forward.  We are very excited that you are one of our grantees and wish you much success in planning your proposed AmeriCorps program!

 

Objectives:

  • Grantees will understand the AmeriCorps and National Service landscape, how to write a successful grant application, and the foundational pieces of a strong AmeriCorps program
  • Grantees will develop a strong AmeriCorps program design with a thorough theory of change including a well-researched community need, intervention, and performance measures.
  • Grantees will create the partnerships, policies and procedures, and documents necessary to run a successful AmeriCorps program.
  • Grantees will build the organizational capacity necessary to effectively manage the federal AmeriCorps grant.

 

Progress & Financial Reporting:

Volunteer Iowa wants your organization to be ready write an AmeriCorps grant, to run an AmeriCorps program and to use the Planning Grant period as the preparation time.  We will evaluate your progress along the way and provide feedback to support thorough planning of the AmeriCorps program. Your progress in the initial phase of the planning grant process will determine if your grant is eligible to be extended for the full year.  See the Volunteer Iowa Required Documents for Planning Grantees handout for more details on the content for each quarterly report as well as the Volunteer Iowa grant agreement for other reporting requirements.

  • Quarter 1 – Key Deliverables
    • Monthly Claims
    • Planning Grant Start Forms
    • Quarterly Progress Report, including:
      • Self Assessment & Learning Plan
      • Theory of Change and Logic Model drafts
      • Plans for high quality Member Experience
      • In-person or virtual site visit with Iowa AmeriCorps State program
  • Quarter 2 – Key Deliverables
    • Monthly Claims
    • Planning Grant Start Forms
    • Quarterly Progress Report, including:
      • Performance Measure(s) and Data Collection Plan
      • Budget Narrative for proposed AmeriCorps program
  • Quarter 3 & 4 – Key Deliverables
    • Monthly Claims
    • Planning Grant Start Forms
    • Quarterly Progress Reports, including:
      • Member Service Agreement & Host Site Agreement
      • Member Recruitment & Enrollment Plan
      • Member Position Descriptions
      • Member Orientation/Training/Supervision Plan
      • Host Site Orientation/Training/Evaluation Plan, if applicable
      • Member Service Agreement & Performance Evaluation templates
      • Member Timesheet/Time Tracking Tools
      • NSCHC Policies & Procedures, Vendor Accounts set up

 

Overview of Volunteer Iowa

Volunteer Iowa is part of a network of state service commissions throughout the United States that exist to foster a bi-partisan state-level commitment to advancing service initiatives as well as developing, communicating, and promoting a statewide vision and ethic of service.  The Iowa commission is comprised of 25 governor-appointed individuals.  Volunteer Iowa, its commissioners, staff, and partner agencies work with organizations and individuals on three main fronts, by:

 

  1. Helping agencies develop quality programs that use service as a strategy to fulfill their missions and address Iowa’s greatest areas of need,
  2. helping engage Iowans in their communities by promoting service and expanding the volunteer base, and
  3. connecting individuals with appropriate service opportunities by building the volunteer infrastructure.
     

Overview of AmeriCorps State and National

AmeriCorps State and National programs are made up of local, regional, and national organizations that use national service to address critical community needs.  These organizations are awarded grants to recruit, train, and place AmeriCorps members to address the community needs through service.  AmeriCorps State programs are funded through State Service Commissions.  In Iowa, AmeriCorps State programs are funded through Volunteer Iowa.  AmeriCorps National programs are funded directly by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), now known as “AmeriCorps” through national grant competitions.  The key difference between these two types of AmeriCorps programs, other than their funding mechanism, is that AmeriCorps State programs serve a single state and AmeriCorps National programs serve multiple states.

 

Overview of IowaGrants

IowaGrants is the grant management system Volunteer Iowa uses for all reporting and fiscal administration.  All Iowa AmeriCorps programs will need to create user accounts for any personnel who are engaged in grant management, including but not limited to program managers and accounting staff (staff should not be using a single login).  Additionally, some of the steps necessary to apply for the next AmeriCorps grant will take place in IowaGrants.  The Planning Grant Guidance will include a calendar of reporting and grant management requirements and due dates.

