AMERICORPS STATE RFA- VOLUNTEER IOWA APPLICANT GUIDE & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
VOLUNTEER IOWA AMERICORPS APPLICANT GUIDE & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND ACRONYMS
This glossary and the AmeriCorps Mandatory Supplemental Information should be used for definitions of key terms.
AmeriCorps: An umbrella term that refers to the federal agency and its programs that strengthen communities by mobilizing community resources. The AmeriCorps programs include AmeriCorps State/National, AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), and AmeriCorps Seniors.
AmeriCorps Member: See the Mandatory Supplemental Information
AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps): a full-time residential program for men and women, ages 18-24, that strengthens communities while developing leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. Members are assigned to one of several regional campuses. The North Central Regional campus, located in Vinton, Iowa, serves Iowa agencies interested in hosting a team.
AmeriCorps Seniors: Refers to several national service programs for individuals age 55+, including the Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Companion Program, and RSVP.
AmeriCorps State and National (ASN): Term used to refer to the branch of AmeriCorps programming that operates through a grantmaking process. AmeriCorps State grants are awarded by the state service commissions to organizations operating programs solely within the particular state. AmeriCorps National grants are awarded directly by the federal agency to multi-state or national organizations operating a program in multiple states. AmeriCorps State grants to public and nonprofit organizations engage AmeriCorps members in direct service and capacity-building to address unmet community needs. Applicants propose service activities designed for a team of members serving full- or part-time for up to one year. This funding opportunity is for Iowa AmeriCorps State grants.
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America): AmeriCorps VISTA provides full-time members to community organizations and public agencies to create and expand programs that build capacity and ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA is administered out of the federal agency's Regional Field Offices. Volunteer Iowa is an AmeriCorps VISTA grantee and operates an intermediary program for which Iowa organizations can apply to be host sites.
Cost Reimbursement Grants (Volunteer Iowa detailed definition, see Mandatory Supplemental Information for AmeriCorps definition): These grants include a formal matching requirement and require the submission of a line-item budget and financial reports. For Cost Reimbursement Grantees AmeriCorps funds a portion of program operating costs, member costs (if applicable), and administrative expenses; funding is not directly dependent upon recruitment and retention of AmeriCorps members. Whereas operational cost reimbursement grants allow grantees to enroll members and operate an AmeriCorps program, planning grants are a type of cost reimbursement grant that does not include any member funding.
Education Award (proper name Segal AmeriCorps Education Award): After successfully completing a term of service, AmeriCorps members who are enrolled in the National Service Trust are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. It can be used to pay current education costs at any place qualified to accept federal financial aid (higher education institutions, technical training programs) or to repay qualified student loans. The annual value is tied to the maximum amount of the U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant. The value is updated each year.
Enrollment & Retention Rate: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
Evidence-based, Evidence-informed, Evidence Tiers: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
Fixed amount Grants (Volunteer Iowa detailed definition, see Mandatory Supplemental Information for AmeriCorps definition): These grants are operational grants that provide a fixed amount of funding per Member Service Year (MSY) that is typically substantially lower than the amount required to operate the program. Organizations use their own or other resources to cover the remaining costs. Fixed Amount programs are not required to submit detailed budgets or financial reports, there is no specific match requirement, and programs are not required to track and maintain documentation of match. However, since AmeriCorps funding covers only a portion of the program costs, organizations must raise the additional resources needed to run the program. Fixed Amount Programs can access all of the AmeriCorps grant funds, provided they recruit (in the case of Education Award Program or “EAP”) or retain (in the case of full-cost Fixed Amount programs) the members supported under the grant based on the MSY level awarded. Professional Corps programs applying for operational funding through a Fixed Amount Grant must submit a budget in support of their request for operational funds.
Funding Type: refers to whether the program is funded out of the portion of AMERICORPS funds that are provided to the state according to a population-based formula (Formula) or out of the portion of AMERICORPS funds that are awarded to states on a competitive basis (Competitive). The funds are awarded to Volunteer Iowa in a prime grant and each Iowa AmeriCorps State Program is awarded out of the Commission’s prime grant.
Grantee Share: the resources a grantee contributes to operating an AmeriCorps program. Sometimes informally called “match”, it is the portion of funds, supplies, and human resources that are included in the grant budget in addition to the amount requested from AmeriCorps.
Impact Evaluation: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
Leveraged Resources: “Leveraged resources” are all the non-AmeriCorps resources that a grantee uses to support the program.
Match Replacement Funds, Match Waiver: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
Member Service Location: See Mandatory Supplemental Information
Member Service Year (MSY): See RFA and Mandatory Supplemental Information
National Direct Applicants: See Mandatory Supplemental Information
Other Revenue: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
Planning Grants & Professional Corps: See RFA and Mandatory Supplemental Information
Prohibited Activities: See FAQs and Mandatory Supplemental Information
Rural Communities: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
Same Project: See Mandatory Supplemental Information.
UNDERSTANDING AMERICORPS STATE PROGRAMS
AmeriCorps is a national service program with three distinct branches: AmeriCorps State and National (team-based programs), AmeriCorps VISTA, and National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). This funding opportunity is for AmeriCorps State programs that are administered through Volunteer Iowa. AmeriCorps National programs are multi-state or national nonprofit organizations that submit proposals directly to the federal AmeriCorps agency.
The following chart shows a comparison of major program traits.
|Comparison of AmeriCorps program types and grants (examples; not complete)
|AC State/National Grant types:
CR= Cost Reimbursement Grant; FA= Fixed-amount Grant;
|Grant-based program consist of 1) authorization of AmeriCorps positions at levels needed to achieve targets set in performance measures and 2) federal funds to support members in the positions
|Grant requires that local cash and in-kind resources used to carry out program services be reported
|Grant relieves program of financial reporting requirements, ties reimbursement to enrollment
|Grantees are required to mobilize local community volunteers
|Program is required to track and report on at least one aligned performance measure
|Members who successfully complete service qualify for an education award
||may choose end of term cash stipend
|Members can serve in a less-than full-time capacity
|Members may have other employment or be in college if it does not interfere with their service term
|Members must be at least 17 years of age and out of school. 1 There is no upper age limit.
|Members must be at least 18 years of age. There is no upper age limit.
|Members must be between 18 and 24 years of age
|Members who are 55 years of age or older and successfully complete a term of service may transfer the use of the Education Award to a child, grandchild, or foster child.
|Payment of AmeriCorps member stipends and benefits is handled directly by the federal agency
|Primary mission is poverty alleviation & indirect service
|All service is team-based and residential, with members traveling to service projects within a defined region of the country
AmeriCorps State Program Elements
An AmeriCorps grantee must fulfill some core roles and responsibilities for the program and meet the requirements of the grant. So while you determine the best management structure for your program, keep in mind your overall responsibilities. You must: • employ strong fiscal and program management systems; • monitor financial management, program performance and member activities at operating sites and service locations; • train and provide technical assistance to staff at parent organization and at sites; • ensure the recruitment, orientation and training of members; • track and ensure the accuracy of member hours and activities, and track progress toward meeting approved performance measures; and • act as liaison between CNCS or the Commission and other components of your program.
Program Design. AmeriCorps strengthens communities by mobilizing local resources to address critical issues in one or more of the identified focus areas. One important role AmeriCorps plays is expanding the number of volunteers who serve with the organization; member can help to recruit, train, and oversee community volunteers.
Members help nonprofit, public, charitable, faith-based, and community organizations by serving in ways that improve and expand critical services such as by:
- Increasing the amount of service provided in order to overcome unusual demand or delay in accessing the service.
- Providing new services to an organization’s clients/customers in order to address a new need or emerging issue.
- Extending a proven program model addressing a critical need to a new population or region.
Member Host Sites/Service Sites. AmeriCorps programs often partner with other organizations whose mission, geographic location and service interests are closely aligned with that of the AmeriCorps grantee to host some of the program’s members. Partners commit to addressing the problem targeted in the grant by implementing the AmeriCorps program under the direction of the grantee organization. The AmeriCorps members serve at partner/host sites under formal agreements (Host Site Agreements) with the AmeriCorps grantee.
Grantee Share of Project. 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. 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.
The 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. . Under certain conditions, AmeriCorps programs may operate on a fee-for-service basis. These fees, called program income, are subject to very specific uses and reporting requirements. See 42 CFR 2541.250 for more information.
Some federal agencies have agreed that their funds may be used as part of the AmeriCorps grantee share. Because the allowable funds vary by program within each agency (HUD, OJJDP, Interior, Education, FEMA, etc.) please discuss the use of other federal funds with the awarding federal agency prior to submitting your AmeriCorps application. Have the agency document permission or concurrence in writing. Grantees that use other federal funds as local share should be aware they will have to track and report the amount and source of other federal funds on quarterly source of funds reports.
In-kind match is often a readily available source of match for AmeriCorps programs since the support, training, supervision, and other contributions of effort, space, or materials provided by partners usually qualifies for inclusion in the budget. However, in developing in-kind local share or match, the applicant organization should bear in mind that these resources will have to be documented as they are used, valued at market rate, and recorded in the organization’s accounting system.
Under National Service laws, the time of community volunteers may not be counted as in-kind match; however, pro-bono professional services contributed to the program (training members, accounting, marketing, evaluation, etc.) may be included. The in-kind value of volunteer time can be found at Value of Volunteer Time Report | Independent Sector Resources; clicking on the full report can give you Iowa-specific data.
NOTE: Because Fixed amount grants are not required to match AmeriCorps funds and, therefore, there is no restriction on the mix or type of federal, state, public, private, cash or in-kind support used to operate the program.
Member Recruitment & Selection. Organizations that receive AmeriCorps grants are responsible for recruiting AmeriCorps members to serve in their program. Programs are required to develop separate position descriptions for each service position category in their program design (e.g., tutor, health educator, coach) so applicants understand what their duties will be, what is expected of them, and what training as well as supervision they will receive.
The federal agency has created a central recruiting site for AmeriCorps (see https://americorps.gov/join). Funded grantees are able to establish accounts and receive applications from potential members directly through this portal after awards are final.
There is also a nationwide site, ServiceYear.org, that specializes in connecting young adults with extended (full year or half) service opportunities. Iowa AmeriCorps programs have had success there as well as on Idealist.org, Handshake, and job sites that permit volunteer listings.
