Using AmeriCorps To Expand Capacity

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An e-mail from The Finance Project is a reminder that federally funded AmeriCorps volunteers can enlarge or augment the activities of youth groups by freeing up staff time or recruiting additional volunteers.

"Use the volunteer to expand your capacity," said Cema Siegel, a consultant with The Finance Project, which helps children and families organizations finance and sustain their programs.

In a "September Funding Tip," the organization provides a primer on the different types of AmeriCorps grants, what activities these full- or part-time volunteers can support and how to access funding to support one or more volunteer.

So how can an AmeriCorps volunteer help your organization? It might help to review what's going on in your state first. A Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) database provides extensive information about national service activities by state, including the number of volunteers supported across the different CNCS initiatives of AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America.

Easy, right? Not if you don't know the type of program you should apply for. Perhaps acknowledging the complexities of its structure - the corporation funds both national-level activities and state agencies, which in turn support local activities - CNCS has an online tool called "Fit Finder" to help nonprofits determine the most applicable AmeriCorps program. Nonprofits, schools and others, for instance, can apply directly to their State Public Service Commission for AmeriCorps State grants for tutoring and mentoring or other volunteer activities, but must watch for state-issued requests for proposals and application deadlines.

Even if you've figured it all out, here's another caution: many of the AmeriCorps program rules and procedures will change as CNCS implements the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which takes effect Oct. 1. So watch CNCS's website for new guidance and be sure it doesn't affect your plans.