Distinctions between VISTA Members and Employees

Although the supervisor provides day-to-day direction and guidance to the VISTA members, the VISTA members are not employees of the sponsor or site. One of the challenges of hosting VISTAs is ensuring that everyone who interacts with them understands they are with your organization for a very specific purpose and not as “general help”.

Some ways in which supervising VISTAs is similar to supervising employees are:

  • VISTAs are expected to act in a professional manner and conduct themselves in accordance with the workplace norms of your organization
  • They are subject to the same or similar working conditions as their colleagues and should be oriented to the organization’s policies and given any standard staff training at the beginning of the service term
  • VISTAs should be included in staff meetings for their department and organization
  • Supervisors should give VISTAs appropriate feedback on their performance

Some ways in which supervising VISTAs is different from supervising employees are:

  • VISTAs are national service members, and they commit themselves to serving for one year in the community and to the goals of the assigned project
  • VISTA members are often early in their career and may need extra guidance and support in adjusting to the organization’s workplace norms and establishing professional working habits
  • VISTAs serve for limited benefits and are often interested in cultivating an experience that is meaningful both professionally and personally. They may be interested in more coaching, mentoring, and professional development than the average employee. They also may have a deeper appreciation for recognition from your organization and community. 
  • VISTAs may need extra support integrating into the organization and community quickly and effectively. They need to transition quickly in order to make a difference during their one-year term, and this can be a bigger adjustment for VISTA members who are from outside the community or new to the field in which they are serving.
  • Each VISTA has a specific assignment with a capacity-building focus. Other staff in your organization may not recognize the distinct VISTA function, and supervisors play a key role in helping other staff and partners understand both the nature of VISTA service and each VISTA’s specific assignment. This includes supporting VISTA members in setting and maintaining boundaries when others ask the VISTA to help with activities unrelated to the VAD.
  • VISTAs may be anxious about finances as well as what their next step will be once their service year ends.
  • VISTAs cannot be terminated by the site or sponsor, but the sponsor may request the VISTA member’s removal from the project.
  • Some VISTAs may have years of experience in the workplace and see their service opportunity as a way to transition to a new career field or give back after retiring from employment.


VISTAs are also not employees of CNCS, except for very specific purposes.[1] In addition, VISTAs are not, for any purpose, employees of the sponsoring organizations or subrecipient organizations where they are assigned; VISTA members have no legal employment relationship with the sponsoring organization or subrecipient organization. Finally, CNCS retains sole authority for an individual’s selection/admission, replacement, removal, and termination.

Strong supervision of a VISTA member includes the following:

  • Build familiarity with the VISTA member’s VAD
  • Assess a VISTA’s relevant background and skills and consider them when planning for OSOT
  • Learn about the VISTA member’s professional development interests and support them in developing and implementing a plan for professional development that builds skills and knowledge
  • Schedule dedicated weekly one-on-one check-ins
  • Support the VISTA in planning ahead for the end-of-service transition
  • Recognize the contributions and impact of the VISTA member
  • Provide resources and guidance in working with the community