Member Service Terms. There are seven options for AmeriCorps members’ terms of service, all of which must be completed within 12 months. The duration of the service terms is determined by the amount and type of activity that needs to be done. Some projects have a few people who serve 10-12 months and add many part-time AmeriCorps members for a “high activity” period. Examples would be weather-dependent service such as housing rehab or summer youth programs. Others have a mix of full-time and part-time members serving for the same term length.
A single Member Service Year (MSY) is at least 1700 hours which a person serving full-time completes within 12 months (52 weeks). An MSY can be split into multiple slots. So, while a program may not have sufficient service needs to keep 8 people fully occupied for 1700 hours each year at 8 service sites, they may find success keeping 16 people fully occupied in half-time (900 hour) terms at 16 service locations. See the following chart for service term options and MSY equivalents.
|SERVICE TERMS OPTIONS FOR MEMBERS
||Service Term minimum hours
||MSY Value (rounded)
||1 MSY converts to no more than...
||# of weeks needed to complete term if serving 40 hrs every wk
||Approx. # hours/week required if term of service is 1 yr
|Three Quarter time
All operating proposals must accommodate at least the equivalent of 8 AmeriCorps Member Service Years (MSYs) or 13,600 hours of volunteer time within a twelve-month period.
Member Experience. Member development is an essential component of any AmeriCorps program. Grantees must design training, coaching, and educational opportunities that help AmeriCorps members develop an ethic of service, civic leadership skills, and technical skills that will be valuable for future employment. Research shows AmeriCorps members develop an ethic of service and the leadership skills needed for active, productive citizenship if the program in which they serve actively cultivates these as part of Member development.
The degree to which AmeriCorps members are successful is directly related to the program plans for recruiting, selecting, training (initial and on-going), supervising, and giving feedback to the members. Something to keep in mind is that a strong AmeriCorps program design relies on implementation of best practices in volunteer management.
Examples of the essential volunteer program practices that are fundamental to AmeriCorps include
- a selection process that is consistent with the published role description and includes a background check;
- pre-service orientation to the program purpose and goals;
- a service agreement specifying the responsibilities, expectations, length of service, causes for dismissal and so forth;
- skill training before and during the term that assures quality service;
- documentation of hours served and the work accomplished;
- assignment to a supervisor; and
- orientation of the supervisor to the program goals and expectations.
A well-organized volunteer program plan is a strong foundation for an AmeriCorps proposal.
Member Planning, Recruitment, Selection, and Accommodation
Planning. A critical element to success in AmeriCorps is planning how the additional human resources (members serving) will be used: supervision, tasks assigned, orientation, training, what they will do on a daily basis, who they will need access to and when, etc. Because the AmeriCorps program also asks organizations to utilize AmeriCorps members to engage community volunteers, the organization needs to have a clear assessment of internal support and systems that will permit volunteers to contribute.
Recruitment. Organizations with AmeriCorps grants are responsible for recruiting the AmeriCorps members to serve in their program. The recruitment plan must actively seek applicants from communities in which the program will operate as well as individuals from other areas whose demographics reflect those of the community residents. Programs are required to develop separate position descriptions for each service position type in their program design (e.g., tutor, health educator, coach) so AmeriCorps members understand what their duties will be, what is expected of them, and what training as well as supervision they will receive.
The federal agency has created a central recruiting site for AmeriCorps (see https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/publicRequestSearch.do). Grantees are able to establish accounts and receive applications from potential members directly through this portal after awards are final.
Eligibility to Serve in AmeriCorps. The federal law that authorized AmeriCorps defines who may serve and requires grantees to document that Members selected to participate in a program are eligible to serve. Accordingly, an eligible member is an individual who:
- is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or lawful permanent resident alien of the United States. See 45 CFR §2522.2 for documents that are acceptable means of certification;
- is at least 17 years old at the start of service or Be an out-of-school youth 16 years of age at the commencement of service participating in a program described in § 2522.110(b)(3) or (g);
- has a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate [or agrees to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent before using an education award] and who has not dropped out of elementary or secondary school in order to enroll as an AmeriCorps member (unless enrolled in an institution of higher education on an ability to benefit basis and is considered eligible for funds under section 484 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. §1091); OR has been determined through an independent assessment conducted by the Program to be incapable of obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent (provided that AmeriCorps has waived the education attainment requirement for the individual).
- has not been convicted of murder
- is not listed, or is not required to be listed, on the sex offender registry (www.nsopr.gov/ )
Selection. Each AmeriCorps program selects its members at the local level and the selection criteria may vary according to the program service roles and work to be performed. In all cases, however, selection must be conducted in a fair and non-discriminatory manner that complies with §2540 of the AmeriCorps rules.
Programs must establish minimum qualifications (skills, knowledge, abilities) for service positions and base the qualifications on the service activities. Individuals recruited to serve need to reflect the community that will benefit from the service. In addition, the corps should offer members with different educational, work, or economic experiences an opportunity to serve together and learn from each other.
Position qualifications along with responsibilities or duties and essential as well as desired functions should be stated in a member position description (similar to a standard employee position description). Successful completion of an AmeriCorps orientation period is a mandatory qualification for members.
Eligibility for Additional Terms. An individual may serve up to four terms in AmeriCorps State and National programs and may earn up to the equivalent value of two full-time education awards.
There are specific guidelines for determining whether someone who has done a term of service in AmeriCorps can serve again and earn an education award. Applicants who are awarded AmeriCorps grants will receive technical assistance on this topic as they implement their recruitment process.
Reasonable Accommodation For People with Disabilities. Increasing the participation of people with disabilities in national and community service programs is a key interest of the federal agency. Not only are AmeriCorps programs encouraged to actively reach out to and include people with disabilities but role descriptions must identify essential and desired functions so that potential AmeriCorps members can identify opportunities for themselves.
Programs and activities must be accessible. You must provide reasonable accommodation to known mental or physical disabilities of otherwise service recipients, qualified members, applicants, and program staff. All selections and project assignments must be made without regard to the need to provide reasonable accommodation. By far, the vast majority of accommodations are inexpensive. For those limited cases where reasonable accommodations are more costly, there may be money available through Volunteer Iowa to provide accommodations for members serving in an AmeriCorps program.
Participation of Individuals Receiving Supplemental Security Income. On June 17, 2008, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (“the HEART Act”) was signed into law, making AmeriCorps more accessible to people with disabilities.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal program that provides a monthly cash benefit to low-income individuals who are aged, blind, or who have a disability. In the past, receiving an AmeriCorps living allowance could disqualify an individual from eligibility. The HEART Act directs the Social Security Administration to ignore an individual's receipt of AmeriCorps benefits for purposes of SSI eligibility. The Act excludes “any benefit (whether cash or in-kind)” and so covers the living allowance, health insurance, child care, and the education award (and related interest payments). This brings all AmeriCorps members under one treatment of benefits rule for SSI. The exclusion of AmeriCorps benefits took effect for benefits payable after August 16, 2008.
Why doesn't the law cover both SSI and SSDI? Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a Federal program that provides money to individuals with disabilities based on their having paid into the insurance program. There are separate laws and regulations for SSDI eligibility and the HEART Act moved through Congress too quickly to include SSDI.
Member Living Allowance. Most AmeriCorps members receive a living allowance or stipend. The living allowance is not a wage but, rather, support that allows the member to give their time to the program’s service activities and have some funds for living expenses such as rent, utilities, food, and transportation. Unlike a wage, the living allowance is the same for all members serving in the same types of service terms (minimum hours and position description) and does not vary according to the person’s skills, prior experience, or prior experience in AmeriCorps. Examples of programs that might set stipends at a higher rate include those located in areas where travel, transportation, heating, or other essential costs are high.
Cost Reimbursement budgets must include a living allowance for full-time members that is between the minimum and maximum (see below) per member. Cost Reimbursement applicants enter in the budget the amount of living allowance planned under either CNCS or grantee share. The cost may be shared between CNCS and the grantee share.
Fixed amount grant applicants are not required to submit detailed budgets but are still required to provide members a living allowance that complies with the minimum and maximum requirements. While the positions should be entered under “without living allowance” in order to secure the correct level of education award and service term slots, applicants do indicate their member living allowance amounts in their budgets.
Applicants are not required to provide a living allowance less-than full-time members, but Volunteer Iowa encourages programs to provide a living allowance for all members and nearly all Iowa programs do. The request for allotment of any unstipended slots is made in the Budget Module of eGrants where the number of positions is entered in the “without living allowance” field. (For the sake of clarity, “Full-time” is used below to refer only to 1700-hour terms of service and not the number of hours per week a member must serve to complete a term on time.)
See the FAQs for details on recent living allowance amounts offered by Iowa programs.
In Iowa, by law, members do not qualify for unemployment insurance
Living allowance Exceptions. The AmeriCorps rules contain exceptions related to living allowances. If your program existed prior to the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 (September 21, 1993), the law does not require you to provide living allowances to your members. If you choose to provide living allowances, they are exempt from the minimum requirement but not from the maximum requirement.
HOUSING. Housing is not a required benefit but programs are encouraged to explore opportunities to support members in their housing needs. Iowa programs that provide housing support to members have reported increased success in recruiting for those positions. Examples of what some AmeriCorps programs have done include housing stipends paid to landlords, organizing co-housing among members, locating “host families” or deeply discounted housing. Note that any funds paid to the member for housing may count as income and count toward the maximum living allowance. That is why program supports often are paid to the property owners directly.
Education Awards. Funds for Education Awards are not part of program budgets. Congress makes a direct appropriation to the National Service Trust for these. The value of the education award for the coming year is expected to be $6895 for full-time members. The amount is pro-rated for those serving in less than full-time slots.
Members who use the awards for their own educational goals have up to seven years from completion of service to use their education award. They may use their awards to pay for any combination of: (1) the costs of attendance at a qualified institution of higher education where the member is pursuing a degree or certificate; (2) the costs of approved school-to-work or technical training programs; or (3) the costs of repaying qualified student loans. It is important to note that not all expenses or loans qualify and prospective members should research whether the education award will apply to the schooling/loans for which they intend to use it.
Members over age 55 may opt to transfer their education award to a child, grandchild, or foster child. In such cases, the education award is available to the designated person for 10 years after the AmeriCorps member completes his/her term of service.
