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AmeriCorps Glossary of Terms (Updated 7/5/2013)

501(c) 3 is an American tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation or association. Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code provides that 28 types of nonprofit organizations are exempt from some federal income taxes. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are subject to limits or absolute prohibitions on engaging in political activities.

The Act: The National and Community Service Act of 1990, as amended by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 and expanded by the Edward M Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009.

Alignment: Alignment happens when an output, intermediate outcome and end outcome are built around the same service activity.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state, and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. Section 504 of the ADA states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth: Collaborative network that facilitates volunteer action for children and youth, founded after the President’s Summit for America’s Future in 1997.

America’s Service Commissions: The American Association of State Service Commissions (also known as America’s Service Commission-ASC) is a peer network of governor-appointed commissioners, along with staff from the state commissions.

America Reads Challenge: In 1997 President Clinton issued the America Reads Challenge so all children could read well and independently by the end of the third grade. It engages trained reading tutors and partners working closely to supplement the efforts of parents, teachers, and schools to teach children to read.

AmeriCorps: An umbrella term that refers to programs that are designed by the Corporation as national service programs and the participants in them. In general, AmeriCorps programs provide participants with a full, part-time, quarter time or less than full time service experience, a living stipend, and an education award from the National Service Trust Fund. AmeriCorps includes AmeriCorps* State/National (the grant program), AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC (the National Civilian Community Corps).

AmeriCorps Member: Individuals enrolled in AmeriCorps are called members.

AmeriCorps National (or National Direct): National non-profit organizations that receive funding directly from the Corporation to operate programs in two or more states.

AmeriCorps NCCC: The National Civilian Community Corps ( NCCC) is a 10-month full-time residential service program for men and women ages 18-24 operated directly by the Corporation. Campuses are located in Denver, CO; Perry Point, MD; Sacramento, CA; Vicksburg, MS and Vinton, IA.

AmeriCorps Program: A coordinated group of activities linked by common elements such as recruitment, selection, and training of members and staff, regular group activities, and assignment to projects organized to achieve the mission and goals of National Service.

AmeriCorps State: AmeriCorps programs housed in states and local nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions that receive grants from State Commissions in partnership with the Corporation.

AmeriCorps State/National Formula Programs: AmeriCorps programs funded out of the state allotment that is determined annually on a population formula.

AmeriCorps State Competitive Programs: AmeriCorps programs selected by a national competitive process and funded through State Commissions with funds from the Corporation.

AmeriCorps Tribes and Territories: Programs that receive grants directly from the “Corporation to meet the needs of Native American Tribes and the United States territories.

AmeriCorps VISTA: Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. It is also simply known as VISTA.

Annual Objectives: Derived from the mission statement, defines expected annual outcomes which are demonstrable and, when possible, measurable.

Approved AmeriCorps Position: An Americorps position for which the Corporation has approved the provision of an AmeriCorps educational award.

Background Check: Programs with members or grant-funded employees who, on a recurring basis, have access to children, the vulnerable elderly, or individuals who are either physically or mentally disabled are mandated to perform a background check consisting of four parts: 1.) Sex offender registry check, 2.) State criminal history registry check(s); 3.) FBI fingerprint-based check, and 4.) DCFS child abuse and neglect check..

Capacity Building: Capacity Building refers to assistance that is provided to entities, which have a need to develop a certain skill or competence, or for general upgrading of performance ability.

Citizen Corps: Citizen Corps includes initiatives to engage volunteers in specific homeland security efforts and support first responders in local communities.

Citizen Representation: Representation by individuals from the community that are not actively involved in the organization(s).

Civic Participation: Involving citizens (non-typical volunteers) in service.

Collaboration: An intentional relationship between two or more individuals or organizations that come together to communicate, cooperate and coordinate for the purpose of achieving common goals. These goals create shared values that enhance sustainable communities and citizen involvement.

Community Service Funds: Monies utilized to enable individuals or groups to perform.

Community-Based Agency: A private non-profit organization (including a church or other religious entity) that is representative of a community or a significant segment of a community and is engaged in meeting human, educational, environmental, or public safety community needs.

Community-Based Resources: Resources that originate locally in a community (vs. state, federal, or outside sources).

Consortia: A group of organizations whose purpose is to collectively facilitate and support the work of a service program in ways that add material and human resources beyond those available to each organization individually.

Corporation for National and Community Service (“The Corporation) (CNCS): The federally established corporation, which funds and administers AmeriCorps, as well as Learn and Serve America and the Senior Service Corps. Authorized by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 and exists as part of the USA Freedom Corps.

Cross-stream: When individuals or organizations from diverse service fields work together to achieve goals.