Programs can find many things in IowaGrants beyond the required Start Forms, filing of claims and other required reporting, as spelled out in the grant agreement.  IowaGrants includes items like a signed copy of the program’s grant agreement and any amendments, the link to the funding notice the grant was submitted under, and a link to CNCS’s Performance Measurement Guidance for the grant year.  It would be beneficial to spend some time getting familiar with IowaGrants. 

 

Part 2: Support and Resources

Volunteer Iowa has program officers assigned to all of its AmeriCorps programs and planning grants.  In addition to your program officer, there is a compliance officer that will assist planning grants throughout the grant period.  Volunteer Iowa also regularly contracts with consultants in the national service field who provide training, mentoring, and technical assistance to our grantees, so planning grants may be assigned to work with some of these experts.  Volunteer Iowa staff are available for any help concerning your AmeriCorps Planning Grant.  Volunteer Iowa will work with you to establish who your agency contacts will be at the start of the grant.  If those contacts change, please contact your program officer immediately with the new contact information. The program officer will ensure that these contacts are included in email updates.

We want to let you know about some additional support and resources available to you during the planning grant period.  To be as successful as possible during the planning grant period, we highly recommend that you can advantage of any and all resources you can.  Here’s a summary of the resources.

 

Volunteer Iowa Planning Grant Monthly Group Webinars & Individual Check-Ins

Volunteer Iowa will invite planning grantees to our regular monthly webinar for AmeriCorps State programs.  Planning grantees will be expected to have at least one representative attend each month.  Additional check-in calls will also be scheduled with individual programs on a regular basis to ensure that each planning grantee is making adequate progress and has their specific concerns addressed.  These regular calls will likely be conducted by our TA providers.

 

Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State Updates

You will receive a weekly email update from Volunteer Iowa staff that includes updates on policy and program development, sharing of information, reminders of due dates for items, and in some instances, requests for information from you.  The regular update is an important communication tool from Volunteer Iowa, so we ask that you please review it closely.  The messages are usually titled “AmeriCorps State Update.”  All programs are expected to have at least one person (but can have others) registered to get the weekly email update.

 

AmeriCorps Program Manual

AmeriCorps program staff receive a comprehensive manual each year that is updated to reflect new policies, updates, and other new information.  The manual includes chapters on AmeriCorps State and Volunteer Iowa, Grant and Program Management, Member Management, Fiscal Oversight and Monitoring.  Additionally, it includes many monitoring documents and templates.  This manual is available to all programs on Volunteer Iowa’s website at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/americorps/current-americorps-grantee-resources.  As a planning grantee we encourage you to become familiar with its contents as you plan for an operational program.

 

AmeriCorps/Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Webinars or Conference Calls

The federal AmeriCorps agency (also known as CNCS) occasionally holds webinars or conference calls throughout the year on topics of interest to AmeriCorps grantees.  The list of topics is developed based on their assessment of grantee needs and requests. Topics might include performance measurement, criminal history check procedures, or the My AmeriCorps Portal.   Volunteer Iowa includes some previously recorded calls in its planning grant curriculum, and will inform planning grants about upcoming calls when they are relevant. 

 

AmeriCorps Online Resources

The AmeriCorps federal agency maintains a section of its website where state commission subgrantees, such as Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State planning grantees, can locate information and resources related to national service: https://americorps.gov/grantees-sponsors/state-subgranteeshttps://www.nationalservice.gov/resources.  In addition, CNCS posts many grant-specific trainings and resources during the application period and these may be particularly helpful to planning grants as you develop your program design and grant components; find them by searching for the current AmeriCorps State and National funding opportunity at: https://americorps.gov/partner/funding-opportunities.

 

Volunteer Iowa Professional Development Opportunities

Volunteer Iowa typically offers a variety of professional development trainings through Volunteer Iowa and/or other partners.  Sometimes these are regionally based across the state or offered in the Des Moines region.  Planning grants are typically invited to these trainings.  Volunteer Iowa will share details about the opportunities when they are available.

 

Part 3: Program Planning Considerations

The planning grant year will begin with you preparing to submit an AmeriCorps application. Volunteer Iowa will announce its next Iowa AmeriCorps funding opportunity in late summer or early fall.  Typically, planning grantees submit an application for formula funding only, with a final due date sometime in the spring of next year. 

 

Phase I

As you read the application instructions and request for applications, you’ll see the many considerations in developing an AmeriCorps State program.  The components you’ll develop will include a need statement, theory of change, logic model, evidence base, member activities, and a budget.  You should communicate regularly with your program officer to help you think through the components of a strong program design, strong member recruitment and development plans, and the systems you’ll need to manage an effective program.

