Points of Light recently released a Civic Live Today digital issue focused on Service. We reached out to Kaira Esgate (CEO of America's Service Commissions) to share this guest blog focused on how nonprofits, and other public sector entities, can partner with AmeriCorps and state service commissions to connect individuals to service opportunities.
Did you know that almost every U.S. state and territory has its own dedicated state service commission focused full-time on service, volunteerism, and civic impact?
As we find ourselves at the height of the U.S. disaster season, and witness the lasting impacts of Hurricane Ida along the Gulf Coast and Northeast, there is no better time to remind our fellow nonprofits as well as volunteer connectors, community and faith-based groups, and local governments of two of the best-kept ‘secrets’ for effective disaster response and recovery that they all have at their fingertips: AmeriCorps and state service commissions.
Known affectionately as the ‘domestic Peace Corps,’ AmeriCorps is both a federal agency and a nationwide network of federally-funded nonprofits and grant recipients that engage 270,000 Americans annually in intensive community service experiences through AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors. More than $800 million in federal grants are provided to 2,000+ local organizations each year – largely through a network of 52 state service commissions on the ground in each state – that address critical needs in the focus areas of Disaster Services, Economic Opportunity, Education, Environmental Stewardship, Healthy Futures, or Veterans and Military Families.
Since the program’s inception in 1994 under President Clinton, more than 1 million AmeriCorps members have been deployed to serve American communities. Since then, the program has achieved widespread bipartisan support from Congress and strong endorsements from Presidents Bush, Obama, and Biden. AmeriCorps members have collectively contributed more than 1 billion hours in service across America and mobilized thousands of volunteers for the organizations they serve to strengthen neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban alike.
While AmeriCorps is federally supported, however, it is also incredibly local. This is largely because of the statutory role of state service commissions, which make up a nationwide network of 52 “service hubs” across the United States, including DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
State service commissions were created in 1993 under the National and Community Service Trust Act as amended to serve as the key state partners of the federal AmeriCorps agency. State service commissions administer more than 75% of AmeriCorps State/National grants each year, as well as the George H.W. Bush Volunteer Generation Fund, and other special initiatives such as National Days of Service, Governor Volunteer Awards, Service Learning and Civic Engagement programs to engage citizens in service.
Typically led by governor-appointed commissioners and state agency leaders, commissions exist to distribute AmeriCorps funds at the local level and are the main delivery system that keeps AmeriCorps truly national while also locally relevant. Examples of these local program models can be seen in our recent publications including Innovative State Service COVID-19 Response Programs, Expanding Service Years in States and Local Communities, and National Service 101: A Toolkit for Afterschool Programs.
What does this mean for you? Take a few minutes to become familiar with these two incredible resources in your state – both our state service commission as well as the statewide network of AmeriCorps programs they support. Whether it’s responding to disasters, aiding in pandemic response and recovery efforts, or piloting a project to address a newly emerging need in your region, AmeriCorps and state service commissions are here to help! Consider joining your commission’s mailing list, applying to serve as a Commissioner/board member, or following the commission on social media to find out what they’re up to in your state that’s furthering civic impact.
For more information about how to partner with AmeriCorps, contact your state service commission to begin a conversation or visit americorps.gov/partner. You can contact a member of the ASC staff team with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaira Esgate serves as CEO of America’s Service Commissions (ASC), the national association for the 52 governor-appointed state service commissions. ASC represents and promotes as well as builds the capacity of state service commissions around the country. Prior to her current position, Kaira served as the executive director of Reimagining Service, a national multi-sector coalition dedicated to converting good intentions into greater impact through effective volunteer engagement strategies. With Reimagining Service, Kaira led efforts to bring new data and insights to volunteering and developed the nationally recognized nonprofit service enterprise model. During her tenure with California Volunteers, the state service commission in California, Kaira served in a variety of roles, including overseeing the agency’s program development and grantmaking activities, leading planning efforts with the service and volunteering field in the state, and serving as Chief of Staff to the nation's first Cabinet-level Secretary of Service and Volunteering.