Member Management

Site supervisors, sub-site supervisors and, often, intermediary supervisors will oversee the VISTA's assignment and provide day-to-day supervision, coaching, and support.

Supervising a VISTA Versus a Regular Employee

Supervising a VISTA is different from supervising a local, paid employee. VISTAs are volunteers, and they commit themselves to serving for one year in the community and to the goals of the project. They have a community development and capacity-building focus to their project assignment. Other staff in your organization may not recognize the difference.

One of the challenges of having 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.” At the same time, VISTAs are subject to the same or similar working conditions as their colleagues and should not be exempted from following the rules of conduct that everyone else must follow. Your role as supervisor is to support the integration of VISTAs into your organization and the community, while at the same time giving appropriate feedback to them on their service performance and appropriate community involvement.

In planning for the support of a VISTA, you should consider all aspects of their assignment including:

  • The day-to-day tasks
  • The relationship of these tasks to the work of your organization's staff members
  • The staff's understanding of the VISTA's role
  • The target community's expectations for the project and the VISTA
  • The resources, facilities (e.g., reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities), and supplies needed for the VISTA to successfully complete his or her assignment
  • The VISTA Project Plan approved by the CNCS State Office

Managing VISTA Leaders

VISTA Leaders are assigned regionally or to larger projects to assist sponsoring organizations and VISTAs in achieving their project objectives. They are former VISTAs, AmeriCorps members, or Peace Corps volunteers who demonstrated exemplary skills and leadership in community service. They are not permitted to perform administrative or supervisory functions for their sponsoring organizations or CNCS State Offices.

Leaders do not supervise VISTAs. The Leader's role is to coordinate and assist VISTAs in communications and performing their service. The Leader is not an intermediary between the supervisor and the VISTA program. Moreover, he or she is not responsible for the oversight and guidance of VISTAs — that role rests with the supervisor and the CNCS State Office.
With a mutual understanding of the parameters of the Leader's role, the Leader may very effectively complement the role of the supervisor. The assignment description is a guide to the Leader's service goals and objectives, but determining how the Leader's assignment dovetails with your work as supervisor and how and when to best communicate requires discipline and focus between the two of you early on and then throughout the year.

VISTAs must also understand the distinctions between a site-supervisor and Leader, and know whom to turn to for what. Co-facilitating a discussion with the VISTAs, and perhaps providing a reference sheet about procedures and points of contact, are effective methods to pass this information to the VISTAs.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

VISTAs and VISTA Leader Status

Although your organization and you, as the supervisor, provide day-to-day direction and guidance to the VISTAs, they are not employees of the sponsoring organization. You should expect, however, VISTAs to act in a professional manner and conduct themselves in accordance with the workplace norms of your organization.

VISTAs are also not employees of CNCS, except for very specific purposes (see “Federal Employees' Compensation Act” section in Chapter 14 of the VISTA Member Handbook), but CNCS retains authority for their acceptance, replacement, and removal.

Administrative Support

VISTAs should have access to all the materials that are needed to complete their projects. You are expected to provide VISTAs the use of a computer, printer, Internet access, e-mail access, consumable supplies, telephone, copier, and fax-just as you would for any staff member. CNCS does not provide the equipment or supplies required by VISTAs for their project assignment.

Settling comfortably into a new community may be one of the most difficult challenges that VISTAs face. Hence, one of your most important roles as a supervisor is to introduce the VISTAs to their new community and help them begin building their identity with your project. Plan to introduce VISTAs to the community using media and letters of introduction to local officials. For instance, provide them with business cards for your organization, and welcome and recognize members as VISTAs on your website and/or blog, in print and broadcast publicity, and at public meetings and conferences.

VISTAs often participate in special days of service or service events, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Make a Difference Day; AmeriCorps Week; and National Volunteer Week. VISTA supervisors are expected to allow and support their VISTA’s participation in these events.

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Housing Assistance

As a sponsor, you are requested to assist VISTA members in locating housing within the community they are assigned; however, your organization is not responsible for securing housing for them.

