On-Boarding & Orientation
Orientation should provide members with the necessary tools to have a successful service experience and build a strong team of AmeriCorps members. As a manager and mentor, orientation is an opportunity to express your expectations to members in a professional and fun way.
A well-prepared and comprehensive orientation agenda will cover the following areas:
- The history of AmeriCorps and the larger national service movement
- Terms of Service – minimum number of hours to complete a term of service
- Program and Site Orientation – your organization’s goals and vision, introduction to service sites, program’s code of conduct, etc.
- An overview of the community or communities served
- Member Rights and Responsibilities
- Benefits – stipend, healthcare (for full time members), SNAP, education award, etc.
- Timekeeping and Leave Policy – excused and unexcused absences, disciplinary measures, timesheets, etc.
- Prohibited Activities
- Suspension and Termination
- Member Grievance Policy and Procedures – progressive disciplinary procedures
- Performance Measures
- Performance Evaluation – midterm (for full time members) and end-of- term evaluations (for all members)
- Team Building
- Diversity and Inclusion Training
Supervision and Support
Program Directors are expected to have strong member management systems to ensure members have a successful service experience. Program Directors must ensure that members have adequate supervision from a qualified supervisor. A qualified Site Supervisor will have a thorough knowledge of your program and its goals, as well as the requirements and expectations of AmeriCorps service, and be able to communicate those goals and expectations to members. Supervisors should have a clear idea of what a member’s day-to-day service activities are, as well as what activities are prohibited.
Additionally, Program Directors and Site Supervisors should develop strong networks and systems of communication with members.
Strong AmeriCorps member management, including direct supervision, helps programs achieve an overall goal of 100% member retention.
Files and Documentation
The organization and maintenance of member files is the most essential administrative function performed by a Program Director. The documents maintained in these files provide evidence that members were eligible for their positions at the time of enrollment and qualify to receive member benefits. It is imperative that these documents are kept in a safe and secure location, with access granted only to essential program staff persons. If a member submits a written request to view the contents of their file, they must be permitted to do so. Both the My AmeriCorps Portal (eGrants) and the member file must match. Updates made to one must also be made to the other.
At a minimum, a member’s file should include:
- Application (if completed outside of eGrants)
- Employment Verification Form (I-9)
- Copy of the government-issued document used to verify citizenship
- Healthcare Enrollment Form (if full time)
- Childcare Enrollment Form (if full time)
- Printed and adjudicated NSCHC results from Fieldprint
- Accompaniment documentation (if applicable)
- Member Service Agreement
- Performance Evaluations
- Behavioral warnings and action plans (if applicable)
Please note that federal statute requires that the subrecipient must retain all financial records, supporting documentation, statistical records, and all other records pertinent to their grant agreement for a period of three (3) years after the termination of all activities funded under this agreement.
Documentation related to a member, including eligibility documentation, should be kept in hard copy or electronically for seven (7) years from the members’ final exit date. Please note that CNCS does not require programs to keep copies of timesheets. They can be exported from OnCorps on a quarterly, 6 month or annual basis using the Timesheet export function under Time Tracking if programs wish to keep these records. These records are kept in OnCorps for a period of three program years. No action is required by programs. Financial, programmatic, and individual member-related records entered into OnCorps are automatically saved for three (3) program years at the Virginia Service Commission’s expense. Programs do not need to pay individually for this service. This time frame is sufficient and no action is required by programs.
Timesheets/Tracking Member Hours
Program Directors, Site Supervisors, and other program staff have the responsibility for the overall management of member timesheets. Program Directors should create a plan for monitoring and oversight, as well as establish policies and procedures around the process.