Direct Service: Direct service activities generally refer to activities that provide a direct, measurable benefit to an individual, a group or a community. An example of direct service versus indirect service would be tutoring (direct) versus Setting up a tutoring program (indirect)

Disability Inclusion: This term is used to support the idea that all people should freely, openly and without pity accommodate any person with a disability without restrictions or limitations of any kind.

Education Award: Benefit of $5,550 (for full-time members) or $2,775 (for part-time members) received by AmeriCorps members after successful completion of a term of service. The award is paid directly to a lending or educational institution and may be used to pay off education loans or to finance college, graduate school, or approved vocational training.

Education Award Program (EAP or Education Award Only): An AmeriCorps program that receives no operating funds from the Corporation and that generally pays no living allowance to AmeriCorps members or the living allowance is paid from local funds.

eGrants: eGrants is the Corporation’s web-based system, for submission and tracking of grants, managing grants, creating, submitting and editing recruitment listings, selecting applicants and searching for applicants and Financial Status and Progress Reporting.

Eligible AmeriCorps Members: In general, a person is eligible for consideration to be an AmeriCorps member if they: are 17 years of age or older and a US citizen, United States National or lawful permanent resident and not have a felony conviction.

Eligible Applicants: The State of Illinois, the Serve Illinois Commission, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (Corporation) want to ensure that all eligible organizations are able to compete on an equal basis for AmeriCorps federal financial assistance. Public or private non-profit organizations, including labor organizations, community organizations, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, states and territories, government entities within states or territories (e.g., cities, counties), Indian Tribes, and partnerships or consortia consisting of the aforementioned, are eligible to apply for AmeriCorps grant programs funding.

Encorps: This site assists program staff in finding and sharing proven practices for recruiting and developing successful national service participants.

Ethic of Service: Believing in, endorsing, promoting, and participating in service.

Evaluation: An assessment of program effectiveness and outcomes at the end of a given period of time.

Experimental Learning: Learning by doing, by using, or experiencing a concept or testing a skill. The experimental learning model is an inductive learning process consisting of five stages or phases: experiencing, reporting or publishing, processing, generalizing, and applying.

Faith Based Organizations: Congregations (including churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples) and social service organizations with religious roots (such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services) that have provided emergency food and shelter, child care, and other forms of assistance, particularly for low-income Americans.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions is a listing of commonly asked questions with answers.

Federal Fiscal Year: (FFY) October 1 – September 30

Federal Register: The Federal Register is the official journal of the federal government of the United State that contains most routine publications and public notices of government agencies. It is a daily publication. In essence, the Federal Register is a way for the government to think aloud to the people, and also serves as official journal of record for the approved acts of the U.S. Government. The notice and comment process outlined in the Federal Register gives the people a chance to participate in agency rulemaking.

Federal Work Study: The Federal Work Study program encourages students receiving Federal student financial assistance to participate in community service activities. Administered by the US Department of Education,. The program provides funds that are earned through part-time employment to assist students in financing the costs of postsecondary education.

Feedback: In communication theory, listening to a message and paraphrasing it to the communicator to ensure understanding – feeding or giving back information. In other uses, implies giving back information about the quality of someone’s presentation or the effects of a person’s behavior and can involve critiquing.

FEMA Corps: In 2012, The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Corporation for National and Community Service partnered to create a new unit of AmeriCorps. This unit’s members will be devoted solely to FEMA disaster response and recovery efforts

FFR: Federal Financial Report formerly called the Quarterly Cash Transaction Report

FGP: Under Senior Corps, Volunteers in the Foster Grandparents Program (FGP) serve as role models, mentors and friends to youths at thousands of local organizations including faith-based groups, schools, Head Start Centers and youth facilities.

Focus Areas: Formerly called Priority Areas, these are designated program areas that will receive special consideration for funding on the RFPs.

Focus Group: A structured discussion, lead by a trained moderator, in which a small group of 8-12 people give their opinions of and reactions to a concept, approach, or sample product.

Full Participation: Recognition that all people have both the right and responsibility to participate in community service and volunteerism, both as providers and recipients of service.

Getting Things Done: The motto of AmeriCorps and the Corporation and its primary goal. It means doing direct service that achieves demonstrable results in communities.

Global Youth Service Day: An annual campaign that celebrates the efforts of young people in their communities, encouraging more young people to become involved in volunteering and promoting the benefits of service to their communities.

Host Site: The organization where a member provides most of his/her service in the community. Host Sites can also be operating sites if the member actually serves at the operating site most of the time.

ICOVA: Illinois Conference on Volunteer Administration is an event designed for those who supervise, manage, or otherwise lead volunteers.

IDHS: The Illinois Department of Human Services is a cabinet level state agency reporting directly to the governor who provides staff assigned to the development of grants, the monitoring of programs and providing support to the Illinois AmeriCorps programs.

Illinois Volunteer Management Network (IVMN): Through its five regional networks, the IVMN provides program management support to volunteer managers and administrators.

