Pathway to Not-For-Profit Consulting

Have you ever considered what it would be like to work for yourself, from home, on a rotating array of projects that interest you? Well Porsche Holland and I discuss the challenges and awards that come with this career path and how AmeriCorps can be used to gain marketable skills necessary to go free-lance.

This was one of our most inspiring and honest conversations during the Journey to Entrepreneurship Sumit. Check out the other session here.

How to Join AmeriCorps In 5 Steps

1. Set An Intention

What do you want to get out of your AmeriCorps participation? Community service, professional experience and development of life skills are just a few of reasons that might be drawing you to a year of service. Once you’ve set your goal to serve, you need to do your research. There are several types of programs and service areas actively serving communities in over 60,000 locations across the country. In finding the right opportunities to apply to, it’s important to know where you want to work (urban vs rural), what kind of service you want to do (direct service vs indirect service) and the issue areas that excite you. We can help guide you through this application process. Sign up for a one-on-one session today with our NGS guides, most of whom have served a year (or more) in an AmeriCorps program.


2. My AmeriCorps Application

Navigate to the My AmeriCorps site, and select “apply to serve.” From here, you will create a profile and begin your application. The application process is similar to a “common app” for applying to university and allows you to apply to opportunities across a variety of nonprofit organizations in the AmeriCorps network. You will provide information on any past community service and work experience, a personal essay and letters of recommendation. This is a job application and should be treated as such, but it is also imperative that your application as a whole answers the question: Why do I feel called to service?


3. Apply to the Max Positions

Your My AmeriCorps application can be submitted to as many as 10 positions at a time. As positions are filled on a rolling basis, you will receive application status notifications. Do not take rejection too personally. Just trust that you were not a great fit for the program. I highly recommend submitting your application to the maximum of 10 positions at a time even if some of the positions fall outside your primary interests. If the organization is working on issues you care about, submit your application. You may get a first round interview, and this will give you a better sense of fit with the organization. Remember, you will be working at an organization with multiple projects and plenty of need for leaders. There are often opportunities to make contributions to the organization’s mission beyond your stated role. Whether you enjoy your experience is heavily dependent upon your connection with individuals in the organization, so give yourself an opportunity to get on the phone or face-to-face with potential supervisors and colleagues.


4. Reach Out

With My AmeriCorps you are using a standardized application, which does not always give you an opportunity to describe your qualifications for a specific position. A great way to work around the limitations of the application is to reach out to the contact listed on the AmeriCorps position posting (see side bar in My AmeriCorps), and make yourself known as a strongly interested applicant. Some programs will respond with their own additional set of application questions or give you an opportunity to write 1-2 paragraphs (like a cover letter) explaining why you would be a great fit for the role.


5. Persevere!

Again, as with any job application, accept that you might not get the role. Some AmeriCorps programs, like VISTA, are more competitive based on the sheer number of applicants for certain locations or other factors. However, there are plenty of smaller, lesser-known programs across the country that have unfilled positions. If you are passionate about being of service and learning new skills, be patient and there will be opportunities for you. Undertaking national service is having the courage to tackle challenges and build a better future for our country, so don’t give up!


Writen by Anna Lenhart

Edited by Nicole Campbell

Photo Credit:

Erin Ramirez: Next Generation of Service Guide Profile

Erin RamirezIn 2011 I did a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. I am originally from California and got my undergraduate and graduate degrees in California also. I was placed on a rural island in Hawaii called Molokai for my year of service. I was in charge of the Senior Projects at Molokai High School. As part of my year of service I was in charge of recruiting volunteers for the high school, updating and having people register for, provide training to new volunteers, help mentor students on their Senior Projects, and put together training manuals and do data analysis.

Doing a year of service was really fulfilling because I got to assist students with a project that would help prepare them for college and careers. I also learned a lot of new skills like management experience, event organization, and public speaking skills. Doing community service not only helps a community in need but helps give you a different perspective on life. All the staff and people I met in Molokai were really kind and treated me like part of their ‘ohana. It was definitely a one of a kind experience.

I encourage any student in college to do community service in their local communities, but I also encourage students to try and serve in a less privileged community in another state or country. Being exposed to different cultures, and ways of living really opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to pursue higher education.