While they serve, members who have outstanding qualified student loans may be eligible for forbearance on their payments. To qualify, they must contact their loan holders. Upon successful completion of a term of service, the National Service Trust will make payments for interest that accrued during the period of forbearance.
Service in AmeriCorps does count under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Individuals may want to weigh the benefits of forbearance against the payment requirements of this program. For information, visit https://studentaid.gov/help-center/answers/article/pslf-credit-during-volunteer-service-period .
For additional information on the Education Award, forbearance, and the National Service Trust, visit: www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/segal-americorps-education-award.
Child Care. For full-time members who need childcare in order to participate, grantees must assist members in accessing the AmeriCorps childcare benefit. The federal agency makes direct payments to childcare providers. Therefore, this benefit is not paid from the grantee budget and should not be included as an expense.
Health Insurance. The grantee must provide, or make available, healthcare insurance to those members serving a 1700-hour full-time term who are not otherwise covered by a healthcare policy at the time the member begins his/her term of service. The grantee must also provide, or make available, healthcare insurance to members serving a 1700-hour full-time term who lose coverage during their term of service as a result of service or through no deliberate act of their own. The federal agency will not cover healthcare costs for dependent coverage.
Any of the following health insurance options will satisfy the requirement for health insurance compliant with Minimum Essential Coverage for full-time AmeriCorps members (or less than full-time members serving in a full-time capacity): staying on parents’ or spouse plan; insurance obtained through private insurance broker that is Minimum Essential Coverage compliant; Medicaid, Medicare or military benefits. See the FAQs for information about AmeriCorps member health insurance for Iowa programs.
Member Assistance Program. The AmeriCorps Member Assistance Program (MAP) through America’s Service Commissions is designed to support AmeriCorps programs in providing accessible and quality mental health services to AmeriCorps members. The annual fee is $250 flat rate plus $5 or $10 per member depending on the selected plan. Covered services are 24/7 toll-free telephonic access to services for members; unlimited in the moment telephonic counseling services with master’s degree-level counselors; mobile app with resources and appointment scheduling access; text/chat counseling and coaching; video counseling and coaching; medical advocacy; financial and legal assistance (30-minute consultations); life coaching; personal concierge for everyday needs; and work/life resources and referrals. Find out more at AmeriCorps Member Assistance Program (memberclicks.net).
Grant Terms and Conditions, Policies. The AmeriCorps Grant Terms & Conditions and the federal General Terms and Conditions contain post-award details that should be considered in program design. Applicants would do well to review these documents in order to gauge the administrative systems that will be required.
Issues with financial implications include but are not limited to the following:
- The grantee must have adequate general liability coverage for the organization, employees and members, including coverage of members engaged in on- and off-site project activities.
- The grantee must withhold Federal personal income taxes from member living allowances, requiring each member to complete a W-4 form at the beginning of the term of service and providing a W-2 form at the close of the tax year. The grantee must comply with any applicable state or local tax requirements.
- Worker’s Compensation is an allowable cost to the grant. Iowa law requires worker’s compensation for members for most grant types (except for Education Award Only programs). Education Award Only grantees must obtain Occupational Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance coverage for members to cover in-service injury or incidents.
- Unless exempted by the IRS, all AmeriCorps programs must pay FICA for any member receiving a living allowance even when AmeriCorps funds are not covering the living allowance.
- A living allowance is not a wage. Programs may not pay a living allowance on an hourly basis. Programs should pay the living allowance in regular increments, such as weekly or bi-weekly, paying an increased increment only on the basis of increased living expenses such as food, housing, or transportation. Payments should not fluctuate based on the number of hours served in a particular time period and must cease when a member concludes a term of service.
- Grantees may enroll Federal Work Study students as AmeriCorps members. Only individuals who enroll in an AmeriCorps position in a program that has been approved by the federal agency are eligible to receive AmeriCorps member benefits. Except as required by Federal Work Study regulations, AmeriCorps members may not be paid on an hourly basis. AmeriCorps does not consider a wage under the Federal Work Study program to be a living allowance for purposes of the National and Community Service Act. The grantee is not required to report such wages in the AmeriCorps grant.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
To submit a question, you may use the “ASK A QUESTION” feature in IowaGrants. This feature is viewable once you have logged into IowaGrants. New questions and answers are posted in the Funding Opportunities Details within the IowaGrants posting. Check regularly for updates.
FAQ 1. GENERAL INFORMATION
a) What is the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service (ICVS or Volunteer Iowa)? Volunteer Iowa is a state government agency whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Volunteer Iowa works to fulfill this mission through a number of programs, projects and activities focused on service and volunteerism. Volunteer Iowa has a three-year State Service Plan that outlines the strategies and goals. Visit here to view the summary or full plan (new plan to be posted soon): https://www.volunteeriowa.org/publications. Volunteer Iowa is the administrative agent of Iowa AmeriCorps State programs. In recent years, Volunteer Iowa has funded approximately 20-25 AmeriCorps State grants in Iowa fulfilling a variety of needs in communities across the state.
b) What is the proper way to spell “AmeriCorps” and how is it pronounced?
Always spell AmeriCorps with a capitalized “C” and no space between the “i” and the “C”. When speaking about the AmeriCorps program, the “p” and the “s” are silent (i.e. sounds like “AmeriCore”).
c) What is AmeriCorps and who is an AmeriCorps Member?
AmeriCorps is a National Service program, often described as a domestic Peace Corps, that involves individuals (members) in “getting things done” in their community. An AmeriCorps member is an individual enrolled in and serving with an AmeriCorps program who commits to engage in intensive community service for a specified period of time. In exchange for their service, members may receive a living allowance and other benefits. AmeriCorps members are qualified to earn an education award to pay for post-secondary education or vocational training and/or to repay student loans, upon successful completion of their term. The AMERICORPS agency (previously known as the Corporation for National & Community Service or CNCS) is the federal agency responsible for establishing AmeriCorps program and funding requirements.
d) Who is a community volunteer?
In AmeriCorps grants, a community volunteer is an individual who donates his or her service to organizations funded by the AMERICORPS agency, but who is not an AmeriCorps member. Community volunteers may be recruited by staff or by AmeriCorps members to assist with the program, but do not earn an education award or other member benefits. Volunteers and AmeriCorps members might serve side-by-side. In answering questions for the application, do not confuse “community volunteers” with “AmeriCorps members”.
e) What does “MSY” mean? MSY stands for “Member Service Year,” and it is comparable to the acronym FTE, meaning “full-time equivalent” because one MSY is equivalent to one full-time term of AmeriCorps service. However, because the terminology “FTE” is familiar to most organizations in referring to employees, AMERICORPS uses the term MSY to distinguish that AmeriCorps State members are NOT employees. There are also established MSY equivalents for less than full-time AmeriCorps service terms.
f) What about AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC? How do I apply for those programs?
AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC are two other branches of AmeriCorps programming, with different types of AmeriCorps member placements and different eligibility requirements for host agencies as compared to the AmeriCorps State program. Volunteer Iowa does not manage the AmeriCorps NCCC program in Iowa nor do we award AmeriCorps VISTA grants, but we do work closely with the offices in charge of these two other branches of AmeriCorps. For more details about these programs and their requirements, including how to apply and who to contact with more questions, visit our website at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/organizations/icvs-programs/americorps-program-info. When determining which branch of AmeriCorps would be a best fit for your agency, consult the “How to Partner with AmeriCorps Programs” document that can be linked to from this page
Additionally, Volunteer Iowa is a grantee of AmeriCorps VISTA and operate our own intermediary program. If you are looking to be a host site of our AmeriCorps VISTA program you can find out more at Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps VISTA Program | Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.
g) Is this announcement of the AmeriCorps State Program opportunity related to applying for a VISTA? If not, when is the open period for applying for an AmeriCorps VISTA and who would be the contact on that?
No, this request for grant applications is for AmeriCorps State programming, not AmeriCorps VISTA programming. The contact for becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA sponsor is the AMERICORPS agency. You can find out about how to apply for an AmeriCorps VISTA project on the AMERICORPS website at https://www.americorps.gov/partner/how-it-works/americorps-vista.
If AmeriCorps VISTA is a better fit for your organization you are also encouraged to consider partnering with Volunteer Iowa to host an AmeriCorps VISTA member through our project. For more details see our website at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/vista. We accept applications for host sites on a rolling basis.
h) I just found out about this opportunity and the deadline to apply is soon—do I really have time to write a good enough application?
Our application process intentionally has a pre-application built in, which allows staff to review your program design and provide technical assistance before the final application is submitted and reviewed for funding decision purposes. Volunteer Iowa is very supportive of new program development and we will work with promising applicants to develop the best possible grant and program.
FAQ 2. APPLICATION & GRANT INFORMATION
a) What types of grants are available on an annual basis? Volunteer Iowa funds Iowa AmeriCorps State operational grants for development and expansion of programs that meet community needs in the areas of education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, veterans, economic opportunity, and disaster preparedness/response. Grant awards cover a budget period of one year (with an overall three-year program period for competitive awards and one to two years for formula awards) and may be renewed for additional years, subject to the grant review process and the availability of federal appropriations.
Planning grants are also available to increase capacity for organizations to develop AmeriCorps State programs for unserved or underserved areas of the state or to meet unaddressed community needs. In some years, federal-level planning grants available. Volunteer Iowa will consider formula applicants for planning grants if staff and reviewers believe that planning funding would contribute to a more successful, sustainable future program. Sometimes Volunteer Iowa also issues separate requests for planning grant applications.
Special competitions are announced as funds are available and can fund operational or planning grants in targeted priority areas.
b) What is the grant timeframe?
The grant period is three years for competitively-funded programs; however, the grant period is composed of three one-year budget periods and an abbreviated application must be submitted in years two and three of the grant period. The grant period for formula-funded programs may be one to two years and the budget periods for formula-funded programs are one year. Formula-funded programs may also be invited, at Volunteer Iowa discretion, to apply for an additional (third) year of continuation funding.
c) Who is eligible to apply? We suggest that applicant organizations should have been in existence for several years prior to applying, so that they have had time to build the organizational capacity needed to manage a federal grant. Non-profit organizations, state agencies and local governments, elementary and secondary schools, Indian tribes, colleges and universities, community and faith-based organizations, labor organizations, partnerships and consortia, or an intermediary organization representing a combination of these or similar groups, working together eligible to apply for funding. Consortia or partnerships wishing to submit will need to identify a qualified member of the group to serve as the legal applicant and fiscal agent, if the consortia/partnership itself does not have the structure in place to do so. Applicants using this RFA must intend to operate their program wholly within the state of Iowa.*
*Volunteer Iowa has signed memorandums of understanding with the neighboring states of Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska allowing members of Iowa programs to be placed or to provide service at sites in these states that are within 40 miles of the Iowa border. This agreement allows Iowa programs to effectively serve community or regional needs that span state borders.
d) What are the standard AmeriCorps grant application and funding timelines?