Inclusion: Inclusion means that all people regardless of their abilities or needs have the right to be respected and appreciated as valuable members of their communities. It also means they have the choice to participate in programs and activities in their community, if they desire to do so.

Indirect Services: Indirect services help build capacity to deliver valuable direct services. An example of direct service versus indirect service would be tutoring (direct) versus Setting up a tutoring program (indirect)

In-Kind Services: Donations of goods and/or services (vs. monetary donations).

Labor Union Concurrence: If employees of the service sponsor are engaged in the same or substantially similar work as that proposed to be carried out by AmeriCorps members and represented by a labor union, then the service sponsor must obtain written concurrence from the labor union and submit that concurrence along with the application.

LeaderCorps: LeaderCorps is a member organized council that connects AmeriCorps programs and acts as a liaison between members and the Serve Illinois Commission.

Learn and Serve America: Service-learning programs that are designed to enrich academic learning and promote personal growth in participants while meeting community needs. There are two categories of learn and Serve American programs: K-12 and Higher Education.

Living Allowance: AmeriCorps members receive living allowances, not salaries or wages.

Make a Difference Day: A national day of volunteering sponsored by USA weekend in partnership with the Points of Light Institute held on the fourth Saturday of October.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service: A day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophy on service. In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act designed to transform the observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday into a day of service that reflects his life and teachings.

Match Funds: Funds that will be supplied in an amount matching the funds available from other sources following a prescribed formula.

Meaningful Service: Service that has an impact on serve and recipient (impact as defined by each).

Member: The term “member refers to those serving in AmeriCorps programs. Members are not volunteers.

Member Benefits (AmeriCorps): Tangible benefits provided to AmeriCorps members during and following a term of service. During the term of service, these benefits include a living allowance (which is, in general, not less than $12,100 per term of full-time service) and health care and child care benefits as needed. Upon successful completion of a full-time term of service, members will receive an education award of $5,550 which will be kept in the National Service Trust Fund and remain available for up to seven years.

Member Gear: A funded program must provide its members with Member Gear. Member Gear promotes your program and the National Service brands. It is at the discretion of the program to determine what gear is need for their members and when a member s required to wear the gear. The Corporation provides a resource for the gear.

Member Service Agreement: This document serves as the contract between the program and the member. It includes start and end dates, amount of stipend, benefits, code of conduct, position description, prohibited activities, grievance procedures and is signed by both parties.

Member Service Year (MSY): One MSY is the equivalent of one full-time term of service (1700 member service hours.) MSY and FTE (full-time equivalent) are synonymous.

Multiculturalism: Often used interchangeably with diversity and pluralism to refer to an environment in which differences among people and groups are recognized, respected, and valued. They are seen as positive and desirable, rather than negative or threatening. Also refers to the combination of values, which reflect this philosophy.

National Day of Service and Remembrance: The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of an effort originally launched in 2002 by 9/11 family members and support groups, who worked to establish the charitable service day as a forward-looking way to honor 9/11 victims, survivors, and others who rose up in service in response to the attacks.

National Performance Measures: These were created by the Corporation (CNCS) to collect data on the critical impact of AmeriCorps across the country. These national measures will allow for aggregated impact reporting and help demonstrate how AmeriCorps is addressing national challenges.

National Senior Service Corps (Senior Corps): An umbrella term that refers to all the senior service programs administered by the Corporation, Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents, and Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Also called Senior Corps.

National Service: Any Corporation funded program, including AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, and National Senior Service Corps, regardless of whether such program offers stipends or educational awards. (“national service in lower case refers to the broader field of national efforts, including those operating abroad, like Peace Corps and those focused on military, rather than civilian service).

National Service Pledge: A pledge taken by all AmeriCorps members during their program year which represents their commitment to serve not only for their year but in the years ahead. Illinois members take their pledge in mass on Illinois AmeriCorps Opening Day also known as Service Recognition Day in October every year.

National Service Trust: The National Service Trust is a fund established by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. It is used to pay for AmeriCorps Education Awards and interest that accrues on qualified student loans for those who have successfully completed approved terms of national service. The money is kept in an account in the U.S. Treasury and is invested in Treasury securities.

National Volunteer Week: A week designated to nationally promote and recognize the efforts of citizen volunteers of all ages, usually the third week of April.

Need: A problem in the community that a program is trying to solve.

Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA): A legal notification, published in the Federal Register, describing the availability of funds for a new program.

OnCorps: OnCorps is the Commission’s web-based reporting system. OnCorps provides for the collection and management of data including, Timesheets, Program Progress, Performance Measures and Financial Reports.

Operating site: The organization that manages the AmeriCorps program and places members into service/site locations. State sub-grantees (program) are operating sites.

Outcomes: Answers the question, “What difference did we make?