Timesheet reviewers must be trained prior to the onboarding of members. Staff training and refreshers should occur throughout the year. Training on timesheet maintenance must be provided to all members during orientation, with refresher trainings as necessary. Virginia OnCorps training and tutorials are readily available under the resources on the website. When you are assigning partners and sites to these roles, remember to include the following information in the MOA/MOU agreements:
- Details of any tasks assigned, especially if the Site Supervisor is responsible for approving timesheets and tracking members
- Hierarchy or role level of the assignment
- Consequences if the agreement is not followed
Accurate and compliant timesheets should:
- Be up-to-date, correct, and fully approved by the Site Supervisor and Program Director. Timesheets must be approved by at least two supervisors.
- Have the member’s original signature and date
- If using an electronic signature on timesheets, please note that a secure, verifiable electronic signature system (a) identifies and authenticates a particular person as the source of the electronic signature; and (b) indicates such person’s approval of the information contained in the electronic message. Once appropriate electronic signatures have been applied, no changes may be made unless there is a clear, auditable record of the revision.
- Have notation of time, date, and hours
- Have notation of the activity (direct service hours, training hours, fundraising hours). For normal day-to-day DIRECT service that is clearly defined, members do NOT need a description.
- Have notation of appropriate breaks
- Document accompaniment for members who have not yet received clearance on their NSCHC
- Have guidelines for submitting timesheets noted on the sheet
- Not show service on non-service days
- Not show telework or teleservice. Telework or teleservice is not allowed except under very specific circumstances, such as for online trainings or webinars that supervisors can confirm were completed with a certificate of completion. Members should focus on direct service activities.
Additionally, you must ensure that:
- Members have a secure internet connection to submit timesheets
- Member service activities listed are in line with approved program objectives and are not prohibited activities
- Members are on target to attain their intended number of service hours and are no more than 10% ahead or behind
- Educational training activities are listed accurately and do not exceed an aggregate of 20% for the Corps
- Program staff consistently audit and track member timesheet activities for accuracy and appropriateness of activities
- Fundraising activities are tracked to ensure members spend no more than 10% of their time on those activities
- Site Supervisors review and approve timesheets within two weeks of submission
Program Directors and Site Supervisors are expected to conduct thoughtful and thorough performance evaluations for members. Specific and relevant feedback helps members complete their service year successfully and to grow professionally and personally.
Midterm evaluations are required for full time members and end-of-term evaluations are required for all members.
At a minimum, end-of-term evaluations must address the following:
- Whether the member has completed the required number of hours as outlined in their member service agreement
- Whether the member has satisfactorily completed their assignment, tasks or projects
- Whether the member has met other performance criteria that were clearly communicated at the beginning of the term of service
- Whether the member has completed the required number of hours as outlined in their member service agreement;
- The end-of-term evaluation must be signed and dated by the member and their supervisor.
Living Allowance (Stipend) - A living allowance is not a wage and programs may not pay living allowances on an hourly basis. Programs must distribute the living allowance at regular intervals and increments, and may increase living allowance payments only based on increased living expenses such as food, housing, or transportation. Living allowance payments are distributed to the participant during the participant’s term of service and must cease when the participant concludes the term of service. Programs may not provide a lump sum payment to a participant who completes the originally agreed-upon term of service in a shorter period of time. Please see 45 CFR §§ 2522.240 and 2522.250 for more information regarding the distribution of member living allowances.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - SNAP assistance is available to AmeriCorps members. The AmeriCorps living allowance is not considered income for purposes of determining eligibility for SNAP. However, if the member has other income/benefits or criminal history, there is the possibility of being denied these benefits. For further assistance or questions please contact Celestine Jackson, VDSS Benefit Programs, at email@example.com
Unemployment Benefits - AmeriCorps members are not entitled to unemployment benefits. CNCS has interpreted federal legislation to mean that there is no employer-employee relationship between members and programs.
Virginia Worker’s Compensation - In Virginia, AmeriCorps members are not considered employees; however, special legislation was passed in 2004 to provide Worker’s Compensation for AmeriCorps members. AmeriCorps members are deemed employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Act states that AmeriCorps members shall be eligible for medical costs from covered injuries but shall not be eligible for weekly compensation. Specific reference is cited in Code of Virginia Title 65.2.