Volunteer Iowa typically releases its Request for Grant Applications (RFA) in late summer or early fall. Depending upon if you are a new or returning program, your pre-application may be due as early as mid fall through spring of the following year. Pre-applications are reviewed by staff and Volunteer Iowa notifies applicants of their status for the final application (competitive or formula) within several weeks of the pre-application deadline. Final applications from competitive applicants are due in late fall to early winter and from formula applicants in the late winter to early spring. Final applications are reviewed and scored by a grant review committee at either the federal (for competitive) or state (for formula) level. Formula applicants appear before the Volunteer Iowa grant review committee in person. Funding decisions are announced by late spring, and programs start in the fall or winter.
e) How does the grant review and selection process work?
The grant review process involves responsibilities for staff, multiple committees, and the full commission. The full grant review policy is outlined in the Volunteer Iowa administrative policies and is available upon request. Staff review pre-applications and final applications for adequacy and completeness, including submission of any required attachments or supporting documents, as well as compliance with federal and/or state requirements. For competitions with a competitive national funding option, staff will also review for quality and suitability for being submitted to the national competition.
Applications meeting requirements and received by the deadline are eligible for review and consideration by the Grant Review Committee. (Continuation applicants undergo a thorough staff review but are not included in the Grant Review Committee process). In advance of the Grant Review Committee meeting, staff may work with applicants to provide feedback and to allow time for applicants to make clarification changes before the final application is submitted to the Grant Review Committee. Staff may share feedback from the grant review process and any federal or state-level grant review with the applicants as part of the continuous improvement process.
The Grant Review Committee, and staff or outside experts as needed, will read applications and, based on the criteria provided, score the applications and provide comments and feedback. Typically, Grant Review Committee reviewers do not score all components of the application; instead they score only certain components in a way that mirrors the national competition or fits with their training and expertise. In addition, the Grant Review Committee may invite applicants to provide presentations or respond to questions from the committee. The Grant Review Committee will determine a consensus rank order for the applications based on the information received during the grant review process. The rank order will be provided to the Programs Committee of the Commission.
The Programs Committee will consider the information from the Grant Review Committee, as well as staff feedback and recommendations based on program performance demonstrated through site visits; program, financial and member monitoring; or other factors that affect quality program management and outcomes. In addition, staff will provide feedback to the Programs Committee pertaining to the grant application in areas such as budget, evidence-based performance measures and overall program development. Staff will also review financial reports from new programs and provide feedback to the committee on funding. The Programs Committee will also consider other factors as appropriate for funding depending on the grant program, such as state and federal funding priorities, program distribution across the state, diversity of program models, diversity of issue areas, planning grant opportunities, cost effectiveness and cost per Member Service Year (MSY). In addition, funding recommendations of the Programs Committee will consider the amount of funding available, sustainability for programs that have lost their competitive funding status, potential supplemental funding opportunities, and other relevant data.
The Programs Committee will use the information from the Grant Review Committee, applicant presentations, considerations noted above, and staff feedback to make a recommendation on funding of applications to the Commission. The timing of the Programs Committee recommendation may be impacted by AMERICORPS national-level competitive funding decisions. Commissioners will consider the recommendations of the Grant Review and Programs Committees and take action on applications received. Commission action may include: advancing applications to state or national competition; continuing funding to applicants within a multi-year funding cycle; funding applications from Iowa’s federal funds; funding applications from other state sources; electing to not fund applications; or, directing staff to take further action prior to funding applications. Other actions may also be taken at the Commission level at the discretion of the Commission and in accordance with state and federal law.
Staff are ultimately responsible for submitting any required prime grant applications, encompassing individual sub-applications, to the AMERICORPS agency, based on Commission recommendations and in accordance with AMERICORPS application materials.
f) Why are applicants required to request a minimum of 8 MSYs?
Programs must be large enough to achieve a demonstrable impact on the community served and to merit the administrative work. While the actual size of each program will vary depending on the community, the design of the program, and other factors, applicants are required to apply for at least eight (8) full-time equivalent AmeriCorps members (8 MSYs) to meet the formula funding threshold. (In previous years AMERICORPS had a threshold of twenty (20) members for competitive funding but that threshold is not currently in place.)
Volunteer Iowa has established the 8 MSY minimum because of the administrative requirements of the program (both on the local sponsor and the commission) and because of the team-building and member development elements of the program. This minimum balances the administrative burden with the benefits to the members, the community and the program. However, in compelling situations, the commission may grant approval for smaller programs. Applicants wishing to submit a proposal for a program with less than 8 MSYs must make a written request for an exception to this requirement using the waiver form provided.
Applicants should evaluate their present infrastructure and capacity when considering program size. In general, organizations that cannot support 8 MSYs on their own are encouraged to think creatively about other agencies with whom they may partner in order to apply jointly. Local, regional and statewide partnerships should be considered. For example, another community program that works with a similar constituency may be interested in utilizing two members, and the applicant agency can utilize six members. A program can also choose to have a mixture of full-time and less than full-time members. For example, the 8 MSY requirement can be met by having four full-time members and eight half-time members, or many other combinations. Again, these are only minimums; provided that other budget requirements are met, there are no maximums.
g) Where can I get additional information about AmeriCorps State grants? Can I get a copy of a funded grant?
Additional information on specific program requirements can be found in the AmeriCorps Provisions, Regulations, and Terms & Conditions. These documents are located on the AmeriCorps website:
AMERICORPS has a list of funded applicants on its website at https://americorps.gov/partner/funding-opportunities/funded-grants.
Additional technical assistance regarding specifics of operating an AmeriCorps program, such as performance measures, member training/supervision, etc. can be found at the AMERICORPS agency opportunity page or through the Volunteer Iowa technical assistance sessions. Furthermore, upon request, Volunteer Iowa will make available copies of additional reference materials, such as the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State grant agreement template. The Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State Program Manual and other program management materials are available on our website at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/americorps/current-americorps-grantee-resources.
FAQ 3. ADMINISTRATION
a) My agency has limited experience or no experience managing a federal grant. How can I find out more about the requirements?
If your organization does not have experience with federal grants management, we encourage you to review the relevant Office of Management and Budget uniform guidance to familiarize yourself with the requirements and limitations of federal grant funds. (Resources on the uniform guidance for national service grantees is found at https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/uniform-guidance). You can also review the training and TA from the federal AmeriCorps agency related to financial reporting requirements at Manage your grant | AmeriCorps.
b) Is there administrative funding available?
Yes, there are several options available for calculating administrative/indirect costs, which appear in Section III of the AmeriCorps budget. The maximum federal share that can be requested for administrative expenses is 5% of the overall budget. However, applicants should not simply calculate a flat 5% administrative fee but should instead follow the specific guidance in the Final Application Instructions or use the Volunteer Iowa Budget Narrative Worksheet to calculate administrative costs. Detailed guidance is provided depending upon whether the applicant is using the flat 5%/10% method, a de minimis rate, or a federally-approved indirect cost rate. These administrative funding calculations do not apply to Fixed Amount applicants.
c) Can we build in other administrative costs, such as supervisor time and office space?
Yes. Staff, office space, phones, supplies, etc. are allowable costs under the grant but your organization will need to determine which costs can be separated out and which should remain in admin. Many programs also use these areas as sources of matching resources for the grant. Applicants should be aware that administrative costs (like all costs) must be treated consistently across programs.
d) How much staff time is needed to manage the program?
It is recommended that programs utilize a full-time program director and have other support staff available to assist with the grant, as a significant amount of time will need to be spent on grant & financial management. Many programs use a team approach to managing the grant but there still must be a primary program director.
e) Can a member provide the required staff oversight of other AmeriCorps members?
No, a member may not manage other members nor perform other administrative tasks related to the grant. AmeriCorps does allow for Team Leader AmeriCorps positions, but these members serve alongside other members in a leadership capacity rather than managing or supervising other members.
f) How much time is required by the site supervisors?
Site supervisors provide the day-to-day supervision and support for the AmeriCorps State members. Depending on the individual member, the time requirement will vary; however, it shouldn’t be more burdensome than overseeing another staff member.
g) How would we create member payroll since our payroll system does not accommodate the AmeriCorps payment requirements?
Programs will need to consult with their Human Resources office to determine the best approach to ensure that members receive their living allowance stipend as required by the AmeriCorps Regulations. Volunteer Iowa staff can connect a new applicant’s accounting department with current grantees who have successfully set up member payroll systems. Additionally, the State of Iowa has a master agreement with a payroll vendor whose system meets AmeriCorps State requirements and programs are able to contract with this provider, if they choose, to run their member payroll.
h) How do we conduct the required background checks on members and staff? Can we use the same process/vendor we use for our employees?
Most new program sponsors will be required to conduct the required checks using AMERICORPS-contracted vendors Truescreen and Fieldprint. Programs may also be able to run the checks through the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. The National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) requirements are specific and rigorous, so we have never seen an organization whose existing vendor/procedures comply with the requirements. Your organization may conduct additional organization-specific checks (such as a child abuse registry check or a certified driving record) in addition to the NSCHC, if desired. More information on background check requirements is available in FAQ Section 4 below and on the AMERICORPS website at https://americorps.gov/grantees-sponsors/history-check.
FAQ 4. PROGRAM MANAGEMENT
a) Who recruits the members?
Local programs are responsible for recruiting their own members. However, an on-line national recruiting system provided by AMERICORPS is also used by programs to enhance recruiting.
b) What types of activities can AmeriCorps State members do?
Traditionally, AmeriCorps State members have provided primarily direct service activities. However, AMERICORPS has expanded the role of AmeriCorps State members to include some capacity-building activities, specifically volunteer recruitment and management and some very limited fundraising activities. Under the AmeriCorps regulations, strict restrictions are placed on the amount of time members may spend on fundraising activities and what types of fundraising they may do. There are also limits on how much time members can spend in training.
c) Can AmeriCorps members take the place of current staff or volunteers at my organization?