Megan Quigley, Mission: St. Louis

MeganGuideName: Megan Q

University: Saint Louis University

Major: Psychology and Public Health

Service Type: AmeriCoprs VISTA

Service Dates: November 2013- November 2015

Region:St. Louis, MO


Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:

Mission: St. Louis is a nonprofit focused on empowering people to transform their neighborhoods. We have four core programs: Job & Leadership Training, Youth Development, Home Repair, and Senior Services.


Our flagship program is the Job & Leadership Training program. This is designed to empower at-risk young men ages 17-35 with skills to become leaders in their workplace, community, and families. The program aims to give men that may lack professional experience the skills they need to maintain a job. We’ve come to find that many of these men grew up in homes without a father or male role model, so we aim to teach and empower them to be strong role models for their own children and leaders in their families. Many of the men in our program have a criminal record or no job experience in the past. All are welcome.


Youth Development works to bring kids from the local public school up to reading at age level. Our volunteers work with the students before, during, and after school. Some of our participants are up to 4 years behind grade level when they start but several advanced 2.5 years within the nine months of working with us in the 2013-2014 school year. Home Repair hosts groups of mission trips from across the country and helps to partner these groups with homes in the area in need of repair. This summer they completed over 520 projects in the neighborhood and served over 80 residents of the neighborhood. Senior Services aims to help seniors age successfully and safely in their own homes and provides them resources to keep them out of nursing homes and living independently. All of our programs are offered free of charge to all participants ( for more).


How did you find your position with AmeriCorps?

I was getting ready to graduate from college and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. While attending a panel discussion on the role of community service in the undergraduate experience, one of the panel members at SLU recommended I look at AmeriCorps VISTA. I knew I wanted to stay in the St. Louis area and work for the city I had come to love over the previous four years. Once on the website, I was able to find positions listed for the VISTA umbrella project that I am a part of today.


What’s your typical day like?

My days are all different from each other. Because I work at such a dynamic organization, there is always something different going on. My job specifically works with our senior services program. We offer several different services and a good portion of my day is spent taking requests and coordinating volunteers for these tasks. Because I work with an older population, most of my communication is done on the phone. Members will call our office with ride requests for when they need to go to the doctor’s, dentist, etc. and I will call people on our volunteer list until I find someone that is available.  In addition to transportation, we also offer educational programs once a month known as “Lunch & Learns. ” Over the summer, I got to work with youth groups coming to St. Louis on mission trips to help do yard work for our older adults who are no longer able to do these things themselves.  Another aspect of my job is answering calls and questions from people outside of our ministry. In these cases, we do our best to refer the caller to an agency that will be able to help them.


What are your living accommodations?

Fortunately, I was already familiar with the city before I started my service term. I had a good idea of where I would like to live and how far it would be from the office. As AmeriCorps VISTAs, we are provided with a living stipend intended to cover expenses we may have in our day-to-day life during our year of service but for the most part we are responsible for finding our own apartments/living situations.


What do you do in your free time?

Because I spend most of my day sitting down, I try to be as active in my free time as possible. This past spring I trained for and ran my first half marathon. It was a wonderful experience full of hard work and getting to know the city. I ran the race with my best friend from college and it was a great way for us to stay connected after graduation. I love working out with other people and think it is a great way to spend time with friends.  In addition to staying active, I love to explore and experience the amazing city that I live in. Even though I have been here for nearly six years, I am still constantly discovering new places to go and restaurants to try.


Share a favorite memory or story from your experience?

My favorite memory from my experience was the December Lunch & Learn holiday party that we had for the seniors. It was the first big event I got to attend during my service year and it was a great way to start. A local singing group performed Christmas songs and everyone shared a meal together afterward. Many of the ladies brought in various types of cookies for everyone to try and there were desserts everywhere. It was great to see this community come together once last time before the holidays.


What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?

One of the biggest things I have learned from working at a nonprofit is that you have to be ready to help with anything. Unlike big businesses, nonprofits rely on their smaller staffs to fill many different roles. Some of the best advice I received when I started at Mission: St. Louis was to not be tied to what I thought I was here to do. There is so much more that needs to get done to make a nonprofit run that it just doesn’t work if anyone were to say, “That’s not in my job description.”  We all work hard every day to make sure our individual programs are successful, but overall we are really just one big team and are expected to help everyone else out when we can.  


