AmeriCorps Webinar (Text Version)
This is a text version of the video for the AmeriCorps webinar presented on May 17, 2011, by Ruth Lampi, AmeriCorps.
COORDINATOR: Welcome, everyone. Thank you all for standing by. Welcome to today's conference call. At this time, your lines have been placed on listen-only for today's conference. Once again, all lines are on listen-only for our conference today. During the question-and-answer portion of our call, you will be prompted to press star one on your touch-tone phone. Please be sure to record your name when prompted so that I may introduce you to ask your question.
The conference is also being recorded, and if you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. I will now turn our conference over to our host, Ms. Sandra Loi. Ma'am, you may proceed.
SANDRA LOI: Thank you, Jo. Good morning. Good afternoon, depending on where everyone might be calling in from today. Thank you for joining us for today's webinar. As Jo said, I'm Sandra Loi with the National Renewable Energy Lab in support of the Clean Cities program. Today's webinar is focused on the AmeriCorps organization.
Some of you may or may not have heard of this organization, and actually may have already worked with them in the past. We are very fortunate to have a representative, Ruth Lampi, from AmeriCorps today to give us an overview of the organization—potential synergies of the Clean Cities program. AmeriCorps has four programs that their focus is—which are state, national, VISTA, and NCCC, which Ruth will discuss in more detail during her presentation.
Also on the line today is Marcy Rood Werpy, from Argonne National Lab. Marcy has worked for the Clean Cities program since 1995, and now leads the team of Argonne National Lab technical experts in the areas of alternative fuel and advanced vehicle transportation activities and research. In addition to continuing to support the Clean Cities program. Many of you know Marcy, as she coordinates the very popular internship program for Clean Cities and also continues to look for additional similar options that may be available for coalitions.
AmeriCorps may fill an important gap in staffing needs. So, hence the reason we're having this webinar today. We will have a question-and-answer session, as the meeting host mentioned, at the end of the webinar. So please be sure to jot down any questions that you may have if they come up throughout the webinar.
Now, I will pass things off to Marcy to get us started. Marcy, you may begin.
MARCY ROOD WERPY: Thanks, Sandra. And good morning, good afternoon, to those of you who joined us. And we certainly appreciate your participation today. As Sandra had mentioned, DOE had asked me actually some time ago to look at additional opportunities for staffing of coalitions. And while the internship program is certainly very popular with most coalitions, it's more short-term in nature and it's also, you know, we don't have the funding to support every coalition.
And based on hearing from success stories from some of the coordinators who have used AmeriCorps volunteers in the past—and there's actually some folks that are either part of coalitions or part of the DOE staff that were former AmeriCorps volunteers. So we've heard a lot about good success stories with this particular program. And I thought we should become more engaged with the staff at AmeriCorps, and to bring to you the latest information on the program and how to apply.
I met Ruth Lampi of AmeriCorps State and National programs last December as well as two members of the National Civilian Community Corp. And Ruth will also be talking about that program at the end of her presentation. Ruth was certainly eager to find ways to reach out to our coordinators, and this webinar is hopefully a first step in greater collaboration.
And, with that, I'll introduce Ruth. And she is the program officer for AmeriCorps State and National program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. She serves as the focus area lead on environmental stewardship for the corporation's strategic planning process. She has spent the bulk of her career working in the non-profit field, and a range of issues and roles. And frequently involving energy and environment.
She was the first executive director of the National Fuels Fund Network and she spent 5 1/2 years at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. So her name may be familiar to many of you. She has a master's degree in community planning. So with that, Ruth, we'll turn it over to you. And thank you for joining us.
RUTH LAMPI: Sure. Hi, everyone. As Marcy said, I am a, one of actually quite a number of program officers with AmeriCorps State and National. And I am also the focus area lead on environmental stewardship, so that's where it seems particularly appropriate to undertake this.