 

Theory of Change

Early in your planning period, you should spend time identifying the community problems/need you’ll address, look for evidence that will document the severity of the problem, develop member activities (interventions) that will be effective in addressing the problem(s), select performance measures for your proposed program, and determine how you’ll measure your program’s impact through performance measures.  CNCS has national performance measures, so you’ll want to become familiar with them early to determine if any of those standardized outputs and outcomes align well with your program design.  Additionally, the CNCS performance measures all have specific definitions and data collection requirements for using national performance measures so you’ll want to be sure that you are able to meet those expectations if you elect to use a national performance measure.  Otherwise, your program will be responsible for developing your own performance measures, specific to your program activities.

 

Organizational Capacity & Grant Financial Management

A little later during the Phase I period, you’ll begin reviewing and working on your financial policies.  This is an important step in ensuring your organization is prepared to manage the federal AmeriCorps grant.  You must have a financial management system that tracks your AmeriCorps grant finances accurately and completely.  The many components for the financial management system include:

  • Adequate practices that address regulatory requirements
  • Written policies and procedures
  • Documentation of expenses
  • Cash management systems
  • An efficient accounting system
  • Budget controls
  • Time and activity documentation
  • Documentation of matching requirements and in-kind contributions
  • Timely, complete, and accurate reporting
  • Internal controls

Here are some important considerations for new AmeriCorps grantees:

  • AmeriCorps grants must be tracked separately from other grants and programs, and
  • Staff identified in the AmeriCorps grant budget, whether paid by CNCS funds or the match (called “Grantee Share” in CNCS budget) must maintain timesheets that document the actual time spent on the AmeriCorps grant.

Identification of Host Sites

At the end of the Phase I period and the beginning of the Phase II period, you’ll continue to work on your identification of host sites or your plan to secure them.  Volunteer Iowa encourages its AmeriCorps programs to use a competitive site selection process.  You should ensure that the site selection plan includes the criteria in the regulations and includes any special considerations.  This would be a good time to consider items like whether you’ll use the sites as part of your budget match, either in-kind or as cash match, and the sites’ role in member recruitment.  As you consider all of the pieces to establishing your host sites, please reach out to Volunteer Iowa staff with any questions. 

 

Phase II

Policies & Procedures

In regard to systems, we’ve set up the planning grant period so that you can focus primarily on making sure those are in place during Phase II.  You’ll spend time during the planning grant period confirming that you have financial management policies/systems and developing written policies and procedures for grant and AmeriCorps member management and for data collection.  You’ll also want to begin developing forms and tools that will be used as you start your grant, such as site and member service agreements.  As with the program design development, we encourage you to regularly communicate with your program officer as you put forms, policies and systems in place.

 

During Phase II of the planning period, you should develop policies and procedures to lay the framework for how your program will be managed.  Policies that are well-written and procedures that are comprehensive will help your AmeriCorps program run effectively and efficiently.  Many policies will be mandated by grant requirements, but some policies will be tailored to your proposed AmeriCorps program and your sponsor.  You should refer to the regulations and grant terms and conditions (mentioned in the section below) to give you guidance on developing your policies.  As you work to develop forms, a good practice is to start with an existing program’s forms.  Often these can be modified to meet your needs, rather than creating a form from scratch.  Please reach out to your program officer for assistance.

 

Member Management

As national service participants, AmeriCorps members have different and unique needs and expectations than an organization’s regular employees and volunteers.  During the planning grant period, you’ll need to prepare your member management system to manage AmeriCorps members and ensure they have a meaningful service experience.  Overall, member management includes development of member service agreements, member position descriptions, member recruitment plan, member orientation, member training, setting up member payroll systems, and more.

Before AmeriCorps members start their service, they must sign a Member Service Agreement (MSA).  The MSA is an important tool to ensure that AmeriCorps members understand what is expected of them.  It can be useful to develop a draft member contract during the planning period.  You will need to refer to the requirements outlined in the Volunteer Iowa Member Service Agreement Checklist (template available).

