Successful Five-Year QENO VISTA Project Comes to an End

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

For the past five years, the UNCW Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations office has led a local AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) project focusing on strengthening volunteer management and community outreach in nonprofit organizations. During this time, QENO has recruited and trained VISTA members from across the country to serve in nonprofits in southeastern North Carolina.

With the project concluded, QENO reports the effect their VISTA members have made throughout communities in southeastern NC:

  • 11,000 volunteers were either recruited or managed by QENO AmeriCorps VISTA members. Those volunteers served more than 13,000 hours in southeastern NC communities.
  • 162 nonprofit staff and volunteers were trained by QENO’s AmeriCorps VISTA project – a total of 748 hours of training over five years.
  • QENO AmeriCorps VISTA members’ activities resulted in excess of $324,000 in cash donations and more than $220,000 worth of in-kind donations.
  • During the five-year project, 24 organizations reported that they implemented three or more effective volunteer management practices as a result of being a part of the QENO AmeriCorps VISTA project. More than 45 new systems and business processes were implemented over the life of the project.
  • The total of the five-year QENO AmeriCorps VISTA project grant was $1,039,230 (this included living stipends and benefits paid directly to QENO AmeriCorps VISTA members). QENO received no funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service for the project.

The project uniquely aligned with UNCW’s efforts to increase community, regional and global impact, one of the many goals outlined in the university’s strategic plan. QENO Director Natasha Davis said that the VISTA project not only strengthens effective organization infrastructure, but also cultivates future nonprofit leaders who truly understand the needs of the community.

“QENO serves as a unique resource to the region, enhancing the skills of nonprofit staff and board members and improving the delivery of services, recreational opportunities and resources in our area,” said Lori Messinger, associate vice chancellor for community engagement. “Whether through the VISTA program, the training and coaching offered by staff, or Natasha’s ability to link UNCW students, faculty and staff to regional nonprofits, QENO is an outstanding reflection of the university’s commitment to community engagement.”

VISTA was founded in 1965 and incorporated into AmeriCorps’ program network in 1993 as a service program to combat poverty in America. VISTA’s goal is to build the organizational capacity in community nonprofit and government agencies. AmeriCorps VISTA members are not allowed to provide direct services.

VISTA members live within the county they are serving, and the provided stipend matches the poverty level in that county. This sacrifice ensures that AmeriCorps is training people who will, for a short time, live a similar life to those they are serving. According to Davis, this effort makes them more knowledgeable and compassionate public servants in the future, an important goal as QENO works to improve and increase philanthropy in southeastern NC.

QENO VISTA members have gone on to great success in the nonprofit sector after their appointments ended. Several former members are now working for places like RHA Health Services, Robeson Partnership for Children, the Virginia Housing Alliance and the International Museum of Art in San Francisco. Davis said that several former VISTAS have also been accepted to law school so they can create effective policy. Others are attending medical school to one day work in community medicine.

“Seeing how the VISTA Project started and watching it grow into something that made a huge difference has been gratifying,” Davis said. “AmeriCorps wanted us to reapply, but I wanted to take a step back to look at other options, like securing funding for long-term student internships or fellowships. We’re looking at how we can make the best impact going forward.”

-- Caitlin Taylor 18’M