Segal Education Award - The Eli Segal Education Award is a post-service benefit awarded to members upon successful completion of service. It is high on the list of priorities to cover and discuss during orientation. For more information about eligibility, limitations on terms or the value of the award, education award payments, award transfers, taxes, schools and loan holders: https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/segal-americorps-education-award
*A member cannot serve more than four terms and cannot receive more than the equivalent of two full time education awards. A member serving in a full time term of service is required to complete the service within 12 months.
Direct Service Activities - Direct service activities are member activities that are consistent with your approved AmeriCorps grant application. AmeriCorps members must directly address local community needs within the six focus areas of education, disaster services, healthy futures, veterans and military families, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship. Members must provide service to directly impact communities and the benefits must be demonstrated by measureable outputs and outcomes.
Education and Training Activities
- Programs must monitor member education and training throughout their service year.
- No more than 20 percent of the aggregate of all AmeriCorps member service hours in your program, as reflected in the member enrollments in the National Service Trust, may be spent in education and training activities.
- Direct service activities do not count towards the 20 percent cap on education and training activities.
Fundraising Activities An AmeriCorps member may spend no more than ten percent of his or her originally agreed-upon term of service performing fundraising activities. AmeriCorps members may raise resources directly in support of your program's service activities. AmeriCorps members may not raise funds for living allowances or your organization’s general operating expenses.
- Examples of fundraising activities AmeriCorps members may perform include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Seeking donations of books from companies and individuals for a program in which volunteers teach children to read.
- Writing a grant proposal to a foundation to secure resources to support the training of volunteers.
- Securing supplies and equipment from the community to enable volunteers to help build houses for low-income individuals.
- Securing financial resources from the community to assist in launching or expanding a program that provides social services to the members of the community and is delivered, in whole or in part, through the members of a community-based organization.
- Seeking donations from alumni of the program for specific service projects being performed by current members.
Leave and Suspension
All programs should plan accordingly and leave room for occasions where members need to be absent from service. Program Directors should establish a clear system for members to make requests for leave and explain those procedures to members at orientation. Members should not record zero hours during any pay period. Unless the member is suspended, the member must still receive their normal living allowance while on leave.
Suspension is any extended period during which the member is not serving, accumulating service hours or receiving AmeriCorps benefits. Suspension can be used as both a disciplinary action against a member who has violated the terms of their member agreement and/or a means to address extenuating circumstances in the life of member who has otherwise performed satisfactorily. Under personal and compelling circumstances (as determined by the Program Director and/or site supervisor), a member may be suspended for up to 2 years from the date of suspension. Program Directors must submit Program Change Request Form and retain all documentation in the member’s file.
Release from Participation and Exit
Program staff may release members from participating with the program before the member finishes their service term either for cause or for compelling personal circumstances.
If a member is released for cause, he/she did not successfully completing their service term for reasons other than compelling personal circumstances. A member leaving for cause can still be given a “satisfactory” for service on his exit form if he/she performed well during their term prior to exiting for cause.
A program that determines a member’s circumstance as compelling can release a member for compelling circumstances based on review of supporting documentation and approval by VSC. CNCS allows programs the right to determine compelling circumstances for members as long as it meets the criteria in AmeriCorps 45 CFR § 2522.230(a). The program must keep records and supporting documentation related to the determination in the member’s file. Non-compliance of any of these instances may result in disallowed costs and any other remedies for non-compliance.
PLEASE NOTE: A member who is released for a compelling personal circumstance and has completed:
- 30% of their service hours is eligible for a pro-rated education award. This slot cannot be refilled.
- Between 15 and 30% of their service hours may be eligible for a pro-rated education award. If the member elects to take the partial education award, this slot cannot be refilled. If the member does not take the education award, the slot can be refilled and the new member is eligible for a full award.
- Less 15% of their service hours is not eligible for a pro-rated education award. This slot can be refilled.