No. AmeriCorps members may not displace staff or volunteers at your organization, nor may they perform any services or duties that would supplant the hiring of employed workers. Specific language on Nonduplication includes the following: AmeriCorps funding may not be used to duplicate an activity that is already available in the locality of a program. And, unless the requirements of [nondisplacement] are met, AmeriCorps assistance will not be provided to a private nonprofit entity to conduct activities that are the same or substantially equivalent to activities provided by a State or local government agency in which such entity resides.
Specific AMERICORPS language on Nondisplacement includes the following: (1) An employer may not displace an employee or position, including partial displacement such as reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, as a result of the use by such employer of a participant in a program receiving Corporation assistance. (2) An organization may not displace a volunteer by using a participant in a program receiving Corporation assistance. (3) A service opportunity will not be created under this chapter that will infringe in any manner on the promotional opportunity of an employed individual. (4) A participant in a program receiving Corporation assistance may not perform any services or duties or engage in activities that would otherwise be performed by an employee as part of the assigned duties of such employee. (5) A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform any services or duties, or engage in activities, that— (i) Will supplant the hiring of employed workers; or (ii) Are services, duties, or activities with respect to which an individual has recall rights pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or applicable personnel procedures. (6) A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform services or duties that have been performed by or were assigned to any— (i) Presently employed worker; (ii) Employee who recently resigned or was discharged; (iii) Employee who is subject to a reduction in force or who has recall rights pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or applicable personnel procedures; (iv) Employee who is on leave (terminal, temporary, vacation, emergency, or sick); or (v) Employee who is on strike or who is being locked out.
Also note that AmeriCorps members “serve” in a “position”, they do not “work” in a “job”, and they are “enrolled” in the program, they are not “hired”.
d) What activities are AmeriCorps members prohibited from performing as part of their service?
The legislation governing AmeriCorps programs specifically prohibits members from engaging in the following activities while charging time to the AmeriCorps program, accumulating service or training hours, or otherwise performing activities supported by the AmeriCorps program: a) Attempting to influence legislation; b) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes; c) Assisting, promoting or deterring union organizing; d) Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements; e) Engaging in partisan political activities or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office; f) Participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials; g) Engaging in religious instruction; conducting worship services; providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship; constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship; maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship; or engaging in any form of religious proselytization; h) Providing a direct benefit to: i) A business organized for profit, ii) A labor union, iii) A partisan political organization, iv)A nonprofit organization that fails to comply with the restrictions contained in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 except that nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent participants from engaging in advocacy activities undertaken at their own initiative; and v) An organization engaged in the religious activities described in the preceding sub-clause, unless Corporation assistance is not used to support the religious activities; i) Conducting a voter registration drive or using Corporation funds to conduct a voter registration drive; j) Providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services; and k) Such other activities as AMERICORPS or Volunteer Iowa may prohibit. Furthermore, members may not recruit or manage community volunteers for the primary purpose of engaging in the prohibited activities listed here.
The AmeriCorps regulations also include the following specific guidance about prohibited and allowable activities related to fundraising and resource development (see CFR § 2520.40 and § 2520.45). AmeriCorps members may raise resources directly in support of your program's service activities. (b) Examples of fundraising activities AmeriCorps members may perform include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Seeking donations of books from companies and individuals for a program in which volunteers teach children to read; (2) Writing a grant proposal to a foundation to secure resources to support the training of volunteers; (3) Securing supplies and equipment from the community to enable volunteers to help build houses for low-income individuals; (4) Securing financial resources from the community to assist in launching or expanding a program that provides social services to the members of the community and is delivered, in whole or in part, through the members of a community-based organization; (5) Seeking donations from alumni of the program for specific service projects being performed by current members. (c) AmeriCorps members may not: (1) Raise funds for living allowances or for an organization's general (as opposed to project) operating expenses or endowment; (2) Write a grant application to the Corporation or to any other Federal agency. An AmeriCorps member may spend no more than ten percent of his or her originally agreed-upon term of service, as reflected in the member enrollment in the National Service Trust, performing fundraising activities, as described in § 2520.40.
e) Can individuals with a criminal record serve as AmeriCorps members? What background checks must be run on members? On program staff?
Individuals with certain specific criminal histories are prohibited from serving in AmeriCorps. This includes those convicted of murder and those listed or required to be listed on the National Sex Offender Public Registry website (NSOPW). Applicants who refuse to undergo a National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) or who lie about their criminal record are also prohibited from serving. All AmeriCorps members and staff members listed on the grant budget must submit to a National Service Criminal History Check includes a check of the NSOPW, a state-based criminal history check, and an FBI fingerprint check (however waivers to some check requirements are available based on record sharing between states and the FBI, record access, etc.). Each AmeriCorps program develops its own policy regarding which additional findings, in addition to murder or a listing on the NSOPW, would prohibit an applicant from being accepted to serve. More details on current national service criminal records check policies may be accessed at https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/criminal-history-check.
f) How can a program support the inclusion of members with disabilities in AmeriCorps?
The inclusion of persons with disabilities in AmeriCorps remains a national priority. Programs that have addressed the principles of inclusion in their day to day activities are able to attract stronger candidates, engage and retain their members through service and enhance the whole service community. As a program design is created, a potential program should consider how any person could perform the essential functions of service with or without an accommodation. As a recipient of federal funds, programs must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Funded programs can receive training and technical assistance from Volunteer Iowa to ensure they are prepared to interview and enroll qualified candidates with disabilities, and conduct their service activities in fully accessible settings. Funded programs should prepare to conduct outreach to the community of persons with disabilities and agencies that serve people with disabilities in order to attract qualified candidates.
FAQ 5. BUDGET
a) What is “cost per MSY”?
Cost per MSY stands for Cost per Member Service Year and represents the cost of your AmeriCorps program to the AMERICORPS agency. One MSY is the equivalent of one full-time term of service (1700 member service hours). The cost per MSY is calculated by dividing the total amount of AmeriCorps agency funds requested by the total number of MSYs requested. For example, if your application requests $200,000 in CNCS share and 10 MSYs, then your cost per MSY is $20,000. The cost per MSY does not include grantee match, child care assistance or the cost of the Education Award a member may earn.
Each year, AMERICORPS establishes a maximum cost per member service year (MSY) for individual programs. The AMERICORPS maximum cost per MSY for differs by program type (cost reimbursement programs, full-time fixed amount programs, or education award only fixed amount programs) and funding source (competitive or formula). These limits are published in the Request for Applications (RFA) each year. Cost efficiency is considered when grants are reviewed, so programs should strive to make good use of the available resources. See the RFA and Mandatory Supplemental Information for definitions of and details about MSY and cost/MSY requirements.
b) How much funding should our agency anticipate for an AmeriCorps State grant in Iowa?
AmeriCorps State grant awards are limited by the allowable cost/MSY, so you can determine the maximum grant amount by taking the number of MSY you are requesting and multiplying it by the maximum cost/MSY for your requested grant type. AmeriCorps State grant awards in Iowa in recent years range from $85,000 for a microgrant to more than $1,000,000. The recent average (mean) amount of program funding in Iowa is $370,000 for formula programs and $510,000 for competitive programs. Programs should be aware that the Iowa Commission receives approximately $1.9 million in formula resources to provide to applicants whose grants are not selected for competitive funding. Therefore, there is a limit to the amount of funding and number of projects that can be awarded on an annual basis via the state formula funding pool.
c) What are the matching requirements for the AmeriCorps grant? What is the cost of a full-time AmeriCorps State member to the grantee?
There is no match requirement for fixed-amount grants. However the fixed-amount grant does not cover all costs. Fixed-amount grantees provide the additional resources needed to operate the program, but are not required to track or report on them. However, fixed-amount applicants are expected to identify the total amount budgeted and describe how additional resources will be generated to manage and operate the AmeriCorps program.
Cost Reimbursement Grants
A successful applicant is required to match at 24% for the first three-year funding period. Starting with year four, the match requirement gradually increases every year to 50 percent by year ten, according to the minimum overall share chart found in 45 CFR 2521.60. Match may be cash or in-kind. Section 121(e)(5) of the National Community Service Act requires that programs that use other federal funds as match for an AmeriCorps grant report the amount and source of these funds on the Federal Financial Report. Use of federal funds as match requires approval from the other federal agency to use their funds for match on an AmeriCorps grant.
Alternative Match Schedule & Match Waiver
AMERICORPS has established an Alternative Match Schedule for programs from certain rural or economically distressed areas. If your program meets the criteria and wants to request such a schedule, you are strongly encouraged to provide this information with the pre-application in order to be considered. AMERICORPS also may provide a match waiver to programs who meet criteria established by the agency. Iowa applicants must submit any match waiver request to the submission, and Volunteer Iowa screens and then submits those requests to the AmeriCorps agency.
Cost to the Grantee
Based on the matching requirements, grantees can determine an approximate per-member cost for hosting an AmeriCorps program. According to the grant requirements, new programs are required to provide a 24% overall match to the grant (with the exception of fixed amount grants) and recent levels of federal funding per AmeriCorps member were around $23,000. Therefore the approximate minimum grantee share required for a FT member would be $7260 (based on a cost/MSY of $23,000 and a match level of 25%). Please note that higher matching levels are encouraged for new applicants and that matching requirements for continuing applicants increase beginning in year four of the grant.
d) Can the program costs match be in-kind? What about administrative costs as match?
Yes, federal matching requirements allow matching resources for the AmeriCorps State grants to be in-kind, with acceptable documentation. However, given the expenses involved in operating an AmeriCorps State program and the limits on how much funding AMERICORPS will provide, it is unlikely that an organization could successfully host a program using only in-kind match. Programs should also note that 24% is the minimum match for new applicants – higher levels of match are often necessary to support the program and are required beginning in the fourth year of program funding.
Programs are allowed to count administrative costs as match towards the grant. The AmeriCorps agency has a standard 5%/10% method for calculating administrative costs that allows for up to 10% of the overall costs to be counted as administrative match, or organizations with a federally-approved indirect cost rate may be able to count an even higher percent towards match. See the Final Application Instructions for details on how to calculate administrative costs, including match share.
e) Are there other budgetary restrictions or requirements?