Each VISTA member receives a bi-weekly Living Allowance to assist with covering housing, food, utilities, and other living costs. The CNCS State Office can provide additional information, but living allowances are connected to the poverty rate for the county in which the VISTA serves.

Some VISTAs may need to relocate to a new community to serve. VISTA members who are authorized by AmeriCorps VISTA to relocate receive a $550 settling-in allowance to help with any set up costs, e.g., utilities and deposits. The one-time $550 settling-in allowance is only given if the VISTA member is relocating to serve a 12-month term. You and/or the VISTA member should direct questions concerning the allowance to the CNCS State Office.

Housing Assistance: What You Can Do

Below is a list of suggestions related to assisting your VISTAs with housing:

  • Offer to house them until they find a place that is affordable and convenient to their project location.
  • Keep your ears open, before they arrive, for inexpensive rental opportunities.
  • Help them identify which neighborhoods are safe, affordable, and appropriate.
  • Let them know about community papers or bulletin boards that list apartment openings.
  • Drive them through affordable apartment complexes and neighborhoods that could be options for them.
  • See if other VISTAs on your project or on a project in town need a roommate.
  • Think creatively. Do you know someone who has a large house and is willing to rent out a room?
  • Suggest that VISTAs tell their landlord or property manager that they are VISTAs who receive only a small living allowance. Some landlords may discount their rent or reduce the amount of security deposits.

VISTAs may accept offers of free or low-cost housing from community members, local organizations, educational institutions, or sponsoring organizations. Some examples of housing that VISTAs may accept include:

  • Unused free housing space offered by a community member because he or she is proud to have a VISTA in the community
  • A vacant apartment over the shop area offered by a local business owner
  • Reduced-rate housing offered by a national housing company to volunteers who serve in a given community and VISTAs who meet the eligibility requirements
  • Free or low-cost housing provided by a local, state, or federal government agency in areas with limited housing opportunities
  • Housing rented by a sponsoring organization on the VISTA's behalf
  • A portion of existing space the sponsoring organization already owns or rents

Housing Assistance: What You Can’t Do

Sponsoring organizations, or others, may not offer money directly to a VISTA to supplement the VISTA's living allowance, or to pay rent, utilities, or other costs. Nor may VISTAs accept, via third-party, payments for utilities or housing costs other than for rent.

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Orientation and Training

Once in the community, VISTAs will need to continue to improve their skills, knowledge, and abilities to help them serve the community better. Trainings may be as formal as workshop sessions organized by sponsoring organizations or as informal as self-initiated evening study at the local library. Training for VISTA members is a shared responsibility among CNCS staff, the sponsoring organization, the supervisor, and the VISTA.

Chart of Blended Learning and Development for VISTAs

Member training and development is divided into three phases: Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) prior to the arrival of VISTAs at the project site; On-Site Orientation and Training, facilitated by the sponsor and supervisor; and In-Service Training, provided by various organizations and offered in various forms and venues.

VISTA Campus

Additional funds for in-service training are not available; however, the VISTA program develops and maintains the VISTA Campus, an online learning site that addresses a wide range of member needs.

Members can apply to participate in college-level courses offered through the VISTA Blend, pursue self-directed learning through the VISTA Campus, and attend local training opportunities they find.

Training needs beyond the VISTA Campus are the responsibility of the sponsor. All in-service training must be approved by CNCS.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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Pre-Service Orientation (PSO)

All VISTA candidates must complete a Pre-Service Orientation (PSO). The intermediary supervisor will work with the CNCS State Office to get VISTA candidates enrolled in a PSO.

VISTA members attend PSO at the start of their service at your organization. New VISTAs are sworn-in during the PSO to begin their service year. 

Pre-Service Orientation is offered in two forms: a 3½-day face-to-face training and a bended format that combines online learning with the On-Site Orientation and Training. For those who attend a face-to-face PSO, CNCS pays for the VISTA's travel to PSO and to the project site. If the VISTA is approved to travel by air, train, or bus, the CNCS will purchase the ticket for the VISTA.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

Travel to PSO and Site: Relocation Policy

Once an applicant has been approved to travel to Pre-Service Orientation, you will need to discuss with the applicant his/her preferred method of transportation. If you require the VISTA to have a vehicle available during the VISTA's year of service, then CNCS can reimburse the VISTA for mileage to the PSO and then to the project site. The reimbursement rate is available at the CNCS State Office.

