Direct Service Versus Capacity Building

One issue VISTA supervisors face is helping people understand how the capacity-building work VISTAs do differs from the direct service AmeriCorps members and other volunteers perform.

How it affects retention

Knowing how "hands on" the job is could affect an applicant's decision to serve. It also may impact whether a new member successfully carries out the VISTA mission over the long term.

Listen to the following two VISTA supervisors explain how they make this distinction clear. You may also find it helpful to avoid using words like “capacity building” and “sustainability” that can be somewhat intimidating before members have a chance to go to PSO and learn these concepts. Try to break down the assignment with concrete examples and phrases like “program coordination” and “resource development.”

portrait of Kristi

Kristi Piatkowski of CONNECT (Orange, CA) has both VISTAs and AmeriCorps members in her First 5 programs. She tries to determine if an applicant will be a better fit for one program or the other.

Listen to Kristi's remarks.

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portrait of Tedford

Rebecca Tedford of the Louisiana AmeriCorps*VISTA Program (Baton Rouge, LA) often uses a playground example to explain how direct service and capacity building differ.

Listen to Rebecca's remarks.

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