Yes. Additional guidance on preparing the budget, including specific budget line item requirements, can be found in the Final Application Instructions. An Excel spreadsheet budget template that can be used to develop your budget for the final application is provided as the Budget Worksheet.
f) How much should I budget for member living allowances?
The living allowance amount must fall within the minimum and maximum amounts established by AMERICORPS each year and is included within the Volunteer Iowa Request for Applications. Most programs in Iowa provide members with living allowances near the mid point of the allowable range. While a living allowance is not required for members serving in less-than-full-time slots, it is customary for Iowa programs to provide a living allowance to those members as well. Programs that have members in various slot types typically pro-rate their living allowance amounts to be consistent across different MSY equivalents.
g) How much should I budget for member health care?
Programs are required to provide health care coverage for their full-time members and they may elect to provide coverage for less-than full-time members serving in a full-time capacity. Programs may choose any health care plan that meets minimum AmeriCorps requirements, which mirrors the Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) requirements of the Affordable Care Act (see the Regulations/Provisions for details). In Iowa, we are aware of programs using a plan provided by The Corps Network (Volunteer Iowa is an affiliate member of The Corps Network). We are not aware of any other provider with a specific AmeriCorps plan that meets the federal requirements; however, programs are welcome to contact local vendors to develop a plan that meets the requirements. Please note that Volunteer Iowa is not endorsing any healthcare provider. You should contact vendors to obtain estimates of costs for health care coverage for members.
h) Should my organization budget for health insurance for all members if we know that not all members will opt in to health insurance?
Programs are allowed to budget for health insurance for only a portion of their full-time members if they indicate why (i.e., based on recent utilization rates of member health insurance, a program budgets for only 75% of their FT members to use the plan) and that any other eligible members would be covered from other funds. Please refer to the Final Application Instructions for guidance on this question in the current application period.
i) Does the program provide a portion of the Education Award?
No, the entire cost of the Education Award is provided by federal funds and no local funds are required to support the Education Awards. The education award amounts are not reflected in the budget for the AmeriCorps grant application, as they are paid directly by AMERICORPS from a separate funding source.
j) Does the program cover the costs of member Childcare Assistance?
No, the entire cost of the childcare assistance is provided by federal funds and no local funds are required to support the childcare assistance. Childcare assistance amounts are not reflected in the budget for the AmeriCorps grant application, as they are paid directly by AMERICORPS from a separate funding source.
k) What other member support costs should be included in the budget?
You should include FICA and worker’s compensation or other liability coverage. You should not include unemployment insurance.
n) What happens to us as a grantee if we meet the minimum match but don’t meet our budgeted match? Should we budget for the highest match amount we can or budget closer to our required match?
Volunteer Iowa generally expects programs to meet the budgeted match because the commission is expected by AMERICORPS to meet the overall budgeted match for AmeriCorps programming (so a shortfall by a single program can be problematic). Programs should budget for match at a level they can realistically meet. It is not necessary to significantly over-match.
o) What are typical salaries for AmeriCorps program staff and living allowance amounts for AmeriCorps members in Iowa? What are the typical fees that programs charge to their host sites?
We have gathered information on averages and ranges of amounts for these categories for the 2022-2023 program year. Note that there is a significant amount of variation so applicants should consider what amounts make sense for the context in which they will operate.
FAQ 6. MEMBER EXPERIENCE & BENEFITS
a) How many hours do AmeriCorps State members serve?
Members must complete a minimum number of hours over the course of their term of service, which cannot exceed a 12 month timeframe. Full time members serve a minimum of 1700 hours, three quarter-time members serve at least 1200 hours, half time members serve at least 900 hours, reduced half-time members serve at least 675 hours, quarter time members serve at least 450 hours, minimum time members serve at least 300 hours, and abbreviated time members serve at least 100 hours. The length of the service terms and the number of hours required are described by programs in the application and must be specified in member service agreements. Members may serve more than the minimum number of hours, if they reach the minimum before reaching the end date of their service agreement. If less-than full-time positions to be served over an extended period of time are included for the purpose of attracting specific member populations (such as those age 55+, members with disabilities, or disadvantaged youth members), this should be explained in the application narrative.
b) What benefits are provided to the AmeriCorps State members?
Members are eligible for a Segal Education Award upon successful completion of their term of service. Full-time AmeriCorps State members receive health care benefits and programs may elect to provide coverage to part-time members serving in a full-time capacity (funded by the program). Members who are income-eligible and have qualified dependents may also receive childcare benefits (funded by AMERICORPS). Programs are responsible for establishing vacation, sick and holiday policies for AmeriCorps State members; however, members do not accrue service hours for vacation, sick days or holidays. Other benefits (such as housing, professional certifications, etc.) vary from program to program, depending on the resources the applicant organization has to make available to members.
c) How do the Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards work?
Following successful completion of a term of service, members are eligible to receive an education award equal to the amount of the maximum Pell Grant (or a pro-rated amount for less-than full time members) that can be used to pursue post-secondary education, vocational training, Secretary of Veterans Affairs approved training, or to pay off qualified student loans. Members who serve less than full-time or who exit early for compelling personal circumstances are eligible for pro-rated education awards. All education award funding is managed through an online system and the awards go directly to the educational institution or qualified lender. Members have seven years to use their education award (extensions may be requested in extraordinary circumstances). Members age 55 or older at the time of enrollment may also transfer their award to an eligible child, foster child, or grandchild; the recipient then has ten years to make use of the award. Individuals may only earn/receive the equivalent of two full-time Education Awards. More information is available from AMERICORPS at https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/segal-americorps-education-award.
d) Can members use their education awards for training/education other than college?
Yes. However, education awards must be used at approved institutions, so members should check with the National Service Trust before enrolling in a program. More information about how the education awards may be used is available at https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/education-award-faqs.
e) Can the Education Awards be “cashed out” or transferred to someone else?
AmeriCorps State members who are age 55 or older on the day they begin service may now transfer their education award to a child, grandchild or foster child. A “cash out” option is not available. (The AmeriCorps VISTA program does have the option of an end-of-service stipend rather than an education award, but that is not available to AmeriCorps State members). Prospective members are encouraged to review the final Trust Rule for details on the transfer rules and procedures. More information can be found at https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/segal-americorps-education-awardhttps://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/segal-americorps-education-award.
f) Is there other education-related information I should know?
During their term of service, AmeriCorps State members are eligible for loan forbearance on qualified student loans and the National Service Trust will pay all or a portion of the interest accrued during a members’ service for qualified student loans. Or, full-time members may opt to enter into/continue regular repayment of their loans while serving in AmeriCorps, in order to have those qualifying payments count towards the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. There are special rules that allow borrowers who are AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteers to use their Segal Education Award or Peace Corps transition payment to make a single “lump-sum” payment that may count for up to 12 qualifying PSLF payments. Members should be encouraged to fully research the best option for their individual circumstances. More information about PSLF is available at: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.
g) Does participating in AmeriCorps State affect an individual’s public benefits?
AmeriCorps members may also be eligible to receive certain public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Family Assistance Program (FIP), or housing assistance. AmeriCorps benefits are reported, but do not count as income for members who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, making AmeriCorps service a good option for individuals receiving this type of assistance. Some individuals receive a separate benefit called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). AmeriCorps benefits should not have a great impact on the SSDI benefits for most people. A member or prospective member should speak with their case manager regarding AmeriCorps payments and their benefits. Volunteer Iowa can provide further guidance as needed, see our guide posted at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/resources-current-americorps-members-and-alums.
h) What is the HEART Act?
The HEART Act refers to the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act of 2008. Under the HEART Act, the Social Security Administration is directed to ignore an individual's receipt of AmeriCorps benefits for purposes of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility.
i) Can members be students?
Yes. However, members who are students (like members who hold a job while serving) need to be sure they are able to meet their AmeriCorps service term commitments while also attending school. Programs are encouraged to think about ways to intentionally partner with institutions of higher education to support member professional development through service. There are also opportunities to support AmeriCorps members through federal work study funding. Interested applicants should contact Volunteer Iowa to discuss further.
FAQ 7. FOCUS AREAS & PERFORMANCE MEASURES
a) Does our project have to serve in one of the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service or Corporation for National and Community Service’s priority areas?
National Priorities: AMERICORPS has several focus areas for programming (Economic Opportunity, Education, Healthy Futures, etc.) and each year it establishes funding priorities, some that fit within a specific focus area (such as reducing and/or preventing prescription drug and opioid abuse for programs within the Healthy Futures focus area) and across them (such as programs sponsored by faith-based organizations). While most programs will fit under a AMERICORPS focus area, it is not a requirement that projects serve in one of the identified priority areas. At the competitive national review, preference will be given to programs that meet the federal priorities (see RFA for more details). However, overall quality and effectiveness of the proposed program, no matter the service area, is also a very important funding consideration and high-quality programs that do not meet a national priority are regularly funded.
State Priorities: Each state may develop state priority areas or need areas, to add to the AMERICORPS application process within that state. Volunteer Iowa identifies state-level funding priorities that are listed each year in the Request for Applications (RFA). These priorities are often drawn from the goals and objectives outlined in our Iowa State Service Plan, which is published at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/publications. The commission considers state priorities as a factor when making state formula funding decisions.
b) Where can I find out more about the National Performance Measures?
AMERICORPS provides extensive information on the National Performance Measures via the Performance Measures Instructions found for each funding opportunity. The instructions include guidance on definitions of terms used in the measures, evidence-basis for the measures, and sample tracking tools for many measures. There you will find a performance measure chart outlining all objectives and the performance measures which fall under each objective, as well as a step-by-step tutorial for entering required information into the module. The Final Application Instructions also provide detailed guidance on how to enter your selected performance measures into the eGrants application system. Volunteer Iowa suggests that you make use of these resources when choosing whether and which National Performance Measures to utilize in your program.
c) May we broaden our current program scope to address additional issues within our AMERICORPS Focus Area?
Volunteer Iowa does support programming that takes a comprehensive community approach to addressing identified needs. However, a complex program design can be more challenging to manage. Therefore, program expansion should be based on a well-defined community need and undertaken when the program has the internal capacity to manage the expansion. It can be difficult to explain multiple interventions within the constraints of the application requirements so programs will need to work on how to tell the overall story of their grant while also outlining the multiple interventions proposed.
d) How can we predict specific numbers for the performance measures in the disaster section when it is impossible to predict whether a disaster will happen during the grant period and within the program’s service area?
