Project Partner FAQs
What is AmeriCorps?
AmeriCorps is a national community service program created to address the needs of local communities. AmeriCorps engages 75,000 Members annually who complete intensive service to meet community needs in education, health, public safety, security, and the environment. Since the program’s founding in 1994, over 1 million AmeriCorps Members have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours of service to their communities. CivicSpark Fellows are full-time AmeriCorps Members, completing a total of 1700 hours over 11 months, working to assist local communities while gaining valuable experience and training. For more information, visit www.nationalservice.gov.
How does CivicSpark help create sustainable projects?
Each year, CivicSpark recruits 90 Fellows who contribute over 100,000 hours to help California communities address emerging environmental or socioeconomic resiliency challenges such as: climate change, water resources management, affordable housing, and mobility. CivicSpark Fellows build local public agency capacity by implementing a service project. They enhance long-term agency capacity through volunteer engagement and transitional activities to ensure stakeholders are engaged and the work is sustained after the service year is completed.
Each project is defined by partners to address specific public agency capacity needs, while also including four key CivicSpark components: (1) an initial gap assessment to determine specific project needs and finalize the project scope; (2) a service project (research, planning, or implementation-focused) targeting local needs and in connection with a public agency; (3) support for increased volunteer engagement by establishing new volunteer programs or enhancing pre-existing programs relevant to the project topic; and (4) transitional support in the form of stakeholder presentations and/or staff training to ensure that project deliverables and resources are adequately handed off to local government participants.
This approach offers a unique opportunity to accelerate local capacity in each community’s target resilience need (e.g., climate change, water resources management, affordable housing, mobility, etc.)
What happened to the thematic tracks?
CivicSpark has consolidated the program design from three separate “tracks” focused on specific subject areas into one comprehensive program with a broader resiliency capacity building focus. Combining our Climate, Water, and Opportunity Access tracks into one umbrella program enables CivicSpark to better serve Partners and Fellows and streamline program administration. The broader “resiliency” umbrella also allows greater project scope flexibility. Partners can mix project types and topics to best meet their capacity needs.
What can CivicSpark Fellows work on?
CivicSpark Fellows provide capacity-building support to public agencies through research, planning, and implementation project activities. CivicSpark Fellows can work on a wide range of initiatives, as long as there is a defined connection to a specific agency’s unmet environmental and/or socioeconomic resiliency needs, and the work can be completed by a Fellow within the service year.
- Educating community members about climate change.
- Benchmarking commercial building energy use.
- Conducting electric vehicle readiness planning.
- Inventorying greenhouse gas emissions.
- Researching general plan options to incorporate groundwater language.
- Updating drought contingency plans.
- Implementing water efficiency ordinances.
- Implementing a water incentive program.
- Developing community broadband roadmap (speed and access).
- Demonstrating advanced technology options for agriculture.
- Developing pilot programs for first mile, last mile programs, EV charging.
- Increasing community awareness and utilization of accessory dwelling unit (ADU) options.
For more sample projects visit our project page or our project page for current and past projects as well as a library of project concepts.
Regardless of the specific resiliency capacity building focus, Fellows provide this support through a 4-step “intervention.”
- Gap Assessments: Review documents and conduct interviews with local government staff to determine current needs. Fellows will work with their site supervisor to confirm the project scope.
- Service Projects: Conduct a specific research, planning, or implementation project.
- Volunteer Engagement: Support increased volunteerism in the community.
- Transitioning Expertise: Provide transitional training to staff and/or share results with key stakeholders in order to transfer knowledge and build action throughout the community.
Depending on the timeframe public agency needs, a single project may include multiple stages of more than one activity type.
Can proposed CivicSpark projects include both mitigation and adaptation?
Yes, climate projects can be both adaptation and mitigation.
Partnering with CivicSpark
How do I apply to receive support from CivicSpark for a project?
Applications for the 2019-20 service year will open February 11, 2019. Learn more about the application process and timeline by visiting our partner page. The application consists of four main steps:
- The applicant completes a basic online application. This application provides us with information about the project scope and the public agencies the project will support so we can determine eligibility.