What is one thing you wish you knew before you come to your position?

I wish I had known how fast a year can go by! When I was first considering applying to be an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was intimidated by the year-long commitment. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make the living-stipend last for an entire year and I was worried I would run out of things to do at my site. I WAS WRONG!! This year has absolutely flown by. I have made more connections with the people I serve than I ever expected to.  I have accomplished several projects and volunteer days for these individuals. I have seen our agency have great success in our overall goals for the neighborhood. And I have made some wonderful VISTA friends that I am not ready to see leave in two months. Eight weeks sounds like a long time from the perspective of a college student looking at an internship, but it feels much shorter in terms of finishing up a year-long project!


Carolina Giraldo’s Journey to AmeriCorps

CarolinaMy passion has always been people and being able to lend a listening ear to a troubled mind was what I believed I was naturally gifted at. In reality, it probably just developed throughout the several years I spent as a crying shoulder to quite a few folks. This may be the dominant reason why I chose to obtain my B.S. in Psychology. But, after participating in an Alternative Spring Break back in 2011, I became enamored with this whole concept of service. I served with a group of 8 lovely ladies in Charlotte, NC with Stop Hunger Now. I will never forget the valuable experience I gained from this trip because it helped me see a different side of non-profit work, not to mention the fact that we provided much needed assistance to this wonderful humanitarian aid organization. It was during this service project that I met a VISTA and learned about AmeriCorps. I decided, while still a junior at UCF (University of Central Florida), I would apply for AmeriCorps once I graduated in 2012. I knew I wanted to serve while traveling so I applied to NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). The new collaboration between FEMA and NCCC came into existence in 2012 so I got to serve in the North Central Region inaugural FEMA Corps class.

Needless to say, this was one of the best choices I’ve made. Throughout the ten months of service, there were many treacherous mountains to climb, but I enjoyed the opportunity of serving on a national level with disaster relief such as 2012’s Hurricane Sandy along with 10 other people. I felt like I grew so much throughout those ten months that it gave me the confidence to apply for a VISTA position I wasn’t sure I was qualified enough for. In 2013, I left my life as a FEMA-NCCC Corps member behind and excitedly took on my role as an AmeriCorps VISTA. For a year, I worked as the (brace yourself for the long title) “AmeriCorps VISTA Veterans Helping Veterans Program Specialist” at a nonprofit organization back home called Impact Broward. I was given the task of updating: programmatic policies & procedures, recruitment literature, training material and lists of community contacts as well as recruiting, training, and assigning Veteran mentors with mentees. I’m assuming my work was well received since I was promoted to Veterans Helping Veterans Program Coordinator (my current occupation) after my VISTA year ended this past July. I am now excited to be able to share my passion for service, whether domestically or internationally, with all of you who come on board with the NGS movement and hope to do my best as a guide.

Rebecca’s AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service [Part 1/2]

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Today’s post is part of a two-part series on AmeriCorps. Rebecca is currently working at the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Business Marketing Coordinator. She found out about GYG through a fellow Model United Nations member, Harrison Gill. You can contact her HERE.

After I graduated college and realized getting a permanent job was next to impossible (2010 was not a good year to be searching for a job), I signed up for AmeriCorps VISTA.

The whole team at a Giants game!

When I applied for AmeriCorps I had no idea what to expect. I checked out the project descriptions and the recruiting organizations and chose to apply to projects that both peeked my interest and were outside of my current knowledge base. I also kept location in mind; it can end up being a really important factor in your decision. Anyways, the AmeriCorps VISTA program, unlike other AmeriCorps programs, is designed to help nonprofits get started, to focus on sustainability and program development.

There were quite a few organizations that were looking for someone to help their programs expand their financial services. That sounded interesting, I thought, ‘don’t know too much about financial services!’ I ended up applying to three programs in my state that all were looking into fortifying and growing their VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs and focusing on partnering with fellow nonprofits to help clients get access to many different financial services. These concepts really interested me.

When I first heard about AmeriCorps I thought it was all about mentoring and tutoring children, which is great. But, I was looking for a stepping-stone to a career and I wasn’t looking to become a teacher. Realizing that AmeriCorps offered other projects that I wanted to learn more about and would help expand my knowledge in a specific area such as economic development was great! I knew I had found something I could commit to for the next year.