I'm familiar with Clean Cities coalitions because of my previous work and I hope we can find some opportunities to work together. The things I plan to cover today are just what is AmeriCorps; AmeriCorps's funding priorities. We've just completed a 5-year strategic planning process and so we have some very specific identified funding priorities; one of which is environmental stewardship. How to apply for an AmeriCorps grant, next steps, and some resources for you, as well as a very brief overview of the National Civilian Community Corps, which we call NCCC.
So first, what is AmeriCorps? Well, AmeriCorps provides grants to organizations to operate AmeriCorps programs. Those programs engage individuals in national service to address unmet community needs. Programs maximize the power of service in volunteering to improve communities across the country.
And so, what we do is to fund high-quality programs that applicants design with a set of activities that demonstrate an evidenced-based approach to solving those community problems and creating a community impact. So we're in the application process, definitely looking for a well-defined community need, evidence support for the solution to that need, and the ability to define your community impact.
So we provide partial funding to support an AmeriCorps program. All programs are required to contribute matching funds, ranging from 24% when a program starts to 50% at the end of 10 years. We provide 3-year grants, so the first 3 years are a 24% match per year. Our grants also include an allotment of AmeriCorps member positions.
So unlike VISTA, which some of you may be familiar with, where you actually get just a person and the VISTA program takes care of funding that position, instead we provide a grant and then a certain number of slots for AmeriCorps positions. So that number of slots is directly tied to the grant. And then the grant is used; the cash grant is used solely to pay for program-related expenses.
So AmeriCorps members are, have been, recruited and enrolled by the program. And AmeriCorps members can serve terms ranging from 300 hours, which is the minimum term over the span of a year, to 1,700 hours, which we consider full time. An AmeriCorps member is not a volunteer or a staff person. They are a participant in national service.
So it's a different way of looking at the labor that is contributed. But we'll get into that a little more. AmeriCorps members have to be U.S. citizens or lawful, permanent residents, resident aliens, must be at least 17 years of age—but there's no upper age limit. And each AmeriCorps slot has also allotted to it an education award if the member successfully completes their term, and award varies depending on the length of the term.
This year, for a full-time member, I believe it's $5,200 at the end of the year that they can use to pay for school loans or tuition.
Full-time AmeriCorps members have to receive a living allowance, which is about $12,800 now. I think it varies from year to year. And they are eligible for healthcare and childcare benefits. We would provide the childcare benefits, but the program has to provide health benefits for all full-time members. And part-time members may receive a living allowance, but we don't require it of the program.
So what is not an AmeriCorps grant? You can't use it to replace staff or volunteers. So it can't be used to duplicate or supplant existing funding of staff, or activities, or volunteers. It's also not for general expenses. All the funding has to be spent directly in implementing the AmeriCorps program. And as I said before, it's not enough to support all of your expenses. You would need to do, to raise some matching funds.
The benefits of an AmeriCorps grant is that it can expand the capacity of your organization to meet critical needs with very committed human resources, or legs on the ground. It provides funding for the running of that program, the administration, the training, technical assistance. And you also would become part of a national network of organizations working in national service.
It would allow the Clean Cities coalitions to recruit individuals from the community, or nationwide, to serve as AmeriCorps members. And then those members gain the skills and experience of working for a year with your program, and then they also get the ed award to help them with their future endeavors.
Eligible applicants include nonprofits, colleges, governmental entities (state or local), Indian tribes, and consortia, as well as some intermediaries. So that a national organization may apply for a grant, receive it, and then they would sort of farm out the AmeriCorps members to different organizations—all under a larger heading.
Now, the funding priorities of our current strategic plan are education, veterans and military families, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, economic opportunity, and disaster services. These are directly out of the Serve America Act that was passed a few years ago; our reauthorizing legislation.
The education focus area focuses on preparing kids for school, helping them perform at grade level, increase in graduation rates, getting kids ready for college, getting kids into college, and successful graduates of college. And we are emphasizing the lowest performing schools.
Environmental stewardship. We're trying to protect human health and health of ecosystems by conserving air, water, land. Our focus is on reducing energy use in homes and community facilities, improving at-risk ecosystems and public use lands, and then encouraging organizations and individuals to improve their environmental stewardship through outreach, and education, and green job training.