 

Member Recruitment

During Phase II, it will be helpful for you to consider and plan for important aspects of member recruitment, eligibility, and suitability, including completing the following tasks:

  • Gain an understanding of the minimum requirements for all AmeriCorps members (see regulations 45 CFR 2522.200-45 CFR 2522.210),
  • Familiarize yourself with the background check requirements and enhance your policy to accommodate AmeriCorps members’ checks and review,
  • Determine whether your proposed program would recruit nationally and/or locally and clarify who would be responsible for recruiting members (e.g. sponsor organization, host site),
  • Identify local recruitment partners, site and sources.  These may be at the organizational level and/or at the site level.  Programs should make an effort to recruit individuals from the local communities being served,
  • Review two online national recruitment systems available to you: the eGrants/MyAmeriCorps Portal (through CNCS) and ServiceYr.org (through Volunteer Iowa),
  • Develop member position descriptions (see requirements outlined in the Volunteer Iowa Member Service Agreement Checklist),
  • Develop a strong member training plan,
  • Develop a screening tool to help you assess an applicant’s level of commitment, experience, skills, and ability to serve as a member for the required period of time.

The time you can spend developing a member recruitment plan to find members who are a good match for the program and the site they’ll serve at, along with providing high-quality member support and training, will be very helpful to achieving a high retention rate and program outcomes.

 

Member Training and Orientation

During this time, you’ll also need to dedicate time to developing a plan for member orientation and ongoing training and professional development.  There are a number of topics that are required for member orientation in the regulations and terms and conditions.  Volunteer Iowa has a sample orientation agenda and checklist to make sure you cover all required components.

In addition to the required orientation topics, these are other important topics to consider:

  • Provide an orientation to the community to be served,
  • Go over program rules, regulations, and expectations,
  • Review of the member service agreement,
  • Review of member benefits (living allowance, child care, health insurance, etc.) and information about benefits through the National Service Trust (education award, forbearance, interest payments),
  • Review of the member evaluation, and
  • Provide site-specific information (schedule, dress code, workspace logistics, local community, etc.).

It is important to consider how you’ll provide ongoing member training and support in your proposed program during your planning period.  During members’ service terms, it’s key for programs to provide regular in-service trainings on relevant topics, to provide high-quality supervision, to offer members frequent opportunities to reflect on their service and to connect with other national service participants, and to provide a compelling “Life After AmeriCorps” training at the end of service.  Volunteer Iowa places a large emphasis on AmeriCorps members having a meaningful and positive service experience and these considerations/planning go a long way to achieving that outcome.     

 

Member Development

AmeriCorps member development differs from member training and support and is focused more on personal and professional development.  It is important that programs do all they can to help the AmeriCorps members grow during their service.  Among the things to consider as you plan includes setting clear performance expectations in the beginning, provide constructive feedback throughout their service term, establish regular communication with members, allow for member leadership, and set time for member reflection.  Of course, having strong training and supervision will be critical to member development as well.  Volunteer Iowa encourages AmeriCorps programs to be thoughtful and mindful on both the trainings you will provide and to focus, when possible, on the individual AmeriCorps member’s needs.

 

Site Management

Most AmeriCorps State program models have “host sites”.  Host sites are locations outside of your organization where you will place AmeriCorps members.  Host sites will be included in your theory of change/program design and will help you achieve (and report on) outputs and outcomes.  Effective site management is a critical component of a successful AmeriCorps program.  You’ll want to spend as much time as you can during the planning grant period in developing your site management systems.  The important elements of your system will include a plan for site selection, maintaining regular contact with sites, providing training and technical assistance for your sites, holding sites accountable through oversight and monitoring, and ensuring that sites are committed to outcomes and data collection.

 

During this period of the planning grant (and after you’ve established your plan for identifying and securing host sites), you’ll develop host site agreements.  These agreements will outline the terms of each site’s participation in the AmeriCorps program.  There should be written agreements with operating/host sites as well as any member service sites that are part of the program.  Please see the Volunteer Iowa Program Document Requirements to be sure your agreement meets the requirements.

It’s also important to consider your plan for training site supervisors and maintaining regular, high-quality communication with them with this planning period.  It is often the programs who can do this well that have the most successful outcomes.  AmeriCorps programs need to provide all site supervisors with an initial orientation and annual training.  The orientation should cover the following:

  • AmeriCorps prohibited activities and appropriate AmeriCorps terminology,
  • Nonduplication/nondisplacement,
  • Distinction between the roles of the site versus the role of the program in: member recruitment, member training, member discipline, member support, etc.
  • Goals and objectives of the AmeriCorps program,
  • Basic requirements of the AmeriCorps program,
  • Member timekeeping system and supervisor’s role in the system,
  • Plan for collecting performance measure and other data from the site,
  • Site monitoring tool and schedule, and
  • Program feedback and evaluation opportunities.

