Overview of the VISTA Sponsor Handbook


The VISTA Sponsor Handbook (Handbook) addresses roles, responsibilities, and expectations related to VISTA project management for all project staff including project directors, supervisors (member or site), authorized representatives, fiscal staff, and more. Throughout this resource, links to more information or best practices are provided when available for each topic. This document is a companion resource to the VISTA Member Handbook, which speaks to VISTA member policies, as well as to the VISTA Sponsor training resources available via the VISTA Campus.

When a question or issue arises, VISTA project staff should first refer to this Handbook for information on how to proceed and consult with their CNCS State Office (CSO). While this Handbook covers many topics, CNCS State Offices know your project and can offer support and guide you to additional resources.

How to Use the VISTA Sponsor Handbook

The Handbook is designed to be a comprehensive, straightforward resource manual with easy-to-locate information that spans the entire lifecycle of a VISTA project. The Handbook contains content and guidance on all aspects of VISTA project management, including but not limited to VISTA member support, reporting requirements, preparing for new members, core responsibilities, and terms and conditions.

If there is a conflict between a provision contained in this Handbook and applicable federal regulations or Terms and Conditions of the Notice of Grant Award (NGA), the applicable regulations and/or the applicable Terms and Conditions of the NGA are the controlling authorities.

Handbook Design

The Handbook is organized into chapters that contain important guidance about specific requirements and responsibilities as well as success tips, templates, and best practices throughout the life cycle of a VISTA project. VISTA project directors, supervisors, authorized representatives, and others involved with the VISTA project will benefit from reviewing some or all of this information.

This electronic resource is easily searchable and contains links to additional resources and information. Also, this resource will be updated routinely with the most relevant information. As a result, we recommend that you do not print this resource but rather make an electronic bookmark for the Handbook and take advantage of the digital features. Not printing saves paper and ensures you always have the most current version of the Handbook at your fingertips.

Related Resources

Some sections conclude with a list of related resources and recommended links that point readers to additional information on selected topics.

The VISTA Sponsor Resource Guide is an at-a-glance snapshot of resources to assist sponsors with successfully managing VISTA projects. 

Handbook Review and Management

The Handbook will be updated periodically but reviewed at least annually to ensure alignment among all VISTA resources and guidance. A change log will be maintained and included as part of this document to promote transparency and provide historical reference.


When Handbook information is added or modified, VISTA Sponsors will be notified in a variety of ways including but not limited to email notification from VISTA headquarters and follow-up communications from CNCS State Offices.

Version Control and Change Log

Below is an overview of revisions to the current version of the Handbook.


Date Issued

Change Log


2018.1 (currently effective)

November, 2018


First version VISTA Sponsor Handbook (née VISTA Supervisor Manual)



The following are some common words and phrases used throughout the Handbook. See 45 C.F.R. §2556.5 for additional specific definitions in the VISTA Regulations.

An Applicant for VISTA service refers to an individual who is in the process of completing, or has completed, an application for VISTA service as prescribed by CNCS, but who has been not been approved by CNCS to be a candidate.

The Application for VISTA service refers to the materials used by CNCS to capture information on an individual's eligibility and suitability for VISTA service.

A Candidate, when used in the context of an individual who has applied for VISTA service, refers to an individual whose application for VISTA service has been approved by CNCS, but who has not taken an oath, alternative oath, or affirmation to serve in the VISTA program. Candidates may include those who were enrolled in the VISTA program at a prior time.

CNCS refers to the Corporation for National and Community Service, established pursuant to section 191 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 12651. CNCS is also sometimes referred to as “the Corporation.”

CNCS State Offices are the branches of CNCS that administer the VISTA and Senior Corps programs. Each CNCS State Office is led by a State Program Director (SPD) and may also include one or more State Program Officers (SPOs). The SPD reports to an Area Manager or equivalent CNCS official.

Cost Share refers to when an entity, such as a VISTA sponsor, reimburses CNCS part or all of the expenses associated with the operation of a VISTA project, such as the costs for one or more VISTAs, Leaders, or Summer Associates placed at a VISTA project.

The Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, as amended, or DVSA, is the Federal law enacted by Congress that outlines the purposes of the VISTA program and the parameters within which it may operate.

A Leader, or a VISTA Leader, is a VISTA member who serves at a VISTA project in a prescribed leadership capacity.  A leader may be a former VISTA, AmeriCorps member, or Peace Corps volunteer who demonstrated to CNCS exemplary skills and leadership in community service.  Leaders serve different functions depending on the needs of local projects, including recruiting and coordinating VISTAs, preparing in-service trainings, identifying new funding sources, and serving as liaisons between the community and CNCS.

A Memorandum of Agreement is a written agreement between CNCS and a sponsor regarding the terms of the sponsor's involvement and responsibilities in the VISTA program.

An Oath is the confirmation and formal commitment to VISTA service, taken in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 3331, by an individual who is a U.S. citizen or national. The taking of the Oath formalizes an individual's enrollment into the VISTA program.

Project or VISTA project means a set of VISTA activities operated and overseen by, and the responsibility of, a sponsor, to realize the goals of Title I of the DVSA.

A Project applicant or VISTA project applicant is an entity that submits an application to CNCS to operate, oversee, and be responsible for a VISTA project.

A Project application or VISTA project application refers to the application materials prescribed by CNCS to ascertain information on an applying entity's eligibility and suitability to operate, oversee, and be responsible for a VISTA project.

The Project director or VISTA project director is the staff person of the sponsor who has been assigned by the sponsor the overall responsibility for the management of the VISTA project.

Site or VISTA site or VISTA project site means a location where VISTA members serve. VISTA projects may operate at one or more sites. The sponsor itself can be a site and it may or may not have members serving on its premises.

The Sponsor, VISTA sponsor, or VISTA project sponsor is a public agency or private nonprofit organization that receives assistance under Title I of the DVSA, and is responsible for operating and overseeing a VISTA project. A public agency may be a federal, state, local, or tribal government.

A Summer Associate refers to a type of VISTA member who is enrolled for VISTA service, during a period between May 1 and September 15, and who is also subject to terms and conditions of service that differ in certain respects from that of members whose service terms last for a year. A Summer Associate must be available to provide continuous full-time service for a period of at least eight weeks and a maximum of ten weeks.

The Supervisor or VISTA Supervisor is the staff member of the sponsor or a subrecipient who has been assigned by the sponsor or the subrecipient the responsibility for the day-to-day oversight of one or more VISTAs.

The VISTA member, the VISTA, or the VISTA refers to an individual enrolled full-time for VISTA service in the VISTA program, as authorized under Title I of the DVSA. (Review eligibility requirements here.)

The VISTA program is the acronym for the Federal government program named Volunteers in Service to America and authorized under Title I of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4950 et seq.

VISTA service refers to VISTA service activities performed by a VISTA member while enrolled in the VISTA program.

Sharing Feedback

Sharing Feedback

Suggestions regarding new content, corrections, and deletions are always welcome. The electronic format allows the Handbook to change according to the needs of its users.

To offer suggestions, send an email to vista@cns.gov and copy your corresponding CNCS State Office on the email.