Healthy futures is really focused on access to care, aging in place, and addressing childhood obesity, which, as you know, is the major focus of this administration. I won't go into all of these details. You'll have access to this through a copy of the slides, though. If you're interested in some of these other issues, you can learn more about them as well from our website.
In economic opportunities, we're looking at things like financial literacy, ending homelessness, employment, and educational outcomes for economically vulnerable and disadvantaged community members, and also improving underinvested communities; gain access to economic opportunity.
Veterans and military families is, it, and education, are our two major focuses this year. And so grants in veterans and military families focus on helping veterans transition back into civilian life, as well as helping their families while they're serving. And there's a wide range of things under this, including using veterans as AmeriCorps members.
And then we also do disaster services, where programs will help with disaster mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery. And our NCCC program actually does a lot of work in this area, but we have many programs that also respond in disasters when needed.
So I'm going to focus on environmental stewardship, because that's the area I would imagine applies most to you. And also, specifically to the third and fourth performance objectives, because I think that's most likely where your Clean Cities programs would fall.
So the objective three is to improve awareness of environmental stewardship issues. Are specific. Performance measures are looking at the number of individuals contacted through outreach campaigns. And by outreach campaigns, we mean not just a flyer, but real engagement. Workshops, presentations, door-to-door engagement.
And then a number of individuals engaged in outreach campaigns, where you're looking for a specific action, or behavior change. We recognize it's difficult to measure behavior change, but that is ultimately what we're looking for.
So outreach, as I said, it's what we're really interested in, is community-based social marketing. Which you all are probably more familiar than many other groups with because it's a key way of trying to change behaviors in a community. So we're looking for programs to develop or engage in proven or promising awareness strategies. As I said, examples—door-to-door, getting commitments, workshops, events where you're modeling behavior, and other such programs.
An example of one of our current programs that's working in this area, to some extent, is NCAT, the National Center for Appropriate Technology. You may be familiar with. They've got AmeriCorps members in three states: Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Iowa. And their members are providing energy audits and weatherization as well as energy education, community energy planning, and some green collar job training.
And then the fourth objective, green job training, is both formal and informal. So we're looking for the number of economically disadvantaged individuals who receive education or training in energy efficiency and environmentally conscious practices. And we're looking to measure those reached into age groups of under 25, and 25 or older.
Another program example, working in the environmental area, is the Coconino County Community Services, where they are doing public lands management focused on supporting clean energy and environmental needs. And they're also focusing on developing professional skills of their members, which they recruit locally, and so developing job skills with those particular individuals who are serving.
And then as I said, it's also informal. So it's also the number who've completed education or training in energy efficiency. So this may, or, but doesn't have to be some kind of a certified training program.
So how do you apply for an AmeriCorps grant? Well, we have actually several programs as the title of our department, is AmeriCorps State and National. If you're operating in just a single state, you can apply for competitive funds. For each of the states has a state commission that is funded and receives formula funds based on population, so those formula funds are available for them to make decisions about grants in their states.
And then, also, applicants. They submit a slate of applicants for our competitive round, which is both state and national together. So all AmeriCorps national grants, which are multi-state grants, are, go through the competitive process. And some of the state grants do, and as do the tribal grantees or applicants.
So if you're proposing to operate in only one state, you have to go through your state commission. And so that state commission will probably have a deadline sometime in the fall that you would need to apply for. And then, if they select your grant to be part of their competitive application, they actually submit that on your behalf. And they become the grant sort of funneler.
Those that want to operate in more than one state apply directly to us as do tribal grantees. And then states also have the option of using formula funds to fund applicants that don't get funding through the competitive process, or even those that they don't submit for competitive funding.
We expect to have a new notice of funding opportunity out in June. We're working hard on trying to get our NOFO ready for a national conference on volunteering and service that will be held in June. And it will, at that point, of course, be posted on our website and be available for everyone. And as I said, if you are thinking of applying on the state level, most of those deadlines would be late summer or fall. So you would need to get in touch with your state commission, as soon as possible, to find out what their schedule is.