Part 4: Rules and Regulations

Volunteer Iowa asks that planning grants spend a significant amount of time during the planning period becoming familiar with the rules and regulations for AmeriCorps grants and where to find them.  In order to run an effective program, grantees must know the rules of AmeriCorps, which can be difficult to navigate even for organizations that have prior Federal grant experience.  In general, AmeriCorps requirements include the authorizing statute, regulations, grant terms and conditions, and CNCS policies.  In addition, some information for grant management is found in the Application Instructions, Notice of Funding Opportunity or application materials, like the Mandatory Supplemental Guidance.  State laws may also be a consideration for some requirements.  Here’s a summary of the requirements and where you can find them.

 

Statute

The Statute that authorizes federal funding for the AmeriCorps program is the National and Community Service Act of 1990. This Act has been amended several times since its original passage in 1990, including by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, and most recently by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act 0f 2009. You can find the full statute here https://americorps.gov/about/agency-overview/statutes-regulations.

 

Regulations

Regulations flow from the statute and are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  The AmeriCorps regulations can be found posted to the AmeriCorps website at https://americorps.gov/about/agency-overview/statutes-regulations.  

 

Terms and Conditions

AmeriCorps grant terms and conditions are issued every year.  AmeriCorps State programs receive these with their grant award.  CNCS also has the current terms and conditions posted online athttps://americorps.gov/sites/default/files/document/2021ASNProgram508TC20210603.pdf. This document will be a primary source of information for you in the day-to-day management of an AmeriCorps program.

 

AmeriCorps State and National Policies

The federal AmeriCorps agency will issue policy guidance throughout the year.  Volunteer Iowa keeps AmeriCorps programs informed through its regular weekly update, program director webinars, and other trainings it provides.  AmeriCorps also has a resource page for “state subgrantees” which refers to grantees like you whose grants are awarded and monitored by a state commission.

 

AmeriCorps Application Materials

AmeriCorps Application Instructions, Notice of Funding Opportunity and other supporting materials are issued every year.  These are distributed by CNCS/AmeriCorps at the national level and Volunteer Iowa incorporates them into the Iowa Request for Applications (RFA).  These documents have some key pieces of information, such as the annual living allowance and education award amounts, performance measure instructions, budget requirements, etc.  The AmeriCorps agency posts its current funding opportunities at https://americorps.gov/partner/funding-opportunities and Volunteer Iowa will post our materials to our website and on IowaGrants.gov.

 

Acknowledgements

Volunteer Iowa gives special thanks to Userve Utah, Serve Washington, Serve Alaska, and the Corporation for National & Community Service (known as the federal AmeriCorps agency) for much of the content included in this guidance and curriculum.

Volunteer Iowa 2021-2022 Planning Grant Curriculum

Self Assessment & Learning Plan

Complete the following chart at the beginning of your planning grant to indicate your self-assessment of your competency level on the following topics.  Use the self-assessment results and suggested timeline to prioritize and plan for your learning during the planning grant period.

Timeline

Curriculum Topic

Current Competency Level

Priority

 

 

Strong

Emerging

Introductory

High/Med/Low

Qtr 1

Introduction to AmeriCorps, National Service, and Volunteer Iowa

 

 

 

 

Qtr 1

Financial Management

 

 

 

 

Qtr 1

Theory of Change & Logic Model

 

 

 

 

Qtr 1

Performance Measures & Data Collection

 

 

 

 

Qtr 2

Budgeting Development & Budget Management

 

 

 

 

Qtr 2

Member Human Resources- Recruitment, Enrollment, & Files               

 

 

 

 

Qtr 2

Member Human Resources- Member Activities, Time Tracking, & Exits

 

 

 

 

Qtr 2

Member Human Resources & Member Support- Member Benefits & Training

 

 

 

 

Qtr 3

Host Site Management

 

 

 

 

Qtr 3

Program Management Policies & Procedures, including National Service Criminal History Checks

