Onboarding New AmeriCorps VISTA Members

AmeriCorps VISTA

                                              April 14, 2020

Dear AmeriCorps VISTA Supervisors and Sponsors,  

Thank you for continuing to serve your communities and support VISTA members during this challenging time. Please know that the safety of our VISTA members and project partners remains CNCS’s top priority.

We understand some sponsors are preparing to bring on new VISTA members, and this message serves as a guide to assist those sponsors.  However, we recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has created recruitment and programming challenges for others. If you anticipate a change to your original recruitment plan and timeline, please contact your Program Officer or Portfolio Manager to discuss your specific challenges and to determine appropriate next steps.  

As you invite individuals to serve a term of service with your organization as new VISTA members and Summer Associates in May and beyond, wwant to ensure you are prepared for a successful onboarding experience. Now is an especially good time to review your Memorandum of Agreement (MA) and other VISTA Sponsor Resources for reminders of your responsibilities in managing the project and supporting members. Below are reminders of sponsor responsibilities that are part of every MA.  

Reminders from your Memorandum of Agreement with AmeriCorps VISTA: 

  • Health and Safety. The Sponsor shall make every reasonable effort to ensure that the health and safety of all assigned AmeriCorps VISTA members are protected during the performance of their assigned duties.  
  • Training: The Sponsor will arrange and be responsible for providing in-depth On-Site Orientation and Training (OSOT) for all incoming AmeriCorps VISTA members at the beginning of their service. Due to COVID-19, training may take place virtually. 
  • Supervision: The Sponsor shall supervise all assigned AmeriCorps VISTA members on a day-to-day basis. If AmeriCorps VISTAs are placed at Sites, the Sponsor shall ensure that each Site organization provides day-to-day supervision and support. Due to COVID-19, supervision may take place virtually. 
  • Project SupportThe Sponsor will provide administrative resources and other project support needed to successfully conduct the project activities.  If members will serve remotely, you must ensure they have the resources to do so successfully.  

Sponsors must be able to uphold all sponsor responsibilities in the MA to onboard new members during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

For new members beginning service during the COVID-19 outbreak: 

  • Reporting to SiteIncoming VISTA members and sponsors who, having familiarized themselves with the latest CDC guidance on how to protect themselves and others, feel they can safely serve on site may do so as long as the site remains open.  
  • Teleservice: VISTA members may teleserve full time and may do so immediately upon starting service. For VISTA members who will be teleserving, ensure they have proper equipment, workspace, and capabilities to teleserve on a full-time basis. Ensure members have completed a teleservice agreement that you have submitted to your State or Regional Office.
  • Emergency Leave: You may not onboard new members to serve in an emergency leave status. You must be prepared to safely bring new members onboard, whether in person or virtually, and provide all incoming members with appropriate orientation, supervision, and service activities. As appropriate, new members must begin in a service capacity -- i.e., serving at the site or teleserving. 

We also wanted to highlight these important details to keep in mind when onboarding members specifically during the COVID-19 outbreak: 

COVID-19 Specific Details for Onboarding New VISTA Members: 

  • VISTA AssignmentDescriptions (VADs): As always, sponsors are responsible for ensuring VISTA members have a VAD detailing the goals and objectives of the assignment as well as the activities a VISTA member is expected to complete. If members will be teleserving, please ensure VADs reflect service assignments that can be completed remotely.  Full year VISTA members beginning service should be assigned VADs that focus on indirect, capacity-building activities.   
  • New VISTA members may engage in limited direct service activities that are not part of their original project application, for a short period of time, through June 10, 2020.
  • If your organization has a substantial need for memberto provide direct service, please contact your Program Officer/Portfolio Manager to discuss a potential Summer Associate program.  Summer Associates VADs may focus on direct service    
  • Member Email Address: Remind your members to ensure their email address listed in their MyAmeriCorps account is correctThe VISTA program will be emailing full year members information to access an online name based criminal history background check shortly after they start service.  
  • Paper ChecksWhile the VISTA program strongly encourages all members to enroll in direct deposit for living allowance payments, members may opt to receive paper checks. These checks will be mailed to the current site address listed in  If your members are teleserving full-time, ask them if they opted to receive paper checks. If so, you will need to arrange for your members to receive their living allowance checks. 

As always, you’ll need to align your new members service scheduleso they can fully participate in the VISTA Member Orientation (VMO) on their first day of service and take the oath of service. For next month, this is on Monday, May 11, 2020 at 3 p.m. ET.

Please note that Summer Associates do not participate in VMO but do need to take the oath of service on their first day. Connect with your State or Regional Office to coordinate administering the oath. As a reminder, Summer Associate members are not eligible for some AmeriCorps VISTA benefits, including relocation assistance, child care assistance, and the healthcare benefit.  

For questions about the impact of the coronavirus on the VISTA program and, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions at www.nationalservice.gov/coronavirus 

Your flexibility as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount to our collective success. Thank you for all that you do to support your communities and your VISTA members.   

Desiree Tucker-Sorini, Director
AmeriCorps VISTA
Corporation for National and Community Service