Our suggestion is that you enter measures as best you can, based on past records of disaster within your service area. Agencies that are awarded grants will submit progress reports in which they can discuss circumstances that contributed to them exceeding, meeting, or failing to meet performance measure goals. This allows an opportunity to explain how the lack of a disaster may cause the program to fail to meet goals in a certain program year.
f) I wanted to confirm that we are only required to choose one national performance measure OR one program identified measure, correct? We want to make sure that we were not required to have BOTH a program identified AND a national performance measure.
Programs must have one set of aligned measures for your program. This could be either a set of aligned national performance measures OR a set of program-identified members. You need not have both types. An aligned set of performance measures means both an output and an outcome measure. Volunteer Iowa encourages programs to submit only one measure, aligned with the primary program activity, and may limit applicants to only one measure. Programs can track other performance objectives on their own but then will be required to report on only one measure as part of their regular progress reporting.
g) Within our grant we've had a primary and secondary Focus Area, which covered 100% of our MSYs. We had an aligned performance measure in the primary focus area, but it does not account for 100% of member service time. Is this okay, or do we need to enter another measure to account for the remainder of the member time?
No, you do not have to account for 100% of your MSY service activity in the performance measures tab of the performance measures module. You do need to allocate 100% of your MSYs to a focus area and objective (which you have done). If you are a continuation applicant, we recommend maintaining the same performance measures you have used previously unless you have a compelling reason to make the change (which then should also be described in your continuation narratives).
FAQ 8. AWARDED GRANT REPORTING
a) If our proposal is funded, what reporting will be required?
The following chart outlines some of the required AmeriCorps State reporting, as well as other forms/documentation that programs must regularly keep. Full reporting and documentation requirements for funded programs are outlined in the grant agreement and the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps program manual.
|Performance Measure & Program Progress Reporting
|Program Start Forms
||Series of forms due annually
||Programs detail the management components that will be used to support the grant and ensure compliance.
|Program Progress Reports
||Three-four times per year, depending on grant end date
||Every three years
||Applies only to competitively-funded programs.
|Status Reports to Request or Notify Volunteer Iowa of Program Updates
|Financial Start Forms
|Claim and Signed GAX/IET form
||Monthly (or quarterly as approved)
||New programs and those at a high financial monitoring level must submit supporting documentation.
|Final Claim and Signed GAX/IET
|Federal Financial Report (FFR)
||Includes executive compensation as part of the federal transparency act
|Estimated Unexpended Funds Report
|Mid-Year Budget Modification Request
||Annually, as needed
|Financial Desk Review
||Assigned by risk level
|Annual Audit Report & Second Audit Report
||Aligned with audit release date
|Performance Measure & Program Progress Reporting
|Program Start Forms
||Series of forms due annually
||Programs detail the management components that will be used to support the grant and ensure compliance.
|Program Progress Reports
||Three times per year, with a year-end report as needed
||Every three years
||Applies only to competitively-funded programs.
|Member & Other Reporting
|Member Enrollment & Exit Forms
||Annually or Semi-annually
||Frequency depends on member slot and term length
|Member Status Change Request Forms
|National Service Criminal History Check Documentation
||As needed for all members and covered staff
b) Will I asked to report actual numbers served in the demographic categories that are a part of the application?
At this time, AMERICORPS has asked programs to report on actual numbers of volunteers generated by AmeriCorps members.
FAQ 9. APPLICATION TIPS
a) eGrants Formatting
In the past, many applicants have had problems with strange characters appearing in the pdf versions of the eGrants proposal. There are several factors to remember when making sure your application will meet page limits and will not have formatting errors:
- Word processer text formatting features (bold, underline, tabs and outlines) will not appear in your saved eGrants application. So, do not rely on these features to organize the layout of your application. You may use capital letters as a way to highlight various sections or components of the narrative.
- Bulleted lists, smart quotes, and other formatting styles used in Word have codes associated with them which may appear in your eGrants pdf as strange characters, such as upside down question marks (¿) and other symbols.
- Spacing: the default in eGrants is for double-spacing, therefore, do not attempt to manually (or autoformat) double-space your document, as this will cause problems with the double-spacing that is included in the system.
- AMERICORPS staff advise that you reduce any special formatting where possible AND that you copy your entire application into Text or Notepad (which use very basic formatting similar to that of eGrants) to remove the special characters and auto formatting features.
- Only the section headers of (1). Rationale and Approach, (2). Organizational Capability and (3). Cost Effectiveness and Budget Adequacy are printed in the pdf narratives from eGrants. Adding your own system for subheadings (by using numbering or all caps, for example) is extremely helpful for guiding readers to the information requested.
b) eGrants Page Limits
AMERICORPS has established different page limits depending on the program design, and there are specific page limits for various sections of the application (narratives, logic model, etc). Specific page limits are noted in the Request for Applications and Final Application Instructions. Please note that the page limits are based on the pdf version of the application as it prints from eGrants. Applicants should note that the system will allow them to enter content that will exceed the allowable page limits. So, prior to submission, it is highly recommended that the applicants print a copy of the document to ensure that the formatting, characters and labels appear appropriately and to verify that the document falls within the page limitation. Any content that exceeds the page limits will not be considered in either the AMERICORPS or Volunteer Iowa review.
c) AMERICORPS Feedback on Recent Competitions
AMERICORPS has been placing an increased emphasis on seeking applicants who can demonstrate why AmeriCorps members (i.e. human capital) are the best resource to address the identified problem. AMERICORPS indicates they are also looking for a high-quality evidence-basis for the activities and strategies to be undertaken by AmeriCorps members. AMERICORPS has indicated that previous years’ applicants have given strong definitions of the problem to be addressed, but have failed to clearly connect member activities to that problem and provide a strong case for how these member actions will have an impact on the identified problem. AMERICORPS has stated that applicants should be able to describe a logical connection between identified problem and identified interventions within the narrative. Volunteer Iowa staff encourages applicants to note these requests from AMERICORPS and respond accordingly within the application.
d) Writing style
These are only suggestions, but do remember that style can make the difference between two grants.
- Remember that the purpose of a grant is to help fulfill the grantor’s (AMERICORPS) mission, not simply the mission of your agency. Use an approach in your narrative that explains how this proposed program will effectively fulfill the mission of AMERICORPS.
- Acronyms: Minimize the use of acronyms. Grant reviewers are reading from outside your world and very rapidly, at that. It is so easy to forget what the acronym means and most reviewers are not willing to offer the time to go back and figure out what it meant. From there on, they lose clarity and score accordingly. It may often be better to spell out things you might wish to acronym and find other places to edit.
- Style: Avoid colloquial phrases; instead work to maintain a professional tone.
- Voice: Many grant competitions prefer that applicants use the third person voice. Whether you choose to use third person or first person, it is critical that you be consistent and maintain the same style throughout. The first person would be using terms such as “we” and “our”. Third person would say, “the applicant” or “the proposal”.
- Be mindful of using the appropriate AmeriCorps terms, for example “serve” as opposed to “work”, “AmeriCorps member” as opposed to “volunteer” or “employee”, “enrolled” as opposed to “hire”.
e) Double-check your numbers
These types of errors and inconsistencies are easily noticed during review. Please confirm:
- Do the number of members, host sites, etc. mentioned in the narrative agree with the numbers in the performance measures and budget?
- Do other numbers mentioned in the narrative that reference a prior application (i.e. decrease in cost/MSY from prior years, increases in performance measure targets, etc.) actually agree with last year’s application?
- Do numbers mentioned in the narrative and available from AMERICORPS agree? For example, did you take your member retention and enrollment rates from the report in eGrants?
- Within the budget, ensure that the calculation by line item is correct and agrees with the total reported in the AMERICORPS and grantee share columns.
j) Our community partner asked to whom should the letter of support/commitment be addressed?
We have not seen guidance from AMERICORPS indicating that the letters should be addressed to any specific individual and therefore we suggest that letter writers use a general greeting such as “To Whom it May Concern.”
VOLUNTEER IOWA BUDGET DEVELOPMENT TIPS
AMERICORPS BUDGET DEVELOPMENT BEYOND THE BASICS
Budgets should be developed with input from program staff, accounting staff and others that are involved with program management. An effective budget is a guide and must be realistic, consistent, and flexible. Guidance for budget development is provided annually is available in several places including the RFA and Final Application Instructions. TA calls and feedback may also be provided by both Volunteer Iowa & AmeriCorps as opportunities to improve budgets.
|ITEMS TO CONSIDER IN DEVELOPING YOUR NEXT BUDGET
||WHERE TO LOOK
||THINGS YOU MIGHT CONSIDER
|PERSONNEL/PERSONNEL BENEFITS: Programs may need to project increases in costs in these areas. If you a competitively funded grant recompeting for another 3-year grant, you may want to work with accounting staff to project the costs of personnel and benefit cost three years in advance.
||Talk with your program accountant for payroll projections
||If your organization normally provides a specific salary increase, such as a Cost of Living Adjustment or a percentage increase, for all staff, then you should budget for that appropriately. Similarly, you could check in with your organization’s staff that manages benefits to determine if they anticipate increases in health care or other benefit costs.
|MEMBER TRAINING: Consider previous/historic spending on items. Are you consistently overspending in training, yet you are budgeting the same amount annually? If you do not anticipate changing or reducing the training, then you should allocate enough money to cover the training costs.
||Past budgets, past expenses, talk with other program staff
||Is it possible to share resources with another program to help defray training costs? Can you work with other programs on joint member orientation or other desired training? Or portions of required trainings to help not only provide a richer member experience, but also reduce your time in developing the training? This may also allow you to bring in an outside trainer, splitting the cost with another program.
|STAFF/MEMBER TRAVEL: Just like payroll expenses, travel reimbursement amounts sometimes increase annually. Planning for those increases in per diem or mileage increases can soften the blow on your budgets. If you want to report staff/member travel as match you need to budget for costs appropriately. If you want to use federal funds you must budget for the cost in the staff/member travel line.