If a personal vehicle is not required for the VISTA's year of service and the VISTA chooses to drive instead of fly, the VISTA will receive a reimbursement at the government rate for a one-way airline ticket. Once the VISTA candidate communicates the preferred mode of travel to CNCS, a representative of the VISTA Member Support Unit will contact the candidate to make travel arrangements to the next PSO.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resource:

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On-Site Orientation and Training

Immediately following the PSO, sponsoring organizations are responsible for planning and providing each VISTA with an on-site orientation and training. The orientation, which should take place at the project site during the initial weeks of a VISTA's arrival, provides the opportunity for VISTAs to learn more about their sponsor organization, become acquainted with the community, and gain the knowledge and skill they need to be successful on the project.

The On-Site Orientation and Training (OSOT) is a supervisory facet that ensures the VISTA(s) understand and are prepared to carry out their assignments, and helps identify areas where training or coaching is required.

There are a number of resources on designing and delivering member orientations in the Orienting Your VISTA section of the VISTA Campus.

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Monitor Attendance and Use of Leave Days

You are responsible for monitoring your VISTA’s attendance at their service site as well as approving or declining use of leave. You must track the number of leave days used by each VISTA, making sure leave use does not exceed the maximum number of days for each type of leave.

VISTA members are eligible for Personal leave (10 days), Medical leave (10 days),  Emergency Leave (5 days), Family Medical Leave, Parental leave (10 days), as well as some leave extensions.  The VISTA Member Handbook has an extensive chapter on Leave Benefits to consult for specifics.

Sponsor Verification Form

The Sponsor Verification Form is a document that lists the active VISTAs assigned to a project and their end-of-service dates. To comply with audit requirements, the sponsor or site supervisor must certify the Sponsor Verification Form. Seven days before each payroll run, sponsors will receive an email notification alerting them that a Sponsor Verification Form is ready for them to certify. The project supervisor must login to eGrants, navigate to the Portal, and complete and certify the Sponsor Verification Form.

Regular submission of this form by supervisors is critical to avoid overpayments to VISTAs who have terminated service early or have already completed their term of service.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

Emergency Leave Fund

If an immediate family member (spouse, parent, sibling, child, grandparent, or guardian) of a VISTA becomes critically ill or dies, and if in the rare event that CNCS cannot provide a prepaid ticket in advance of up to five approved emergency leave days, the sponsoring organization furnishes the needed travel assistance. The assistance includes advancing up to $500 from the sponsor’s own funds to the VISTA. Such advances, however, should be authorized (via telephone) by the CNCS State Office.

Both the sponsor and the VISTA must complete and sign the VISTA Payment Voucher form in the My AmeriCorps portal to record receipt of any emergency travel advance. The sponsor forwards the form to the CNCS State Office for processing so that the sponsor is reimbursed for the advance.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resource:

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Supervisor-VISTA Member Relationship

Day-to-day supervision, coaching, and support are responsibilities of the supervisor who works directly with the VISTA(s). Supervisors are advised to have weekly check-in meetings with their members. If conflict arises, the first approach is to address issues between you and your VISTA at the project level. The supervisor should support the VISTA to the best of their abilities to meet their project and development goals. If there is a performance issue, measures taken to improve performance should be documented.

The CNCS State Office is available to provide assistance with conflict between you and your VISTA member. Contact them directly with questions or for assistance.

VISTA members have the right to file a grievance. For more information consult the AmeriCorps VISTA Member Handbook.

member-supervisor relationship

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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Prohibited Activities

VISTA members and Leaders are not allowed to participate in certain activities during their year of service, such as political and religious activities. Additionally, there are some restrictions on the use of social media, educational activities, and employment.