- LGC reviews the initial application. LGC staff set up a call with the applicant to further discuss project scope and needs.
- The applicant and LGC complete a “Service Agreement.” The service agreement is a contract between LGC and the applying organization outlining roles and responsibilities and the terms for the fiscal contribution.
- Relevant public agency staff complete a pre-service “Capacity Assessment” survey. This survey will help to refine the local government’s goals for the CivicSpark project and set a baseline for capacity.
I am not a local government, but I am interested in applying for support. Is this allowed?
Yes, but with some constraints. CivicSpark’s mission is to support capacity building for public agencies to respond to emerging environmental and/or socioeconomic resiliency challenges (e.g. climate change, water management, affordable housing, etc.) Within this framework, we have the following guidelines regarding who we partner with:
- CivicSpark Fellows can be placed with (i.e., have a Fellow under the supervision of) public agencies, NGOs, or state agencies. CivicSpark Fellows cannot serve directly with a for-profit organization.
- Regardless of the project partner, the project scope must have a clearly defined connection to an eligible local public agency (or agencies). This agency serves as the project “beneficiary.” See the eligibility criteria section of our partner page.
- Defined target public agency beneficiaries can be local, county, or regional governments. These include counties, cities, towns, special districts, school districts, MPOs, COGs, JPAs, etc. They cannot be state agencies (although as noted above, a state agency can be a partner, just not the target of the service).
- While CivicSpark Fellows cannot be placed with for-profit organizations, LGC can work with private companies who want to sponsor CivicSpark to deliver capacity building services to eligible public agencies. For more information on sponsorship, visit our Support Page.
Can CivicSpark partner with Tribal governments?
Yes, CivicSpark is happy to work with tribal governments and encourages any interested agencies to get in touch to discuss their project ideas or to visit our partner page to learn more and apply if ready. For the purposes of CivicSpark, a Tribal government qualifies as a local public agency. LGC and CivicSpark fully recognize and respect the Tribal governments as sovereign nations.
We are working on a project with a consortium of agencies benefiting multiple communities. Am I eligible for support through CivicSpark?
Yes! We are happy to work on larger projects that will create lasting impacts for multiple local governments. To effectively deliver our defined services, each public agency served must complete all 4 steps of the CivicSpark service process, as well as the pre- and post- Capacity Assessment surveys. Each agency should receive at least 200 hours of service. In cases where the project scope spans a large number of communities, consider identifying a “regional agency” who can be the beneficiary for the collected set of constituent local governments.
What makes a public agency eligible?
Public agencies are eligible if they have an unmet need to address emerging environmental or socioeconomic resiliency challenges and if support from a CivicSpark Fellow can help build capacity that will allow them to better meet these challenges in the future.
Starting in the 2019-20 service year, our eligibility criteria has changed to better align with program goals. Public agencies can demonstrate this unmet need by meeting at least 1 of 3 criteria identified on our partner page under the eligibility criteria section. In most cases, these “needs” should be easier than previous criteria for partners to demonstrate, however more specific information is required to document needs.
What are the eligibility criteria for nonprofits?
If you are a nonprofit interested in applying for a CivicSpark project, the project must benefit a public agency (or multiple public agencies), and the agencies served by the effort must meet the criteria as defined. When you complete the application and enter eligibility information, please use the information of the public agency beneficiaries that your work will support.
What are my responsibilities as a partner?
- Establish a project scope with a clearly defined connection to eligible local governments (specific agencies, or departments or initiatives within a single agency) that can be completed within the term of service.
- Submit required eligibility information and complete a pre- and post- service Capacity Assessment survey.
- Agree to follow all AmeriCorps requirements and prevent Fellows from participating in prohibited or unallowed activities.
- Provide a dedicated workspace (desk, computer, phone, etc.) and direct project supervision for Fellows (at least 1 hr / week).
- Partners provide overall Fellow supervision as well as some professional development training support.
- LGC Regional Coordinators provide program support, member development training, and serves as a local liaison to the partner.