Program Directors have 30 days from a member’s last day of service to exit the member in eGrants. After being exited, members must complete the Member Exits Forms and Member Exit Survey in MyAmeriCorps.
Program Slot Management
Programs that require changes to the current slot composition of AmeriCorps members in their program must submit a Program Change Request Form. Only written requests using this form are acceptable. VSC and the program must consider impact on program quality and member experience. Programs must also be mindful of requesting a lesser term for full-time members, especially if they are receiving healthcare insurance or childcare assistance. The program must consider all of these factors prior to requesting changes.
- Programs may not request a transfer of currently enrolled members to a lesser-term status simply to provide a pro-rated education award if the member would otherwise be released for cause.
- Programs may not request to convert a slot to a lesser-term slot at the end of a member’s term of service to award a pro-rated education award when the member has not completed the hours required by their original term.
- Programs that request changing a less than full-time member to a greater slot type is discouraged by CNCS. Changing a less than FT term to a full-time slot is not encouraged simply because it is very difficult to manage, unless done very early in the member’s term of service. The Commission may approve such changes only in extenuating circumstances; and if the program’s current budget can accommodate such changes. Keep in mind other costs that are associated with full-time members, such as healthcare costs and the education award amount the member would receive. These changes could alter the funds already awarded to your program.
Changes in Member Terms of Service or Program Slots
- Changes that Require CNCS Approval. Circumstances may arise within a program that necessitate changing the type of unfilled AmeriCorps member positions awarded to a recipient or subrecipient, or changing the term of service of a currently enrolled member. Note that once a member is exited with a partial education award, the remaining portion of that education award is not available for use. The following changes require written approval from CNCS’s Office of Grants Management as well as written approval and concurrence from VSC:
- A change in the number of member service year (MSY) positions in the award; and/or
- A change in the funding level of the award.
- Changing Slot Types (unfilled positions). Recipients or subrecipients may change the type of slots awarded to their program if:
- The change does not increase the total MSYs authorized in the Notice of Grant Award (e.g. one half-time position cannot be changed to one full-time position); and
- The change does not increase the value of the education award; and,
- If the award is a Full-cost Fixed Amount or Professional Corps Fixed Amount award, the slot will be filled by a member serving in a full-time capacity.
All changes to slot type are subject to availability of funds in the Trust, must be Trust-neutral, and must comply with all assumptions on which Trust prudence and continued solvency are predicted. Recipients are able to make changes directly in the My AmeriCorps Portal. VSC requires that programs must complete the Program Change Request Form prior to making changes to member slots.
- Changing a Term of Service (currently enrolled positions). Changes in terms of service may not result in an increased number of MSYs for the program.
- Full-time. VSC may authorize or approve occasional changes of currently enrolled full-time members to less than full-time members. Impact on program quality should be factored into approval of such requests.
CNCS will not cover healthcare or childcare costs for less than full-time members. It is not allowable to transfer currently enrolled full-time members to a less than full-time status simply to provide a less than full-time education award.
- Less than Full-time. CNCS discourages changing less than full-time members to full-time because it is very difficult to manage, unless done very early in the member’s term of service. VSC may authorize or approve such changes so long as their current budget can accommodate such changes. Programs must keep in mind that a member’s minimum 1700 hours must be completed within 12 months of the member’s original start date.
- Full-time. VSC may authorize or approve occasional changes of currently enrolled full-time members to less than full-time members. Impact on program quality should be factored into approval of such requests.
- Refilling Slots. Programs that have fully enrolled their awarded member slots are allowed to replace any member who terminates service before completing 30 percent of his/her term provided that the member who is terminated is not eligible for and does not receive a pro-rated education award. Programs may not refill the same slot more than once.
As a fail-safe mechanism to ensure that resources are available in the National Service Trust to finance all earned education awards, CNCS will suspend refilling if either: total AmeriCorps enrollment reaches 97 percent of awarded slots; or the number of refills reaches five percent of awarded slots.