If you learn about your VISTA(s) participating in any of these activities, you are expected to let the VISTA know that their particular actions are prohibited and that continuing to participate in these activities can result in the VISTA’s removal from the service position. If the activity/behavior persists, you should contact your CNCS State Office.

Both VISTA supervisors and VISTA members are prohibited from discriminating against others on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, political affiliation, marital or parental status, or military service.

Additionally, sexual harassment is also prohibited. The CNCS State Office should be contacted immediately after reasonable steps have been taken to address the situation.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

Safety of the VISTA

Supervisors and their organizations are responsible for structuring assignments so that the VISTA's health and safety are not jeopardized.  Supervisors must not require VISTA to perform duties that would cause them to sustain injuries.

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Service Extension or Change of Status

If your VISTA needs an extension of his/her service term to complete the VAD or if you want your VISTA to re-enroll for another term of service, contact your State Office to discuss the process. Similarly, if your VISTA extends a term of service and then wants to complete a full, one-year term, you need to go through your State Office.

Change of Status

Site Supervisors must report any change in the status of VISTAs immediately (within 24 hours) to the CNCS State Office, such as leaving the project early, arrest, absence without leave, hospitalization, and other extended absences. Sponsors should make sure to reflect a member’s absence/termination from the project on the Sponsor Verification Form to avoid continuance of living allowance payments.

VISTA’s Resignation/Early Termination

Within 24 hours, the supervisor/site-supervisor must report a VISTA's resignation from the project to the CNCS State Office. This action is critical to avoid overpayment of living allowance and other benefits. Ensure that the VISTA completes Part A of the Future Plans or Early Termination Request Form and indicates “resignation” in Part A, 7D of the form in the My AmeriCorps Portal.

The supervisor/site supervisor must complete Part B of the Future Plans or Early Termination Form and submit it to the CNCS State Office via the My AmeriCorps Portal.

Terminating a VISTA

VISTA Sponsors can request the removal of a member from their project, but not removal from the VISTA program.
If a supervisor wants to have a VISTA leave the project before his/her term of service is scheduled to end, the supervisor should contact the CNCS State Office prior to taking any action. The request for removal must be in writing and include a description of the corrective actions taken. You should be prepared to provide documentation and the reasoning behind the action. Only CNCS staff can terminate a VISTA.

There are times when, for a variety of reasons, the match between the member and project does not work out. Removal from a project allows the member to remain a VISTA, and serve in a new project.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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Close of Service

Supervisor End of Service Checklist

Due DateWhoWhereItem or Activity
90 days before the member’s end-of-service dateMemberMy AmeriCorps WebsiteComplete Part A of the Future Plans Form.
90 days before the member’s end-of-service dateMemberMember contacts the VMSU via the National Service Hotline Website or 1-800-942-2677Submit any request to change their home of record (changes submitted less than 60 days prior to their end-of-service date may not be considered). All requests must be approved by the Director of the VISTA Member Support Unit (VMSU) .
90 days before the member’s end-of-service dateSupervisoreGrants Website

Complete Part B of Future Plans Form - VISTA Performance Evaluation

Conducts exit interview and evaluation of performance with the member. Make sure you and the member have certified your respective sections of the Future Plans Form. The CNCS State Office will complete Part C of Future Plans Form - Extension and Enrollment information.

Last three weeks of service termSupervisoreGrants WebsiteComplete Part B of the member's Future Plans Form in eGrants if you haven't already.
Last three weeks of service termMemberMy AmeriCorps WebsiteMember updates their forwarding mailing address in My AmeriCorps.
Last three weeks of service termMemberVISTA Member Support Unit via the National Service Hotline Website or 1-800-942-2677Member must submit their Volunteer Payment Voucher for their Close of Service Travel Reimbursement (if they initially relocated and their home of record is at least 50 miles from the project site). Payment of all travel reimbursements takes up to 8 weeks from the time the voucher is received at the VISTA Member Support Unit.
Last three weeks of service termSupervisoreGrants WebsiteCertify the member's status on the Sponsor Verification Form for their last pay period.

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