Chapter 10: AmeriCorps VISTA Leader


75.jpgJust as AmeriCorps VISTA members work to expand and build the capacity of community projects, Leaders work to expand and build the capacity of individual AmeriCorps VISTA members and their respective service sites. Leaders have demonstrated leadership skills and qualities during their initial term of service and have accepted a new level of responsibility.

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75b.jpgAmeriCorps VISTA Leaders are assigned by the Corporation to projects or regions to assist sponsoring organizations and a minimum of eight members in achieving program objectives and developing new project activities and sources of community support. Leaders set an example of leadership for AmeriCorps VISTA members, ensure positive relations, facilitate idea-sharing, and mediate issues with the community, the project, supervisors, and AmeriCorps VISTA members. Leaders also play a support role in recruiting, mentoring, and coordinating AmeriCorps VISTA members.

VISTA Leaders are former VISTAs, AmeriCorps members, or Peace Corps volunteers who demonstrated exemplary skills and leadership in community service. AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders have demonstrated leadership ability to work constructively with community volunteers, supervisors, sponsoring organizations, and the low-income community.

An AmeriCorps VISTA member is not entitled to an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader assignment for simply having satisfactorily completed a previous assignment. It is solely up to the Corporation State Office to select which projects may have AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders, to determine the number of AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders that may serve at designated projects, and to select the AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders to serve at the designated projects.

The decision to extend, reenroll, or be designated an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader requires the permission of the AmeriCorps VISTA Director, and the decision may be delegated to the Corporation State Office. Permission is dependent on the size, nature, and performance of the VISTA project. Corporation and AmeriCorps VISTA program policy, the funding available to the Corporation, the nature of the agreement between the Corporation and the sponsoring organization, and the performance and conduct of the Leader applicant as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Members are not entitled to any extension, reinstatement, or reenrollment as a member or Leader in the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders are not permitted to perform staffing, administrative or supervisory functions for their sponsoring organizations. Hence, they do not supervise other AmeriCorps VISTA members, the sponsoring organization staff, or community volunteers. Leaders provide support and coordination for members to increase the project's impact.

If circumstances warrant, a Leader can be removed from the position and duties of an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader by the Corporation State Office. The AmeriCorps VISTA Leader regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 1217 (see Appendix C), details the qualifications necessary to become an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, the selection procedure, and roles of Leaders. Moreover, AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders are subject to the same requirements for proper conduct and satisfactory performance while in service as AmeriCorps VISTA members. Accordingly, like members, Leaders are subject to the Early Termination for cause proceedings, set forth in AmeriCorps VISTA Early Termination regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 1210, Subpart C (see Appendix C).

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AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders participate in a three-and-a-half-day Leaders Training designed to provide the knowledge and skills to help recruit, coach, and coordinate teams of AmeriCorps VISTA members. Through training and hands-on experiences, Leaders gain transferable skills in project management, marketing and promotion, conflict resolution and coaching, and fundraising and development.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, you should attend Leaders Training within the first two months of your term of service or the first available training event, with limited exceptions. Leaders who have not begun their term may attend the training if they will be placed within one month of the training.

Leaders Training introduces you to your new role and equips you with a set of skills to help support AmeriCorps VISTA members and ensure that their projects are sustainable. The goals of Leaders Training are to:

  • Communicate the roles and responsibilities of AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders
  • Equip Leaders with a set of leadership skills they can apply in their daily work
  • Establish a learning community among Leaders that will continue throughout their term of service
  • Train Leaders to be effective recruiters for AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Educate Leaders about the tools and resources available to them to support their roles and projects
  • Help Leaders to develop strategies and plan for effectively supporting their members and sustaining their projects
  • Facilitate information sharing and collaboration among Leaders working in similar issue areas
  • Educate AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders about post-service career and educational opportunities
  • Inspire AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders to complete a successful year of service

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The Corporation limits the number of terms served in the AmeriCorps VISTA program to a maximum of five terms. An individual who has served only one year as VISTA member may be a Leader for up to four years of service. An AmeriCorps VISTA Leader is not, however, guaranteed a second year as a Leader. To receive approval for reenrollment, the Leader's job performance must be outstanding and the sponsoring organization and Corporation State Director must agree that it would benefit the project to reenroll the Leader for another year of service.


An AmeriCorps VISTA member must successfully complete a full term of service and demonstrate exemplary skills and leadership in community service before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader. A sponsoring organization may not recommend promotion of a member to Leader midway through a member's first term of service. A member may become a Leader midway through his or her second term of service only if the member plans to continue in the role of Leader for a third full-year term of service.


The AmeriCorps VISTA Leader has a distinct role within a sponsoring organization. Leaders coordinate and provide support to members, but they are not responsible for members. The project supervisor is directly responsible for the management of AmeriCorps VISTA members.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, however, is in a leadership role. At times, the Leader may serve as a mediator, a facilitator, an adviser, or a trainer. The supervisor and AmeriCorps VISTA Leader should make sure AmeriCorps VISTA members understand the Leader's role and responsibilities.

The supervisor/sponsoring organization should not expect Leaders to take on roles similar to those of members in addition to their roles and responsibilities outlined in the project's Leader position description. For example, if an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader coordinates a project that involves eight members who implement literacy programs at six different sites, the Leader should not be expected to implement a literacy program.


Several states, because of their size and geography, have assigned Leaders regionally. These Leaders serve on an AmeriCorps VISTA project and support not only their own project's AmeriCorps VISTA members, but also other project members working in a particular area. This type of assignment is acceptable for Leaders as long as:

  • Leaders are supervised by a single AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor/sponsoring organization
  • Project sponsors involved agree with the proposal
  • Leaders do not operate in a Corporation State Office or sponsoring organization staff role

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AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders are eligible for an additional $200 per month in their living allowance, effective on the date of their Leader assignment. If, however, the $200-per-month increase raises the living allowance above the federal or state minimum wage (whichever is higher), the Leader must be given the option to:

  • Keep the lower living allowance to retain public assistance payments
  • Accept the allowance increase, with the understanding that it may jeopardize the eligibility for, or level of, public assistance or other governmental payments

See VISTA Living Allowance Rates by County for more information about the living allowance rate in the area where you serve.


All AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders receive health benefits in accordance with the provisions of the administrative contract between the Corporation and the benefits provider.


Leaders who have not already had two Segal AmeriCorps Education Award enrollments may opt for the education award. Also, Leaders who opt for an education award cannot also receive an end-of-service stipend.


Leaders who do not choose the education award accrue a $250-per-month stipend, which they receive upon completion of their full year of service as a Leader. Leaders who elect to receive an end-of-service stipend cannot also receive an education award.

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