At Your Service

by Robin Hanson

America’s greatness comes from the extraordinary acts of ordinary citizens. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) makes America great by empowering citizens to solve local problems, expanding economic opportunity, encouraging personal responsibility and strengthening civil society. Based on principles of local control, competition and public-private partnership, CNCS is a cost-effective investment in America’s future. Through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA and the Social Innovation Fund, CNCS engages three million Americans in results-driven service each year at 50,000 locations across the country, from small towns and rural areas to inner cities.

The annual impact of AmeriCorps VISTA (from CNCS, based on 2016 figures):

  • 8,000+ members serving
  • 3,000+ located across the US
  • 900,000 volunteers leveraged
  • $178 million raised from other sources
  • 220,000 members since 1965

The Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA program partners with local community agencies throughout the state of Arizona to develop and support unique community-based projects. Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA members work within a variety of nonprofits and government agencies in rural and metro locations in Arizona. Members serving in the Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA program are focused on increasing community access and awareness of various services provided to support them and their families.

The annual impact of our Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA team
(June 2015- June 2016):

  • 16 members serving
  • 15 locations across the state of Arizona
  • 667 volunteers leveraged
  • $86,647 cash and in-kind donation raised from other sources

The Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA members provide the human capital required to close the gap between declining or plateauing revenues combined with growing demand for services. From June 2015 to June 2016, the volunteers recruited by the Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA members served more than 3,350 hours, for an in-kind valuation of $78,949.56 (based on the 2015 Independent Sector rate for the value of a volunteer hour, $23.56 per hour).

Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA members serve for a year, with a living stipend equal to $5.67 per hour — barely more than half of the new $10.00-per-hour minimum wage — despite having a college degree. And keep in mind — a volunteer performing a professional task such as accounting is worth more in the market place than that same volunteer doing gardening. The Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA members provide marketing, fund development, social media, community outreach, developing volunteer programs and webinars for legal help, as well as making sure rural educators have access to resources, and students are aware of post-secondary opportunities. These are all capacity-building tasks organizations cannot afford to do and cannot afford not to do.

While VISTA is the acronym for “Volunteers in Service to America,” they aren’t really volunteers. They are invaluable members of nonprofit, education and government agencies, working to bring others out of poverty — all the while living below the poverty level.

Robin Hanson is the Program Manager – AmeriCorps VISTA at Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

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