Methods used to supervise AmeriCorps members must be unique as AmeriCorps members are neither volunteers nor paid staff. The duties of AmeriCorps members are restricted to activities specified in your program’s approved grant application. As such, AmeriCorps supervisors are charged with supporting their program’s members in focusing on service tasks and in activities that promote their development. Setting an appropriate and constructive tone and explaining your expectations as a supervisor are keys to member success, which will in turn drive member retention and program success.
A best practice management style for supervising AmeriCorps members combines coaching, directing, supporting and delegating rather than creating a dictatorial atmosphere. Program Directors should ask the following questions in order to create a positive supervising experience:
- How do I help members understand what is supposed to be done and how to do it?
- What additional training might the members need that I cannot provide?
- How do I consider the needs of members — not just at the beginning of service, but in month six when their enthusiasm dips and at the end of service when move on to their next chapter?
- What can I do to inspire members to commit to a life of service?
Providing consistent, reliable guidance is a great way to become an effective supervisor/role model.
A major component of AmeriCorps member supervision is ensuring that all required documentation is collected, reviewed, and properly stored.
Member timesheets, documented and properly signed, are a critical tool in ensuring that AmeriCorps members who are eligible receive member benefits (living allowance, education award, health care, child care, etc.). Both paper and electronic timesheets are acceptable. However, CNCS provides guidelines that programs must follow via the most recently updated Terms & Conditions for AmeriCorps State and National Grants . Additional guidance and resources are available at http://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/member-and-volunteer-development/encorps/timesheets-do-double-duty.
Note: Accompaniment must be documented. Timesheets, or supplementary documentation that is filed with time sheets, must account for all service hours each member was accompanied by an individual with a cleared criminal history check during the period when that member’s own National Service Criminal History Check was pending.
In addition to tracking member service hours, programs must ensure and document that service activities are allotted as required. AmeriCorps members may spend no more than 20% of their total service hours in training and no more than 10% of their total service hours in fundraising activities, with the remainder of their service hours being spent on direct service. Documentation of adherence to these percentages is provided by programs to CCCS in Quarterly Progress Reports.
All supervisory meetings, correspondence, and disciplinary actions must be documented for legal creditability purposes. Remember that your program is funded under a Federal grant, and that as such, policy and procedures are subject to review.
All supervisory documentation must be kept in a safe and secure location to maintain confidentially.
Every AmeriCorps program supervisor has his/her own unique style, system, and set of tools and techniques for managing documentation requirements associated with AmeriCorps programs. Management plans, checklists, calendar alerts, and other tools are just some of the means available to you to adapt to your own program needs and individual work style. Best practice ideas and samples of tools are available at Member Management Resources.
Evaluating Member Performance
Member evaluations are formal documents that record a mutual supervisor/member process with the goal of clarifying duties of, providing constructive feedback to, and improving performance of members. Member evaluation documents are required for use in member retention, re-enrollment and/or termination processes. In addition to the benefits for members, evaluations are a tool that will allow your program to select dates for reporting and future planning.
Supervisors should complete your program’s member evaluation form and give it to members so they have the opportunity to review the document. When providing members with their evaluations it is best to schedule a mutually convenient time for an evaluation meeting. Supervisors should tell members to bring the completed evaluation form and come prepared to discuss any issues during the evaluation meeting. At the evaluation meeting, redo the ratings together while discussing each element. Document the ratings on a joint form. Work with the member to create a document of the member’s strengths and weaknesses. For any areas that are deemed unsatisfactory, jointly develop an action plan to improve performance.
All parties must sign the document. Make two complete copies of all the forms: the member receives a copy, the site keeps the second copy, and the original form should be given to the service office.
Note: Your first formal evaluation with an AmeriCorps member may be the first time that the member has ever received constructive criticism in a professional setting; consideration of this is important in determining how to deliver your evaluation feedback.
Remember that supervision doesn’t begin and end with required formal evaluations. Programs are encouraged to design a system of supervision that builds in “checkpoints” along the way for members to ensure that they are on course in their service tasks and goals. These checkpoints can include check-in meetings, ongoing information discussions, written reports, etc.
The following may help you as you look to assess member performance:
- Member Reporting: Setting up a mechanism for regular member reporting (quarterly prior to submissions of Quarterly Progress Reports, weekly reflections submitted with time sheets, etc.) can be an excellent way for a supervisor to keep his/her fingers on the pulse of a member’s status. Further, information provided by members can inform program Quarterly Progress Reports. Examples of how programs structure reviews, member quarterly reports and other samples are sited in Member Management Resources.
- Midterm Evaluation: A quality midterm evaluation provides an opportunity for members to get a sense of where they are demonstrating strengths, to discuss where opportunities for improvement or growth exist, and to fine-tune goals and expectations for the last half of the service year in support of member and program success.
- End of Term Evaluation: A quality end of term evaluation will provide the same opportunities as a midterm evaluation. However, the end products of evaluation and discussion are to support the continued growth of members after service as they move on to their next chapters, and to inform planning of your program’s next service year through use of member feedback on their experiences.