||Accountant, program staff, past budgets
||Programs should be realistic in the estimated cost increases if the future costs are unknown. Estimates should be reasonable, and increases should be in keeping with recent revisions to the per diems or mileage rates. Programs should be prepared to provide updated policies that reflect the rates they use. Programs may want to consider paying off-grant for some travel costs if they’re able. Tracking and documenting travel expenditures can be tedious. Programs could consider instituting a per diem to reduce the documentation burden and increase flexibility. Keep in mind, you’re still required to follow all federal and grant requirements.
|SUPPLIES: Purchases of items that are not budgeted for can be problematic. If they are single item larger purchases of more than $1000, they must be approved by your program officer. If they are small items and consistently purchased, for example, educational items in support of grant activities, they could be flagged as unallowable in an audit.
||Past budgets, past expenses, accounting staff
||A few items are one thing, but if you’re consistently purchasing items for your program, you should be including them in the budget. Program staff should review the past year ledger and talk with accounting staff to see if there are things that should be specifically included in the budget or items that were missed, such as educational materials or member training.
|SUPPLIES: Purchases of electronics (for example computers, tablets and/or laptops) should be included in the budget. Single item purchases of any kind more than $1000 must be in the budget or be approved by the program officer. If your organization has an electronic replacement plan to replace computers (or other devices) every three years, you should include those costs in your budget.
||Organizational Policies, past budgets
||Any electronic devices purchased solely with AmeriCorps grant funds must be used 100% for AmeriCorps use. This means programs who have program staff whose time isn’t 100% on the grant must have a plan to attribute costs accordingly. Programs that provide electronics to members should also have a policy that outlines the requirements surrounding the lending and return of the equipment. Volunteer Iowa has a template policy available on our website.
|MEMBER TRAINING: Food is difficult for federal grant grants. In general, food is considered entertainment, but if you are having food in conjunction with a training that is 6 hours or more in length and the meal is integral to the training, it can be allowable; however, you MUST budget for the food in your approved budget.
||Past budget, program staff, grant resources
||The Volunteer Iowa Program Manual outlines the requirement for providing food as part of a training, see chapter 4. This is not an item that can been added to the budget after the fact. Please think about program training opportunities as you are developing your budget. Meals for staff are generally not allowed unless the staff is in travel status.
|EVALUATION: Evaluation is another activity where programs tend not to budget anything, but then want to spend money in this line. It would not hurt a program to budget a small amount ($50) to open the line, even if it’s just on the match side.
||Program staff, accountant, program officer
||Then if the opportunity presented itself, and the program was able to reallocate some more funds to do some evaluation work this could be done without a formal amendment. If those funds were not needed the money could be reallocated without trouble to another line in the spring.
|OTHER PROGRAM OPERATING COSTS: Recruitment activities are one of the expenses AmeriCorps allows to cross program years. Volunteer Iowa encourages programs to plan and engage in year around recruitment, and to help host site play an active role in member recruitment as well.
||Past budgets, program staff, program officer
||If you don’t have a recruitment budget already, Volunteer Iowa would suggest budgeting a small amount ($100) of money so that in the event you need to spend more time and resources on recruitment activities, little/no additional effort will be needed to amend the budget.
|OTHER PROGRAM OPERATING COSTS: Member recognition is encouraged; however, spending using federal dollars must be reasonable and included in the budget.
||Program officer, grant regulations
||Federal funds can only cover the costs for members and site supervisors to attend recognition/training events. If your plans include family members or the public, you’ll need to find another source of funds to cover the food and/or drinks for them. Gifts to members need to be reasonable as well and in line with the number of years of service.
|MEMBER HEALTHCARE: Member Healthcare costs are traditionally difficult to budget for accurately; however, most programs can look back over the past three years and get an average of the costs. If you’re able to do this, take advantage of this data. Underbudgeting may lead you to needing a formal budget amendment. Volunteer Iowa would also strongly suggest that you budget member healthcare expenses on both the federal share and the match side.
||Past budgets, past expenses
||Member Assistance Program (MAP) should also be budgeted in this category (the ASC membership fees are budgeted in Other Program Operating Costs). MAP fees must be paid in the same grant year the covered members are serving. Unspent member healthcare costs can be reallocated to other areas during the budget modification processl, if the amount is larger (changes in lines exceeds 10% of total budget) or smaller amounts can be moved after a discussion with your program officer. Budgeting healthcare costs on both the federal share and match side may help you avoid time in making rebate/credit adjustments in the future.
|REDUCING UNEXPENDED FUNDS: The largest reason for unexpended funds is not being able to fully recruit all the member slots awarded to the program. While some of this most recently can be attributed to COVID, recruiting ups and downs have long been an issue for AmeriCorps programs. Programs with consistent high unexpended funds/low member recruitment maybe required to adjust their budget during clarifications or at the time of award.
||Program staff, program office, host site(s), program officer
||Programs should evaluate their program design to ensure the current allocation of member slot types are working. Do you have slot types that you are always having to convert? Can you fill them, but the member never completes the service? Is that a program design issue or a host site issue? Would a different slot type work better? Working through these questions and being deliberate about your plan will help to right-size your program and minimize your administrative time in managing the grant.
Governing financial documents:
Uniform Administrative Guidance 2CFR 200
Federal statute for the Corporation for National and Community Service 42 U.S.C.12651, National and Community Service Act of 1990, as amended
Regulations - 45 Code Federal Regulations (CFR) Chapter XII, 45 Code Federal Regulations (CFR) Chapter XXV
Current year General and AmeriCorps Specific Terms and Conditions (these are updated annually)
Keep in mind the following—
- A well-prepared budget should be reasonable and demonstrate that the funds being asked for will be used wisely.
- The budget should be as detailed and specific as possible in its estimates. Make every effort to be realistic, to estimate costs accurately based on prior expenditures, and considering expected changes for the upcoming year.
- The budget format should be as clear as possible. It should begin with a budget narrative, which you should write after the entire budget has been prepared.
- Make sure you address all the items that are outlined in the NOFO directions. If you have questions send an email or attend one of the technical assistance calls. Program officers cannot respond to grant-related questions after the release of the funding opportunity.
Your budget should justify all expenses and be consistent with the program narrative:
- Salaries for grant-supported staff should be comparable to those within the applicant organization. If the grant-supported staff is also doing other work for the organization, it should be at the same rate of pay as others in the organization with comparable competency and knowledge.
- If new staff is being hired, additional space and equipment are considered, as necessary.
- Indirect costs should be allocated across all programs within your organization. Costs should be treated consistently, i.e., that if a cost, such as your Accountant’s time or the rent, is charged as an indirect cost on another grant, it must be charged as an indirect cost on your AmeriCorps grant. Other things that are often charged as indirect costs are difficult to allocate, for example utilities and board insurance. If your organization has several grants, it should have an Allocation Plan that spells out which costs are included in the indirect cost pool and how those are allocated in each grant. If your organization does not have an Allocation Plan, but is interested in developing one, Volunteer Iowa has a couple of tools that may help aid you in that process.
- If your organization is accounting for In-kind costs outside of your accounting system you must have a policy that support this practice. This would include the value of in-kind site supervisor time.
VOLUNTEER IOWA BUDGET CATEGORIZATION TIPS
To help ensure consistency within budgets across program, we have provided examples of budget items that are frequently miscategorized. When creating your program’s budget, please ensure that all items are categorized in the correct budget category. If you have questions about specific items, please reach out to Jamie Orozco Nagel, email@example.com.
|Other Operating Costs
- Office space rental
- Other program-related services+
- Computer licenses and fees for software use
- Cell phone reimbursement
- Payroll processing fee+
- Association fee (ASC, for example)
- Licensing fee for member curriculum
- Costs associated with member recruitment and outreach (e.g., career fair fees, advertising expenses)
- Cost associated with member timekeeping, other fees the commission charges
- Allowable member recognition costs
- Training materials
- Training curriculum
- Costs for training space
- Expenses related to brining in instructors
Commision Sponsored Training
- New AmeriCorps Program Director Training (for New Programs & Programs with staff who have served two-years or less, held in Des Moines)
- AmeriCorps Program Launch (all Iowa AmeriCorps programs, held in Des Moines)
- Regional National Service Training Conference (all Iowa AmeriCorps programs, typically programs attend in the Midwest/North Central region)
AmeriCorps/CNCS Sponsored Training
- AmeriCorps Symposium is NOT applicable to Iowa programs.
Another other staff training should be listed separately
- Computers, tablets, cell phones+
- Member gear
- Program materials
- Postage, office supplies, business cards+
- CPR/First Aid supplies
- Supplies for service day activities
- Consumable goods associated with member recruitment and outreach (e.g., flyers)
|Member Health Care
- If budget does not cover healthcare for all FT members, you must justify this in the budget and make clear that you can cover all FT members if needed.
- Member mental health care costs (costs should be associated with the grant years in which they are charged)
+Please ensure that your organization provides a clear allocation plan if these expenses benefit more than one project within your organization. Individual item costs that exceed $1000 need to be budgeted or approved in advance. Printed items should be logoed appropriately.
COMPILATION OF LINKS
Volunteer Iowa: www.volunteeriowa.org
5 MRSA §1825-E & 18-554 Code of Iowa Rules, C. 120
The Code of Federal Regulations sections on AmeriCorps
45 CFR §2520.20 - §2520.55, Member Service Activities
45 CFR §2520.65, Prohibited Activities
45 CFR §2522.100, Minimum Requirements for Every AmeriCorps Program Type
45 CFR §2522.110, Types of AmeriCorps Programs
45 CFR §2522.900-2522.950, Tutoring Programs
45 CFR §2521.35-2521.90, Matching Funds
45 CFR§2522.240-2522.250, Member Benefits
45 CFR §2522.485, Calculating Cost Per Member Service Year (MSY)
45 CFR §2522.500-2522.650, Performance Measures
National Service Criminal History Check Information
45 CFR §2522.500-2522.540 and §2522.700-2522.740, Evaluation
45 CFR §2522.400-2522.475, Selection Criteria and Selection Process
Federal recruiting and enrollment site for AmeriCorps
Segal Education Award, forbearance, Service Trust
AmeriCorps Grant Terms & Conditions
• Specific Terms and Conditions LINK:
• General Terms and Conditions LINK:
National Sex Offender Website: https://www.nsopw.gov/
eGrants account set up tutorial
Register with SAM (System for Award Management)
USDA rural-urban commuting area (RUCA) codes
Volunteer Iowa website for a copy of the RFA: AmeriCorps State Grants | Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service (volunteeriowa.org)