 

 

 

 

Qtr 3

Theory of Change- Part II, including Continuous Improvement

 

 

 

 

Qtr 4

Member HR & Support- Part II, including Education Awards & Life After AmeriCorps

 

 

 

 

Qtr 4

Financial Management- Part II, including Sustainability

 

 

 

 

Qtr 4

AmeriCorps Program Staff Professional & Leadership Development

 

 

 

 

           

Introduction to AmeriCorps, National Service, and Volunteer Iowa

 

Welcome to AmeriCorps!  In this module you will learn more about AmeriCorps, National Service, and Volunteer Iowa.  There is a steep learning curve in working with AmeriCorps.  The Volunteer Iowa Planning Grant curriculum will help you gain the foundation you need to understand AmeriCorps.  With that foundation you can build a strong AmeriCorps program.

 

Resources:

  • AmeriCorps Background Information:

ASC Training Series:

 

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Program Manual: Chapter 1- AmeriCorps & Volunteer Iowa information; Chapter 5- AmeriCorps Program Staff Core Competencies
  • Consider the following questions about your expectations for the planning grant period: 
    • Prior to the start of this planning grant, what experience have you had with National Service programs, including AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Senior Corps, and National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)?
    • Based on your current understanding of AmeriCorps, why do you believe an AmeriCorps State program would be valuable for your organization?
    • What are you hoping to learn over the course of this year? What topics would be most valuable to you and your organization?
    • How does an AmeriCorps plan fit into your organizational strategic plan/ goals?
  • AmeriCorps Member experience
    • Why is your organization interested in using AmeriCorps, specifically, to address the identified community problem/need?
    • What aspects of your program do you think will make for a meaningful, high-quality member experience?
    • How are you prepared to promote AmeriCorps members’ civic engagement and professional development?
    • What unique benefits or opportunities could you provide to members in your program?
  •  

 

 

Financial Management

AmeriCorps is a federal funding opportunity and Iowa AmeriCorps State Programs are considered subgrantees of Volunteer Iowa.  Along with the significant financial and human capital resources that an AmeriCorps State grant provides, there are considerable financial management responsibilities.  Many of these responsibilities begin during the planning grant period and we encourage you to be in communication with your financial/accounting staff to ensure you are planning for success with your organizational requirements in mind.

 

Resources:

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Program Manual: Chapter 4- Fiscal Management

 

  • Questions & activities for reflection:
    • Identify the fiscal staff you need to work with during the planning period of the AmeriCorps grant.
    • What experience does your organization/staff have in grant management?  State grants?  Federal grants?
    • Do your systems for time tracking meet federal grant requirements?  If not, do you know what you need to do in order to get into compliance?
    • Is your accounting system set up to track the other expenses budgeted to the AmeriCorps planning grant?  If not, do you know what you need to do in order to get into compliance?
    • Have all staff who need access to IowaGrants gotten set up in that system?

 

 

Theory of Change & Logic Model

 

AmeriCorps members “get things done.”  An AmeriCorps program needs to begin with the end in mind.  AmeriCorps programs with evidence-informed or evidence-based interventions for the AmeriCorps member activities are most successful in making a real impact in the community.  In this module, you will learn about and apply a theory of change through a logic model.

 

Resources:

 

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Program Manual: Chapter 2- Grant & Program Management
  • Theory of Change & Logic Model
    • Create a first draft of a theory of change and logic model for an AmeriCorps program at your organization using the templates provided above. The theory of change and logic model should encompass the following components:
      • Need/Problem
      • Inputs
      • Activities/Interventions
      • Outputs
      • Short-, Medium-, and Long-term Outcomes
      • Impact
    • Identify Evidence to support the Theory of Change Framework
  • Writing Prompt
    • Consider the following questions and record your responses. Your responses will likely develop as you continue to progress through the year, but it will be useful to begin thinking about the answers to these questions. 
      • Why is AmeriCorps the right method to provide this community service?
      • How have you selected the intervention (AmeriCorps member activities) that you will use?
      • Is there alignment between need, intervention, and intended outcome? Clear design/dosage?
      • What level of evidence supports this alignment? How many AmeriCorps members will be needed?
      • How will you measure whether or not your intervention is successful?
      • Will all members do the same type of activities?
      • Will the program use full-time, half-time, less than half-time members or a mix of service hour types?
      • Are the member activities allowable?
      • What are the characteristics and qualifications of desired AmeriCorps members?
      • How many staff members will be needed to manage the program and what roles will be supporting the program and members?
      • Will you have host sites? What other partners are necessary to be successful?
      • How will you obtain the cash match necessary to operate the program?
  • Service Site Outreach/Recruitment Plan:
    • If the program will be recruiting sites, consider your plan for outreach.  What communication materials will you use? 
    • Will you bring sites together to determine collaboratively what the AmeriCorps members’ assignments will be?  Will you share the members’ assignment plan with them from the beginning? 
    • What will cost share be like for the program?