So our application instructions are very detailed. And we'll provide, you know, we provide all the information you need; although it is somewhat complicated. It's not like other national, federal, funding sources, so give yourself plenty of time to be able to develop a proposal if you decide you want to apply. And then the application itself, it has to be done via eGrants, which it's a Web-based grant service that we use.
So if you're interested, we do have a 101 slide presentation that you can look at that will provide a little more information about AmeriCorps grants. Of course, I can go through some more details with you here today as well, but it's a great resource—this 101 presentation. And I've also included some different resources for you on the application process, where you would get the NOFO and links to various information, depending on what you pursue. Information on how to use eGrants, information on the state commissions, etc.
And then a brief overview of NCCC. NCCC is sort of the modern version of the old CCC that was developed back during the Depression. It engages members that are, I think, 17 to 23, 24 in projects. They work in teams in communities across the country, generally short-term deployments of 6 to 8 weeks at the most. And they go through their own process of determining what partners to use for deploying their members.
Their members live on campuses in five communities across the country. And here is a list of the five campuses, and so each campus is headquarters for that region. And they lodge and feed their corps, which ranges from 150 to 500 members.
So if you want to become a sponsoring organization, you can request the service of AmeriCorps NCCC team by submitting a project application to the regional campus that represents the state that you're in. And you can get some more information on the website to find out about how to develop a work plan and propose the project for NCCC.
And the last, but not least, we have developed what we call a Fit Finder. It is a great tool for you to use if you've got an idea, and to decide which of the many different programs within the corporation for national and community service may be the best one for you. I've talked about AmeriCorps State and National and a little bit about NCCC.
As was mentioned at the beginning, we also have a VISTA program, which is also administered on the state level. And then there's also the Senior Corps, which is part of the corporation, which handles foster grandparents and retired senior volunteer programs. So there are quite a number of different programs within the corporation.
So for more information, I encourage you to go to our website and use the other resources that I've listed in this presentation. Thank you.
SANDRA LOI: Great. Thank you, Ruth. Jo, can we go ahead and open up the lines for questions?
COORDINATOR: Certainly. At this time, if you wish to ask a question, please press star one on your touch-tone phone. Please be sure to record your name when prompted so that I may introduce you. Once again, it is star one at this time. Please stand by for questions. Once again, if you wish to ask a question, please press star one and record your name at this time.
SANDRA LOI: Ruth, as we're waiting for the first question to come in, I guess just for my clarification, with the NCCC, is support only available in those states indicated because of availability of those campuses? Or is that still available on a national level?
RUTH LAMPI: It's available nationally. Those campuses each serve as a regional base. So if you look up the regional campus on the website, it will show which of the states that particular region encompasses. And so, any of the states within that region would apply to that particular regional campus to become a sponsoring organization.
SANDRA LOI: Okay. Gotcha. Great. Do we have any questions on the line, Jo?
COORDINATOR: No. We have no questions at this time.
SANDRA LOI: Okay. Marcy or Ruth. Do you have any other additional comments you'd like to add?
MARCY ROOD WERPY: Maybe Ruth, you could explain the matching requirements? Is it possible that the lead, sort of the lead grantee, would provide the matching request? Or would that be something the coalitions would be responsible for if they applied through one entity?
RUTH LAMPI: It can be done in any number of ways. We have national applicants that raise the matching funds themselves, and then just provide AmeriCorps members to local organizations to do various activities to expand the program on the local level. Other cases, national applicants have what they call a cash match.
So each organization that receives an AmeriCorps member returns a certain amount of funding, maybe $5,000 for a full-time member. That then is used to help pay the living allowance and the other costs that would be matched for the grant because the, you would submit a complete budget that includes all of the staff to run the program, the training needed, the supervision of the members, and the living allowance. As well as any other associated costs with running the program.
And so the bottom line would be that, of the total grant, no more than 76% of it can be the federal share. And the organization would need to come up with 24% at least.
