New AmeriCorps*VISTA Projects in Pennsylvania – Request for Concept Papers

Posted by on September 30, 2013

Request for Concept Papers (RFCP) for New AmeriCorps*VISTA Projects in Pennsylvania – Concept Papers Due: December 2, 2013

The Pennsylvania State Office of the Corporation for National and Community Service announces an opportunity, subject to availability of resources, to develop new AmeriCorps*VISTA projects in Pennsylvania. This Request for Concept Papers is open to organizations that are NOT current VISTA sponsors.  Please share this notice with your networks, and contact the CNCS Pennsylvania State Office at with any questions.

AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a full-time, national service program for individuals interested in developing lasting solutions to the problems of poverty in the United States.  AmeriCorps*VISTA members serve in community and faith-based non-profit organizations, Indian Tribes, and with local governments to develop and expand services and programs that help bring low-income individuals out of poverty.

Public organizations such as state and local governments, Indian Tribes, and non-profit private organizations can apply to be VISTA sponsors. Please note that eligible non-profit private organizations are not limited to those with IRS 501(c) (3) status, but rather all organizations with IRS 501(c) status that focus on anti-poverty community development; organizations that focus solely on advocacy and lobbying are not eligible.

The Pennsylvania State Office is accepting Concept Papers that propose to address the following focus areas from the Corporation’s 2011-2015 Strategic Plan:

Economic Opportunity: Safe and affordable housing for vulnerable families, enhanced financial literacy, and employment training and access
Education: Improved school readiness and academic performance in K-12 schools, increased graduation rates and college enrollment and retention
Healthy Futures: Improved access to nutritious foods and health care, particularly as low-income communities in PA adjust to the Affordable Care Act.
Veterans and Military Families: Engaging veterans in service, providing service to veterans and military families

The Pennsylvania State Office will give priority to projects of at least three VISTA members. If your agency cannot program or administratively support this number of full-time members, collaborative partnerships that have similar programmatic focus will be considered. To learn more about this process and express an interest in pursuing potential partnerships, please contact the Pennsylvania State Office.

Although we anticipate supporting new projects throughout Pennsylvania, we would like to place a special emphasis on programming in rural areas.

Scope of Project

Subject to availability of resources, AmeriCorps*VISTA positions will be awarded on a full-time basis for one year of service to new VISTA sponsoring organizations. The Corporation will make an award covering a period not to exceed one year with the potential for continuation. VISTA members will likely begin service during the summer of 2014.

CNCS seeks to support projects that demonstrate the effectiveness of their proposed intervention in addressing a particular community need. Evidence of effectiveness could include past performance, results from credible research, or results from a similar, successful program. Evidence would provide the basis for decisions about the design, frequency, and intensity of the proposed intervention.

Programming should be primarily based on addressing local needs, and the Corporation State Office will be guided by locally-driven programming that addresses the following key principles.

Key Principles
Each VISTA project must be developed in accordance with the parameters defined by law, federal regulations, and the key VISTA principles: anti-poverty focus, community empowerment, capacity building, and sustainable solutions.

Anti-Poverty Focus
As previously noted, by law, the purpose of VISTA is to support efforts to fight poverty.  The goal of every project must be to help individuals and communities out of poverty, not to simply make poverty more tolerable.  The project should focus on long-term solutions rather than short-term services.

Community Empowerment
All VISTA project sponsors must ensure that their project engages residents of the low-income community in planning, developing, implementing and evaluating the project. The project must be responsive and relevant to the lives of the community residents, and should tap into inherent community assets, strengths and resources.

Capacity Building
One way to achieve sustainable solutions is to strengthen the ability of local organizations to fight poverty. Through activities such as fundraising, establishment of volunteer recruitment and management systems, community outreach, and partnership development, VISTAs help sponsors to achieve lasting solutions to poverty.

Sustainable Solutions
As originally designated in the Domestic Volunteer Service Act and reinforced in the Serve America Act, VISTA members represent a short-term resource and work to build the long-term sustainability of anti-poverty programs.  All VISTA projects should be developed with a goal of an eventual phase-out of the need for VISTA members and the ability of the project to continue without them.

Unless it is an intermediary-style program (see Guide to Becoming an AmeriCorps*VISTA Project Sponsor), VISTA projects typically last three-to-five years (unless the applicant is serving as an intermediary agency.)  From the beginning of the project planning process, the sponsor and community must think about how to use the project to phase-in other resources and systems to replace the VISTA resource.

Criteria for approval are based on whether the proposed project does the following:
•    Fits with one or more of the Corporation’s 2011-2015 strategic initiative focus areas, VISTA programming priorities, or priority areas listed in the introduction section of this document.  This must be clearly documented in the concept paper
•    Addresses the needs of low-income communities
•    Is grounded in an evidence-based intervention or reflects an innovative approach to the need
•    Leads to building organizational capacity so that the project can continue once VISTA resources are withdrawn
•    Involves beneficiaries of the service and the low-income community in project development and implementation. This is required and must be noted in the concept paper.
•    Is designed to generate public and/or private-sector resources
•    Promotes local volunteer service
•    Complies with the provisions of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, as amended; 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, VISTA regulations; and VISTA policies.

Further criteria for determining approval are based on whether the applicant meets the following:

•    Is a local or state government agency, Tribe, or a private organization designated as a non-profit by the Internal Revenue Service
•    Has resources available for VISTAs to perform their activities, such as space, supplies, and on-the-job transportation, and is able to provide emergency cash advances when needed
•    Has the management capacity and commitment to recruit, train, supervise, and otherwise support VISTAs recruited locally and nationally
•    Understands and is committed to promoting national and community service.
•    Has the capacity to build community partnerships and collaborative efforts to achieve project self-sufficiency.

New project development occurs annually and is always subject to availability of resources. The Pennsylvania State Office strives to ensure that the portfolio of VISTA projects is diverse in terms of both programmatic areas and geography. An additional factor we consider is the type of sponsor: from small grassroots organizations to large intermediary organizations.

Concept papers must be submitted directly to the Pennsylvania State Office by emailing the required content to by Friday, December 6, 2013. It is not necessary to submit via eGrants at this time.

Any interested organization or individual with additional questions not addressed by this RFCP may contact the Pennsylvania State Office at Staff is available to discuss project ideas and provide feedback throughout the process as well as provide general information.


October 16, 2013: Conference call for interested applicants
Time: 11:00 a.m.     Phone Number: 888-946-2708      Participant passcode: 5350308

To join the online meeting,

December 6, 2013: Deadline for submitting concept papers

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