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  • Writer's pictureBayLeigh Routt

AmeriCorps VISTA Quarterly Report #1

In mid-August, I traveled to participate in AmeriCorps’ Pre-Service Orientation (PSO); at PSO, I met lots of kind, funny, and like-minded VISTAs serving across the country. Before PSO, I was very apprehensive because I had no experience working with a nonprofit or as a VISTA so I was very unsure of what to expect. Meeting so many other amazing VISTAs at PSO and learning more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program helped me feel more comfortable and excited for this new journey. After PSO, I had a week long training with my VISTA network and I enjoyed getting to know more VISTAs who are working closer to me in the same city. Although I have only been in this position for two full months, I am already happy to see how this experience will help me grow professionally and personally.

Increasing and improving my organization’s online presence, I think, is one of my biggest successes so far. I revamped the organization’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. I had to make a new Facebook page, though, because the old Facebook page was administered by a former board member; we experienced difficulty getting in touch with that person so we decided to make a new one. I also made an Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube account. I have been using Canva a lot to make the social media posts and flyers we have used at outreach events. The organization’s board seems to really like the Canva posts and flyers too, which is makes me really happy because it makes me feel like I am doing well. I also find interesting articles about interpreting and translating so that I can post content I know our audience will like.

Learning how to promote a nonprofit on social media is a new experience for me, but I have enjoyed figuring it all out and learning what content should be posted on each account. In college, I gained lots of experience using social media and online marketing; with this job, it is very different so it has definitely been a learning experience. I have tried to post consistently and post interesting, relevant information on the accounts so that we engage our followers/target audience. From what I have heard from the board, they really like how organization’s presence has grown on social media; I think it’s great to see how I am making some good changes within the organization, even if it might be as subtle as posting on social media. Creating a strong foundation on the organization’s social media now will help gain more followers and reach a wider audience within the city/state, but it will help the next VISTA a lot.

A challenge I experienced early on was completing treasury reports before every monthly board meeting. I had never done anything like that before I started serving with as a VISTA, but I was willing to learn because I know it could come in handy in the future. When I complete the treasury report, I have to log in to our various accounts to review information; I have to list all sorts of things on the reports so that the nonprofit’s board knows where we stand financially. The first time I completed a treasury report in September, it was really difficult because I was so new to it and did not really know what to do at all. I made a couple mistakes, but the treasurer reviewed it for me and gave me tips on how to improve next time. This month I did a lot better and had very little questions this time around.

Another challenge I experienced early on was being able to communicate properly with individuals at resource fairs. Attending resource fairs pushed me to learn how to summarize what the organization does in an appealing way; you do not have a lot of time to convey the nonprofit’s goals and work so you have to do it as quickly and as best as you can. I think that helped me be able to think on my feet more. Attending these events also helped me realize what we can do as an organization to reach more people and share information better. Even though I have a background in Spanish, I am still not as fluent as I would like to be and that can present challenges when I speak with Latinx individuals. I suggested to my supervisor that it would be really helpful if our promotional tools (i.e. handouts, informational boards, etc.) were offered in different languages when we hand them out at these events.

In addition, I recommended that it would be great to have more visuals at our tables, especially pictures, would help us be able to communicate what we do to those who might not be able to read-or individuals we may have a difficult time communicating with because of language barriers. In September, I attended a Latino Health Fair very early on in my service, which turned out to be a very great experience. I have a background in Spanish, but I struggled to properly convey what the organization does to those who spoke or understood little English. That’s when I realized it would be really beneficial to have promo materials translated in other languages and have more visuals. This experience really helped me understand why our roles as VISTAs are important. We are serving to notice these things as well as do our best to help these people; we serve the community needs and work to find ways to get them help.

A third challenge I faced was helping prepare for our medical interpreter training program. I played a big role in this because I served as the main contact for the applicants. I instructed them on how to apply, shared the scholarship application with them if they requested it, and answered any of their questions throughout the process. I had never assisted with a program like this before or participated in a training like this myself. Before serving as a VISTA, I worked with people regularly, answered questions, managed a building and events, trained people, and more as a student manager; assisting with this program in the capacity that I did was much different than my student manager experience.

It was a bit nerve wracking at time because I knew my role was important and I just wanted to help the applicants as best as possible. The real challenge with the program came when it the registration process was over. This became challenging because there wasn’t a lot of time until the program began, but I had a lot to do. For instance, I had to make sure the scholarship applications were reviewed by the scholarship committee and that I conveyed this information to the applicants; I had to inform everyone how much they had to pay and collect their payment. Then, I had to instruct all of the candidates to sign up for a language proficiency exam with an outside party, which was really difficult because the process takes a bit longer than we anticipated. Even though this was challenging, I think it went very well.

At the moment, I have not established any partnerships with other organizations, but I have collaborated with other organizations in small ways; for example, I helped two VISTAs in my network translate event flyers in Spanish. I have also attended the meetings a fellow VISTA has initiated; these meetings are about a resource fair that we could host, which could potentially lead to a collaboration in 2018. I have applied for a few fundraisers and our first one is coming up soon. I have a list of different fundraising opportunities and I intend to apply for more because we would like to have one every month. Once the GoodGiving Challenge starts at the end of November, I am sure that we will receive more monetary donations and possibly some in-kind donations.


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