Teach Me How to VISTA

AmeriCorps VISTA Mission:

To engage members in a year of full-time service to strengthen organizations that eliminate or alleviate poverty through the mobilization of community volunteers and resources.

What VISTAs Do

VISTA members establish systems, institutionalize knowledge, and develop community relationships to better generate resources, encourage volunteer service at the local level, and empower individuals and communities to lift themselves out of poverty.

As a VISTA you will:

  • Strengthen, expand, and increase the reach of anti-poverty program.
  • Serve people in need through work with project staff and volunteers, rather than directly serve the clients of an organization.
  • Carry on a legacy of national service started in the 1960s.

Who are VISTAs?

Basic Requirements

  • Be at least 18 years old; no upper age limit
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
  • Pass a criminal history review
  • Meet knowledge, skill, and ability requirements set by the sponsoring organization


  • While serving, VISTAs receive a modest living allowance that places them at the economic level of the
    low-income residents of the community where they serve
  • VISTAs get an end-of-service education or cash benefit after completing their term
  • VISTAs receive health coverage and may be eligible for child care and relocation assistance
  • While serving, VISTAs receive professional development

Terms of Service

  • One year (365 days), full-time assignment
  • May re-enroll for a second or third year (up to five terms)
  • Available 24 hours a day,
  • 7 days a week, though commonly work a standard, 40-hour week

Where They Serve

  • In nonprofit organizations and public agencies
  • Throughout the U.S. and certain territories, in urban and rural communities

Four defining principles of AmeriCorps VISTA:

Ending Poverty

A VISTA project goal is designed to help individuals and communities move out of poverty, rather than making poverty more tolerable through short-term services.

Empowering Communities

A VISTA project engages residents of low-income communities in planning, development, and implementation of the project. VISTA programs emphasizes how important it is to involve community members in the planning process. By listening to the voices of those we are trying to help, we are more confident that we are meeting the needs of the community. It’s less like we’re providing a service than we’re collaborating on solutions with the community directly.

Building Capacity

VISTA members strengthen, expand, and increase the reach of anti-poverty organizations and programs though projects with staff and volunteers, rather than directly with people in need. We serve because we know our efforts would help an organization sustain its current and future programs. These programs benefit people in need and aren’t provided by anyone else in my county. 

Creating Sustainable Solutions

VISTA members build capacity for organizations to address poverty long after we complete our year, or sometimes years, of service. We develop systems, relationships, and knowledge that transfers over to the next VISTA and the organization itself. Never underestimate a new VISTA with a fresh perspective and a whole toolbox of resources. We get things done for America.