VISTA supervisor Jaynese Waddell explained the process is similar to filing a grant. Interested organizations submit a utilization plan for the individual VISTA. United Way then ensures it aligns with the program’s intended goals for the volunteer: poverty alleviation, sustainable solutions, capacity building and community empowerment.
Once United Way approves the proposal, it is sent to the state office. The overall grant is due in July. Waddell explained the June 23 deadline is to allow time to write and compile the reports.
VISTA designations will be listed in September.
Organizations awarded a VISTA must pay $11,000 to cover the salary of the volunteer for a year.
According to Waddell, the benefits of applying for a VISTA far outweigh the drawbacks.
She explained the average full-time employee costs anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000. A VISTA working 35 to 40 hours a week is paid at a fraction of the cost. A monthly housing stipend of $200 is provided by United Way as the project site.
“Those who have VISTAs love them,” Waddell said. “Less than 1 percent of the feedback I have received about the VISTAs has been negative. I’ve [told them] if the reporting is overburdensome, let us know. From a United Way perspective, this is a resource, not another thing to add to your checklist.”
Supervisors complete quarterly reports to ensure the VISTA’s job continues to align with the program goals. There is also a training session for supervisors who are awarded a volunteer.
Recruitment for VISTAs will begin in the fall. There are currently seven volunteers serving at various organizations throughout the city. These include, but are not limited to, The Refuge, Family Promise of Bradley County, Tri-State Exhibition Center, Impact Cleveland and United Way of Bradley County.
The goal is to have eight organizations and VISTAs for the 2015-16 service year. Volunteers selected will begin their yearlong venture in February. VISTAs receive either $1,500 for their personal funds or $5,500 toward education fees at the end of the year. The money is provided through the Corporation for National and Community Services.
United Way itself has had two VISTAs “serve on staff for [the] community.” Former VISTAs Waddell and Sarah Haratine are now on staff at the local nonprofit. The experience has led United Way to believe the VISTA program is, “a valuable resource to the organization, the population it serves and ultimately to the entire community.”
A VISTA can handle tasks other employees within an organization might be too busy to handle. She explained the program is not direct service. This means a VISTA deals primarily with capacity building, not working directly with the clients. A VISTA might develop systems to recruit volunteers, research information needed for grants or set up a volunteer system.
Waddell added, “Sometimes you need somebody to be behind the scenes and make the programs more sustainable, more effective and more long term.”
Organizations interested in the opportunity must submit a proposal via email to Jaynese Waddell, firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than Monday. At the same time, a discussion meeting will be scheduled to outline the organization’s intended use of a VISTA. Questions regarding VISTAs and proposal applications can be directed to Waddell at 479-2020.