I accepted a position north of San Francisco 8 hours away from my family in a place I was a stranger to, ready to start something new. SparkPoint Marin’s mission was to help people take control of their own finances. Turns out to help other people, you need to be well versed in these areas yourself. Thus, I was trained in financial coaching and learned how to budget, to save, and to file taxes. Now I volunteer every year during tax season to help people file their taxes and file my own for free as well.

Here are some other resources I learned about that could be useful to you too:

In fact, all this immersion in finance lead me to start my own finance blog.

I finished my year empowered and ready to take on more challenges. I came away with marketing skills, organizational skills, enhanced customer service skills, confidence in voicing my opinions and sharing ideas, and lastly, the ability to analyze programs, find the inefficiencies, come up with solutions and implement them.

I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Breyn Hibbs on Leading from the Heart

Breyn Hibbs’ story is the epitome of what the NGS Movement is all about. As her grad school experience came to a close, she began looking for a way to put her passion into action. She discovered Shakti Rising in 2010 and knew she wanted to do a year of service there. After volunteering for about a year, she joined the staff as an AmeriCorps VISTA with a focus on resource development in 2011. Through her personal growth and career development as a VISTA and eventually a formal staff member at Shakti Rising, Bre gained the skills she needed to later start Sol Alchemy, a unique yoga studio in her hometown of Bend, OR.

Breyn has a distinct understanding about how being of service to others is identical to serving one’s self and is ultimately the key to a fulfilling life. Bre also talks about how experiencing heart-based leadership shaped her understanding of social change and her approach to social entrepreneurship.


Nikole, San Diego

We All Have Stories to Tell

Americorps VISTA. Shakti Rising

We all have stories to tell, stories that could fill pages and create great novels. I could tell you many stories, but instead I’ll focus on one.

An equal mixture of excitement and fear surged through my veins as I stepped off the plane on the San Diego concourse and began my year long quest of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I traveled from the opposite end of the continental U.S. carrying along my personal baggage; darkness the biggest piece of luggage, hope a small carry-on. I was departing from a life lacking purpose. Finally emerging from the abyss of my lost self and delving into the unknown, I had the intense desire to be of service.

Everything in my life completely changed when Shakti Rising found me. While working in the Transformation through Service program, I began experiencing personal shifts that connected me with my heart and spirit again. On almost a daily basis, I was able to help others discover their passions through volunteering. I soon began working on a storytelling project that ignited a fire inside of me and fueled inspiration. I soon found myself co-piloting a committee that would provide outlets where everyone’s story could be shared and heard – through art, film, writing and social media, I was able to help share the individual and collective stories of apprentices, staff, volunteers, and community members involved with Shakti Rising. Shortly thereafter, this committee created a new and improved version of the Flutter-by e-newsletter, and it has been amazing to witness the stories of transformation unfold!

Shakti Rising came to me when I needed it most. It wasn’t the organization or the charming old house that I had been searching for, but rather the true vision of transformation behind it. It was the community of strong women standing together in their leadership, service and authenticity that was the force of gravity pulling me in. My service at Shakti Rising has not only allowed me to discover my passion for telling stories through writing and marketing, but it has also shown me that I have had wisdom and serenity within me all along. My passion did not need to be searched for because it was already intuitively known. I answered a call to the AmeriCorps VISTA program because I wanted to be of service, I answered the call to Shakti Rising because I wanted to create transformation and be a leader.

* also published in Shakti Rising’s July 2010 newsletter

Lara Hamburger: Americorps VISTA, International Rescue Committee

Lara Hamburger

Name Lara Hamburger, Americorps VISTA
University, Major: Indiana University, Geography
Region: North America
Length of stay: 1 year
Type of Work: Capacity Building, Environment/Conservation, Agriculture

We first met Lara at the IRC City Heights Farmers Market. We lucked out catching her on her way out. Lara is an Americorps VISTA with amazing insights on nonprofit organizations, structural problems and making a daily impact on the lives of refugees.



Meet Lara

How did Lara come to the IRC?

How is Lara financing her time?

What has Lara learned about the non-profit world through working at the IRC?

What’s next for Lara? Will she stay on at IRC?

What advice does Lara have for potential volunteers who are worrying about financing their service?