And our grants are usually capped. Right now, this year, it was at $13,300 per member service year, which is basically a full-time equivalent for a grant. So if you got 10 full-time AmeriCorps members, you would have up to $133,000 for a federal grant. And then the match on top of that.
We are very non-restrictive in what can be used as match. It can be in-kind. It can be other federal funding as long as the provider of the federal funding is okay with it. Recently, we just got a letter actually from the Department of Interior. Basically approving their funding to be used as match for ours because we have a lot of youth corps out there that do work in national parks and forests, and that's how they get their match.
So there's a real range. I mean, if the coalition is raising local funds from companies or the local government, or, you know, basically anyone that could probably be used as match, or in-kind services can be used as match. If somebody's offering you office space and equipment and things like that, that all can be used as match.
MARCY ROOD WERPY: Okay.
COORDINATOR: We do have a question on the phone line if you would like to take it?
SANDRA LOI: Yes, please.
COORDINATOR: Okay, it comes from Ronald Flowers. Sir, your line is open.
RONALD FLOWERS: Yes. Ron Flowers. Greater Washington, Clean Cities coalition. I was trying to get clarity on the living allowance. Now, is that the total compensation that the individual member receives? Or is there an additional salary on top of that?
RUTH LAMPI: That's the total compensation the individual receives. We, as I said at the beginning, AmeriCorps members are neither staff nor volunteers. They're part of a national service, but the living allowance is indexed by what VISTAs are given as a living allowance. And VISTAs are anti-poverty fighting positions.
So it is a, definitely a very basic living allowance, and the range is from the amount of this it gets to twice that amount. So it is possible, there is a minimum and a maximum. As I said, I think this year the minimum was $12,800, but you could pay up to, you know, about $25,000 if you had the funding to pay and the desire to put the money in that way.
But it's not an hourly wage. It is a living allowance based on their service. So it's for them to be able to live while they give service to the community. It's sort of a different way of looking at it.
We do also have education award-only programs where the slot only has the education award attached to it. And those individuals are not, they wouldn't get a living allowance, but they could be getting paid in another way. We also have professional corps where members can actually be things like teachers or healthcare providers, where they do get a salary for that position. But because we're trying to bring people in to underserved communities, they also get an education award attached to that.
So there's a wide range of programs. I sort of went through the most typical kind of AmeriCorps program, but you can learn more from our website, or by contacting us directly about the different types of programs. Depending on what it is you need to do. I mean, the first step is to decide what it is you want to do in your community, and how having some committed individuals can help you do that.
RONALD FLOWERS: Thank you.
RUTH LAMPI: I hope I answered your question. Sure.
COORDINATOR: We have no further questions.
SANDRA LOI: Okay, great. Well, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
MARCY ROOD WERPY: Sandra, I just wanted to bring up one other additional...
SANDRA LOI: Sure.
MARCY ROOD WERPY: …comment. This has to do with the NCCC project, and more the short-term staffing needs. And one of the things that I've done is to introduce the national alternative fuels training consortia to this program, and this might be a really good opportunity for all of us to get additional hands for Odyssey Day. And it does take, it does require some planning, even though Odyssey Day is not until next year.
I think we'll be engaged in some more further discussions with that part of AmeriCorps and figuring out ways how we can use the AmeriCorps volunteers to do some hands-on education in schools. And also, and then possibly getting those students and others to attend the actual national kick-off day or events locally in the Clean Cities areas.
So anyway, stay tuned for more on that particular effort. I think it might be a really good fit for the Odyssey Day activities.
SANDRA LOI: Great. Thank you, Marcy. And thank you, Ruth, so much for your time today. We will be posting the slides and also recording of the webinar up on the Clean Cities webinar archive pages. Thank you all for joining us today. And hope you have a great rest of your week. Thank you.
RUTH LAMPI: Thank you.
MARCY ROOD WERPY: Thanks, Ruth. Thank you, Sandra.
RUTH LAMPI: Bye.
COORDINATOR: That does conclude today's conference call. We thank you all for participating. You may now disconnect. And have a great afternoon.