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Measures & Data Collection

 

Determining how to measure your program’s performance is a critical aspect of a successful and effective AmeriCorps program. The logic model ago will serve as the foundation of performance measurement. AmeriCorps and Volunteer Iowa expect that data collected by programs will be high quality and strategically collected. You will need to spend time determining how you will measure your performance measures and ensure high data quality.

 

 

Resources:

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Program Manual: Chapter 2- Grant & Program Management
  • Determine Program Performance Measures
    • What program activities will be measured? Is this the main activity of the program?
    • What types of tools will be developed to capture/measure output and outcome data?
    • After answering the above questions, review the PDF of the AmeriCorps Performance Measures Instructions and determine if any of the standardized measures are a good fit for your program design or if you will develop your own program-specific measures. Provide a justification.
    • Think about which aspects of the program are best measured annually and which are best measured in an evaluation or long-term research agenda.
    • Complete the Performance Measure Template

 

  • Update the Logic Model
    • Include your proposed performance measures, including potential target numbers, in the working draft of the logic model.

 

  • Data collection instruments
    • Identify what types of data collection instruments you plan to use track the proposed outputs and outcomes for your AmeriCorps program.
    • Are any partner agreements necessary for data collection? How will members/sites be oriented to data collection?
    • Complete the Data Collection Plan Template
    •  

 

  • Data quality
    • Consider the training you will need to provide your members and host sites regarding the performance measures and the data collection process.
    • What policies and procedures will you need to put in place to ensure that data quality remains high. What checks and balances will be needed to ensure fidelity in data collection?

 

 

 

Budget Development & Budget Management

The budget will be a guiding document for the AmeriCorps program.  In an application, there needs to be consistency between the budget for the program and the rest of the application. Some AmeriCorps programs use a fixed-amount grant rather than a cost reimbursement grant, which includes a simplified budget and few financial management requirements.  However, all planning grantees should start by developing a detailed program budget and then can work with Volunteer Iowa to determine if a fixed-amount grant may be an appropriate grant type for them.

 

Resources:

  • Volunteer Iowa 2021 - Topic: Budget Development and Changes
    • View the recording HERE.
    • Download the slides HERE

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Program Manual: Chapter 4- Fiscal Management
  • Match Requirement
    • Please describe in a few paragraphs how your organization plans to fulfill the match requirement for the grant.
  • Sample Budget
    • Prepare a sample budget for your program, using the Volunteer Iowa budget template (we may provide an updated version as released for the next grant competition): Volunteer Iowa Budget Worksheet 2021.06

 

 

 

Member Human Resources- Recruitment, Enrollment, & Files

 

An engaged, well-prepared, satisfied AmeriCorps member can provide the intervention needed to reach the desired outcome of the program.  A disengaged, poorly trained, dissatisfied member will not be as likely to achieve those outcomes or leave a positive impact in the community.  The AmeriCorps program needs to be prepared to recruit, train, and retain AmeriCorps members. 

 

Resources:

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Program Manual: Chapter 3- Member Management

 

  • Answer these Member Recruitment questions with justifications:
    • Will recruitment be done locally, at the state level or both?
    • What types of organizations will be contacted for recruitment? Community organizations, colleges, faith-based groups?
    • What is the role of site staff versus parent organization staff in member recruitment?
    • What qualities and skills are they looking for in their members?
    • What interview questions will you use?
    • What is the timeline for recruitment?
    • How will the program ensure a diverse and inclusive AmeriCorps team?

Member Human Resources- Member Activities, Time Tracking, & Exits

Most AmeriCorps members thrive when they have meaningful, high impact assignments where they are addressing an important need.  An AmeriCorps sponsor has an opportunity to shape a unique year of a person’s life where they are willing to give of themselves to make a difference. 

