Whatever stage at which you are in your service year, you may want some assistance on a new issue or revisit some training from the beginning of your term. This page will provide some of the resources available to you through AmeriCorps and OPEN-MSU, both for your service term and whatever will come after. 

If you have any additional questions or require resources not listed here, please don't hesitate to contact Jessica Barnes-Najor ( or Rose Henderson (

Beginning Your Service

The Basics

Entering Service Guide

AmeriCorps's "Guide to Entering VISTA Service" will provide you information about the necessary steps to starting your service, including your onboarding paperwork and background check as well as your pre- and early-service coursework.


AmeriCorps VISTA Member Handbook

The member handbook serves as a comprehensive resource for any questions regarding your service from first steps to end-of-service benefits such as your award and non-competitive eligibility. 


OPEN-MSU Program Manual

Our program manual will provide a summary of VISTA member responsibilities and additional information specific to OPEN-MSU and our structure. 


Making Sense of Your VAD

Your VAD will serve as a general to-do list for your service year, which may change over time. This guide will give you additional information on how understand it and how to use it to excel in your service.


Your Timesheet

Your timesheets are how you log your hours. Use the provided template to enter hours, any sick or personal time taken, and send it to your supervisor for review and signature.



Your reporting will provide us a means of seeing your progress within your service year as well as to measure your impact and the impact of OPEN-MSU as a whole. Reporting will include a monthly narrative and certain measures such as the number of organizations to which you have given capacity building services within the month.

Narrative Template | Reporting Explained | Reporting Template


If you are asked to serve from home or another location away from your host site, submit the provided guide to the program manager.


VISTA Benefits

Click here for more information about any VISTA benefits listed below.

Living Allowance

VISTA members receive a modest living allowance that is adjusted for cost of living. 

Year End Service Award

VISTA members can choose between a Segal Educational Award, for student loans or other educational expenses, and a cash stipend.

Childcare Allowance

AmeriCorps VISTA offers child care benefits to members who qualify.

Relocation Allowance

VISTA candidates approved to relocate for service are eligible for a Relocation Travel Allowance. The allowance amount is determined by the mileage between the VISTAs home of record and the service site.

Health Plans

AmeriCorps offers VISTA members two two options for health plans: the VISTA Health Benefit Plan and the VISTA Healthcare Allowance.

Professional Development Trainings

Cross-Cultural Education

VISTA members serve with people who come from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds. Fostering cross-cultural understanding is integral to working for and with others.

The training is split into four modules:

Access any of these through the playlist below or by clicking any of the modules individually.

Presentation Slides

Community Assessment

Community assessment will be the means by which you can determine the strengths and needs of your organization and the community it serves. Assessment takes a variety of forms to which you will be exposed throughout your service term.

Community Assessment Checklist

The checklist will provide you a means of determining what sort of data your host site already collects and what data it might be interested in collecting. Don't feel the need to collect the data before returning the checklist! This is only a first step in the assessment process, which will continue throughout your service year. The Community Assessment Guide and the example assessment will give you a sense of what the end product may look like, but you're not limited to either format!

Community Assessment Checklist | Community Assessment Guide

Assessment Example for Calhoun County | Resource List

SWOT Analysis

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis is a framework to help you determine priorities in your service term through identifying the internal strengths and weaknesses of your organization as well as the opportunities your organization could pursue and the threats your organization could face.

Presentation Slides | SWOT Example from Greater Detroit Area Health Council


SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) Goals provide a means of creating solid objectives based on the conclusions of your SWOT Analysis.

Presentation Slides | SMART Goals Guide | Guiding Questions


Evaluation is the process of determining the effectiveness of one or several of your organization's activities.

The training is split into three modules:

Access any of these through the playlist below or by clicking any of the modules individually.

Presentation Slides | Evaluation Worksheet

Quantitative Training

As part of your service, you may need to interpret data, format spreadsheets, or create charts. These guides will provide a starting point.

A Gentle Introduction to Statistics

A Gentle Introduction to Excel

About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program, administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), through which members serve with nonprofit, faith-based, and public agencies for one full year on projects designed to lessen and alleviate poverty.