Capacity Building for Nonprofits

by Robin Hanson

The Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA program places college-educated individuals into nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and government agencies to serve full time for one to three years to help build the capacity of these organizations to expand resources and services in the communities they serve. These individuals serve as grants in human capital with a focus to start, strengthen or expand programs or services that help low-income individuals and communities move out of poverty. The focus of VISTA is strengthening Arizona’s rural community as a whole, while providing services and programs that help improve lives. Our program is uniquely positioned to serve organizations with either a statewide or rural focus.

In Arizona, the statewide unemployment rate is 4.9 percent and the poverty rate is 16.4 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistic, March 2018). Fifteen of our current partners are located in rural Arizona communities. Of those rural sites, four exceed the statewide unemployment rate and two surpass 7 percent. The poverty rate is equally staggering, with ten rural sites exceeding the 16.4 percent rate and two almost doubling it, at 33.9 percent and 35.7 percent. 

Before communities in poverty can provide job training and placement programs for the unemployed population, they have to create jobs. Ten of our sites (nine in rural Arizona) are focused on economic development. The projects concentrate on stopping economic leakage and bringing in new businesses (via eco/agro-tourism, “Shop Local” programs, etc.) that increase the employment opportunities in communities with the greatest need. Our VISTA in Flagstaff will also focus on financial literacy through education and training. 

Our program will significantly expand beginning September 2018, when we will be able to serve up to 25 organizations per year, up from 15 in 2017. We look forward to expanding our capacity in order to serve a growing demand for our VISTA program. Learn more at

Examples of projects supported through this program:

Site Name Community(ies) Focus Area
Sonoran Desert Inn Ajo Eco-Tourism, Small Business Development
Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture Ajo Small Business Development, Jobs Creation
Local First Foundation Globe, Bisbee, Cottonwood Development/Implementation of “Shop Local” campaign
Rebuild Superior Superior Economic Development; Entrepreneurship, Employment Opportunities 
City of Douglas Douglas Development/Implementation of “Shop Local” campaign 
City of Casa Grande Casa Grande Development/Implementation of “Shop Local” campaign 
Coconino County Community Services Flagstaff Financial Literacy training; Economic Empowerment 

Robin Hanson is program manager for AmeriCorps VISA at Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits.

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