Outputs: Outputs is the counts of the amount of service delivered or products created.

PDAT: Professional Development Assistance and Training funds received by State Commissions from the Corporation to meet the training and technical assistance needs of national service programs in their respective states.

Participant: This term is used to refer to any individual who is being served by a member.

Partnership: Two or more entities that have entered into a written agreement specifying the partnership’s goals and activities as well as the responsibilities, goals, and activities of each partner.

PMS: Payment Management System. Electronic fiscal reporting system operated by Federal agency Health and Human Services (HHS)

Points of Light Institute: Largest volunteer management and civic engagement organization in the nation.

Program: A coordinated group of activities linked by common elements such as recruitment, selection, and training of participants and staff; regular group activities; and assignment to projects organized for the purpose of achieving the mission and goals of National Service and carried out with the assistance provided under the Act.

Program Year: Program year describes the period of time the AmeriCorps program operates. Programs operate from 10 to 12 months of the year. Programs can start each year as early as August.

Prohibited Activities: It is important that AmeriCorps programs and their members do not appear to be taking sides religiously or politically. Program staff and members may not engage in activities and grant funds may not be used to support activities listed in the following link.

Project: An activity, or a set of activities, carried out through a program that receives assistance under the Act, that results in a specific identifiable service or improvement that otherwise would not be done with existing funds and that does not duplicate the routine services or functions of the employer to whom participants are assigned.

Project/Award Period: The Corporation and Commission generally make grant awards for three years, with funding in annual increments. Grantees will be eligible for continuation funding in the second year contingent on the availability of appropriations, compliance and performance.

Project Star: The technical assistance provider that supports national service programs on performance measure issues. 

Request for Application (RFA)/Request for Proposal (RFP): A term which some states use to describe the document with which they solicit program proposals from organizations. Other states may call such a document a grant application or bid. State Commissions issue RFPs for AmeriCorps programs from nonprofit organizations, local governments, higher education institutions, tribes and state agencies.

RSVP: Under Senior Corps, Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is the largest volunteer network for people age 55 and over, offering a full range of volunteer opportunities through thousands of local organizations.

SCP: Under Senior Corps, the Senior Companion Program (SCP) volunteers provide companionship to frail individuals to help that person remain in their home.

Serve Illinois Commission: The Serve Illinois Commission is a 25-35 member by-partisan board appointed by the Governor. Its mission is to improve Illinois communities by enhancing traditional volunteer activities and supporting national service programs. It is also referred to as the Commission.

Serve, Service: Whenever possible, the terms serve and service should be used rather than work when referring to AmeriCorps members’ activities.

Service Delivery Areas: Designated geographic areas in which services are provided.

Service-Learning: Service-learning is a teaching method that integrates community service into the school curriculum. Service-learning programs engage young people in community activities where academic skills are used to solve real-life problems. At the same time, program activities help students understand the meaning of citizenship and their ability to help determine the quality of life in their communities.

Slots: Slots are member positions in a program. There are five allowable slot types for AmeriCorps programs. They are; 1) Full time (1700 hours), 2) Half time (900 hours), 3) Reduced Half time (675 hours), 4) Quarter time (450 hours), and 5) Minimum time (300 hours).

Stakeholders: The various people and organizations with a ‘stake’ in a program. This includes funders, directors, participants, and others directly or indirectly affected by the program and its results.

State Commission: The term used to refer to a 15 to 25 member, independent, nonpartisan body appointed by a Governor to implement service programs. Duties of a State Commission include: development of a comprehensive Unified State Plan for service and volunteering in the state; submission of the state’s application to the Corporation for AmeriCorps; administration of the competition for AmeriCorps programs; oversight and monitoring of funded AmeriCorps and reporting accomplishments to the Corporation.

State Fiscal Year (SFY): The State Fiscal Year begins July 1 and ends June 30.

Streams of Service: A term used to refer to the many types of service programs, for example, the “K-12 service stream or the “collegiate service stream or the “full-time service stream.

Sustainability: A plan that, through an organization’s use of various resources, will provide for a stronger infrastructure, stronger programs and community self-sufficiency in regards to supporting the needs of its constituents, its financial health and its ability to be well managed and accountable.

Tiers: Within the Focus Areas, there are Tiers which designate certain focus areas as a higher tier or receiving special consideration for funding. Program areas asking for consideration for funding but not designated in one of the Focus Areas are still in a tier but a lower tier.

Volunteers: Also called “Traditional Volunteers, these volunteers do not receive the same benefits as members such as stipends or an Education Award. Traditional volunteers are not required to follow AmeriCorps requirements. AmeriCorps members are not volunteers and volunteers are not members.

Volunteer Centers of Illinois: There are twelve volunteer centers in Illinois that connect individuals or groups with a variety or service opportunities, and mobilizes volunteers at critical times.