- LGC Program staff provide additional sector-specific support for partners and training for Fellows.
When do Fellows begin their service?
The 2019-20 service year will begin mid-September, 2019 and will be completed by mid-August, 2020.
How many hours of work will a Fellow be able to complete during the service year?
Each Fellow serves for 1700 hours over 11 months.
- At least 1300 of those hours are dedicated to project service work.
- Approximately 250 – 300 hours are assigned to professional development and program service activities.
- Approximately 100 hours are reserved for community volunteer engagement.
Do I have to provide the CivicSpark team desk space and office resources?
Yes. All host agencies must provide a dedicated work space and office resources (phone, computer, etc.) for their Fellows. This does not need to be a full private office; it can be a cubicle, shared work space, or other arrangement, as long as the Fellow has a designated place to work on a daily basis.
If space is a potential barrier, we may be able to help you come up with an alternative solution. Please let us know if this is the case in your application.
Who provides funding for CivicSpark?
CivicSpark is an AmeriCorps program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) through the California Commission – California Volunteers. Established in 1993, CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through its core programs — Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund. AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 Americans annually in intensive service at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 800,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1 billion hours in service across America. California Volunteers is the state office that manages programs and initiatives aimed at increasing the number of Californians engaged in service and volunteering.
How is the fiscal contribution paid?
The contribution is paid with a 10% deposit when the Service Agreement is executed; then the remaining balance is due in equal monthly installments over the course of the service year.
Does a participating local government have to pay the fiscal contribution?
No, it can come from a third party who is supporting the service project.
What is the value of CivicSpark services not covered by the local fiscal contribution?
Approximately $14/hr is provided through a combination of direct funding, education award, available food stamp benefits. This estimate does not include state contributions of in-kind support and services, nor does it include the value of other benefits such as loan interest forgiveness or free childcare for qualifying fellows.
How do I know I will receive good value from this service?
With a strongly defined program structure that includes oversight by the Local Government Commission, and clearly documented performance expectations, this program is designed to deliver local results. In a previous case, the PG&E-funded Small Cities Climate Action Partnership used a similar AmeriCorps based team to implement technical services for local governments. The “value” of that service (based on outcomes and services provided) was estimated to be equivalent to private-consulting services that can cost upwards of $100/hour.
If we do not have funding in hand, do you have suggestions about how to fund the fiscal contribution?
CivicSpark is a great resource to leverage for outside funding. Because of its flexible design, there is an opportunity to focus the service on a suite of projects that align with available resources. For example, a regional foundation interested in supporting public health might support a vulnerability assessment. Local utilities might support a business energy audit project. If there is an open RFP for climate related work, CivicSpark could be built into responses as a supporting mechanism for completing the project.
Our agency has applied for a grant and assuming we are awarded the grant, we would love to use the funds to pay for a CivicSpark project. We will not find out about the grant until after CivicSpark service year starts. What should we do?
We can accept your application and engage with you on a tentative basis, but we also have to fill our cohort and will prioritize those organizations that have funding secured.
Can I use my CivicSpark team to apply for additional grants to pay for the match?
No. CivicSpark Fellows are not allowed to work directly on grant writing or fundraising, as outlined by AmeriCorps regulations. CivicSpark Fellows are allowed to help local agencies identify possible future funding sources though, and work completed by CivicSpark Fellows may be used to better prepare an agency to access existing funding sources.
Can I use federal grant funds to pay for the fiscal contribution?
AmeriCorps has a policy of deferring to other federal agencies with regard to commingling of federal funds. If the funding agency approves the use of funds for AmeriCorps it is allowable.
Does the fiscal contribution directly go to the CivicSpark Fellow?
No. It is a contribution to the whole program that is also bringing in resources from the federal government to support the whole program operations.
Does a participating local government have to provide workers compensation or liability insurance?
No. CivicSpark Fellows are covered by the Local Government Commission’s insurance.
For any questions you may have that are not answered in the FAQ page, please contact:
916-448-1198 x312 (Secondary)