Next100 policy entrepreneur Robert Godfried submitted a public comment to the federal AmeriCorps agency regarding the grantee match requirements for AmeriCorps grants, recommending that the agency reduce the match requirements from 50 percent to 25 percent. Robert’s comment, which you can read below, argues that this change could benefit newer and smaller AmeriCorps grantee organizations—particularly in Black, brown, and underserved communities—and allow them to focus on responding to needs in their communities rather than on fundraising.
From: Robert Godfried ([email protected]), Next100
To: Sharron Tendai, Program Support Specialist, AmeriCorps
Re: Next100 Comment on AmeriCorps Grantee Match Requirements
Dear Ms. Tendai,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment on the topic of AmeriCorps Grantee Match Requirements. I am an AmeriCorps alumnus and Policy Entrepreneur at Next100, a startup think tank working to diversify the policy sector and empower impacted communities to develop policy. At Next100, I research and advocate for policies to create a more equitable AmeriCorps. As part of my research, I have discussed the match requirements with AmeriCorps grantee recipients, state commission members, and a panel of diverse AmeriCorps alumni from across the country.
I applaud the focus on equity in the 2022-2026 AmeriCorps Strategic Plan and the goal to “partner with communities to alleviate poverty and advance racial equity.” The AmeriCorps federal agency can achieve this aim by reducing barriers to receiving AmeriCorps funds. One key barrier that makes it difficult for community-based organizations (CBOs) to access AmeriCorps funding is the 50 percent match requirements.
The current match requirements use a graduated scale that mandates grantees raise 24 percent of total expenses with non-AmeriCorps funds in their first few years in the program. Over time, grantee organizations must match progressively more funds until they match 50 percent of total expenses after ten years; they then match this amount in perpetuity. Several AmeriCorps grantee organizations have told me that the match requirements create an excessive burden to running their program effectively.
I recommend the AmeriCorps federal agency use its regulatory authority to reduce the match requirements for AmeriCorps grants from 50 percent to 25 percent. This change would benefit newer and smaller organizations—particularly in Black, brown, and underserved communities—and allow organizations to focus on building their capacity and responding to needs in their communities, rather than on fundraising. There are several reasons why this change would advance equity:
- The high match requirements hurt small organizations in Black and brown communities. CBOs in Black and brown communities may be smaller and less established than larger AmeriCorps organizations that operate in multiple states. Smaller CBOs in communities of color may lack the large administrative and fundraising infrastructure to quickly raise large sums of money, and can have more difficulty accessing large donors or philanthropic funds. These smaller organizations also have to compete against larger organizations for a fixed pot of AmeriCorps funds. Larger organizations have spent years building fundraising capacity, making it far easier to raise matching funds and seem like more reliable partners to grant administrators.
- The high match requirements are excessively burdensome for new organizations. Instead of addressing community needs, current match requirements obligate new organizations to focus more of their limited time and capacity on cultivating philanthropic donors. This can distract them from the foundational work of building an effective organization. As a result, the high match requirements can be a barrier to entry for new organizations and favor older grantees due to their existing fundraising infrastructure and relationships, as mentioned above.
- The AmeriCorps match requirements are high compared to other federal grants. As referenced in the Voices for National Service AmeriCorps Proposed Fiscal Reform Memo, many programs from across federal government agencies require a far lower percentage of matching funds from grantee organizations. For example: The Environmental Protection Agency contributes a 75 percent federal share to grants and asks grantee organizations to raise 25 percent of total program costs; Head Start contributes an 80 percent federal share to grants and asks grantee organizations to raise 20 percent of total program costs; The Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime contributes an 80 percent federal share to grants and asks grantee organizations to raise 20 percent of total program costs. The AmeriCorps federal agency can better standardize its grant requirements with other government programs, making its programming available to more new and small organizations, by reducing the match requirements.
Reducing the match requirements to 25 percent is necessary to create a more equitable AmeriCorps, but it is not sufficient to achieve the larger goals of the strategic plan. While beyond this public comment’s scope, the AmeriCorps federal agency and Congress should consider additional steps, including ways to reduce grantee organizations’ administrative burden. One recommendation from my colleagues at Next100 is to allow the targeted waiving of matching funds requirements for new and/or small CBOs. They recommend waiving these requirements for a limited time period of up to three years, or one grant cycle, in return for organizations committing to work with state commissions and others to use that time to build their capacity to fundraise and develop stronger connections with philanthropies so they can secure matching funds going forward. In addition, Congress should approve additional funding to support an increase in the cost per member year (MSY), member living allowance, program administrative support, and member professional development support.
Thank you for your consideration,