 

Resources:

 

Learning Activities:

  • Member Position Description
    • Develop the position description/s for the future AmeriCorps members.  The process of developing a position may work best in collaboration with the partner sites that will be a part of the program.  The member assignment relates directly to the intervention that you have developed in the Theory of Change and Logic Model.

 

  • Volunteer Engagement
    •  AmeriCorps members increase their impact by leveraging volunteers in the community.  Answer these questions as you consider how volunteers may be a part of the work that the AmeriCorps members accomplish. 
      • What will be the role of volunteers in the program?  Describe episodic and ongoing opportunities for community involvement.
      • What will the AmeriCorps members’ role be in volunteer mobilization, training, and/or management?

 

 

Member Human Resources & Member Support- Member Benefits & Training

Volunteer Iowa prioritizes programming that provides members a high-quality experience.  In order to do so you need to think about the required training and professional development of members as well as making sure you provide required member benefits and help your members to understand them.

 

Resources:

 

Learning Activities:

  • Review your budget and the member benefits you have included.  Reach out to the benefit providers to know what is required to get set up. (Childcare is not part of your program budget but is available to all eligible members serving in a FT capacity for an extended period of time).
  • Answer these Member Development questions with justifications:
    • How will orientation and training be provided to members in technical skills, AmeriCorps information, and other topics?
    • How will ongoing training and support be provided to members?
    • How will members be supervised?
    • What would the roles of sub-site staff and parent organization staff be in member orientation and training?
    • How will the program encourage esprit de corps among the AmeriCorps team?
    • How will your program support diversity, equity, and inclusion for members?
    • How will the program prepare AmeriCorps members for Life After AmeriCorps?
    • If using host sites, what role will they have in member development?
    • How does this new knowledge change the budget/match in order to run a successful program?

 

 

 

Host Site Management

 

A successful AmeriCorps program responds well to community needs, leverages community assets, and has strong partnerships.  If your AmeriCorps program will have members serving at other sites, the most vital partnerships will be with the sites where AmeriCorps members serve.  In this module your focus will turn to determining the who, what, why, when, and how of community partnerships and service sites.

 

Resources:

 

Learning Activities:

 

  • Host Site Agreement
    • Using the provided resources create a draft host site agreement for your program.
  • Host site Management
    • How will you onboard new sites and new site supervisors?  What ongoing training will they be required to receive?
    • What is the fee structure for host sites?  How often will you collect fees?  What happens if a site fails to recruit or if the member leaves early?
    • How will you monitor host sites?  Through site visits, desk audits, quarterly progress reports, email, or other means?  How often will sites be monitored?
  • Host Site Role
    • What role will host sites play in member recruitment and selection?  In member evaluations?
    • What role will host site supervisors play in performance measure reporting?
    • What are your expectations for the host site role in providing member training and professional development?

 

 

 

 

 

Program Management Policies & Procedures, including National Service Criminal History Checks

Throughout the planning grant process, you have begun developing policies and procedures for the AmeriCorps program.  Having policies and procedures to guide the direction of the program is necessary for the areas where consistency is needed.  In this component you will focus on several key policies and procedures for the program, in particular the National Service Criminal History Checks (NSCHC) required of most AmeriCorps members and staff. Volunteer Iowa suggests that you compile these into a handbook or manual for your own program.

 

Resources:

 

 

Learning Activities:

  • Program Policies & Procedures Start Forms
    • See required program policies and procedures listed in the Volunteer Iowa State Forms Schedule & Checklist from 2021-2022.
    • Review available templates/sample documents from Volunteer Iowa.
    • Determine which of the required policies/procedures you have already developed.  Then draft those that are missing.
  • Program/Member/Site Handbooks
    • Consider what internal policies & procedures need to be documented for staff
    • Review sample member/host site handbooks from other programs.
    • Begin drafting a handbook for AmeriCorps members (and potentially for AmeriCorps host site staff)

 

 

Additional Sections To Be Added:

Theory of Change- Part II, including Continuous Improvement

Member HR & Support- Part II, including Education Awards & Life After AmeriCorps

Financial Management- Part II, including Sustainability

AmeriCorps Program Staff Professional & Leadership Development

 

 

Printed from the website on November 30, 2021 at 8:17am.