Who is eligible to apply?
The application is open to all U.S. cities with:
- A population of at least 30,000
- The capacity to recruit for and manage up to two AmeriCorps VISTA members and a Love Your Block Fellow for two years
- A demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion. Projects should:
- Elevate the voices of historically-excluded groups
- Reflect community-driven solutions
- Meaningfully engage local partners
- Recognize residents as leaders in this work
- Meet people where they are
Does my city need to be a Cities of Service coalition member to apply?
Yes. If your city is not a coalition member, please complete and upload a Declaration of Service for your application to be considered. The Declaration of Service must be signed by the city chief executive currently serving. If you are unsure if your city is a member, click here to check.
If my city is a previous Cities of Service grantee, can it still apply?
Yes. However, the cities that participated in the Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA program in 2015 and 2018 may not apply.
What is the timeline for this application process?
Important Application Dates
- July 14 – Informational Webinar I (register here)
- July 22 – Office Hour (register here) – A one-hour session dedicated to applicants who have an idea they would like to discuss or those who need specific points of clarification prior to submitting the grant application
- July 28 – Informational Webinar II (register here)
- August 9 – 11:59 PM Pacific Application deadline
- September 1 – Applicants notified
Important Program Dates for Selected Cities
- September 6 – Welcome webinar for participating cities
- September 7 – Love Your Block Fellow and AmeriCorps VISTA recruitment commences
- October 1-29 – Grant agreements fully executed
- November 1 – Love Your Block Fellow start date
- November (date TBD) – AmeriCorps VISTA start date
What is the duration of the grant?
The grant term is two years. However, the second year of funding is contingent on successful completion of the first year.
About Love Your Block
What is Love Your Block?
The Cities of Service Love Your Block program connects mayor’s offices with community residents to revitalize their neighborhoods one block at a time. Typically, cities implementing Love Your Block invite community groups to identify priority projects and award mini-grants to support volunteer-fueled solutions that the community can implement. From turning vacant lots into community gardens to helping elderly neighbors with home repairs to avoid fines and safely age in place, resident volunteers are “loving their blocks” and making them, and their cities, better places to live.
How long has Love Your Block been in existence?
Since 2009, Cities of Service has supported Love Your Block grant programs in 25 cities. Many other cities have implemented Love Your Block on their own using our Love Your Block Blueprint.
About the Award
What do you mean by “blight”?
We use the word blight to refer to properties in need of significant repair or remediation. Love Your Block projects can address property blight by engaging volunteers to transform vacant lots into community gardens, repair or replace dilapidated playground equipment, or remove trash and debris from a public right of way. Love Your Block projects can also address property blight by preventing vacancy in the first place.
What is included in the grant award?
Selected cities will receive support from up to two AmeriCorps VISTA members annually, funding for a two-year Love Your Block Fellow ($60,000), and $40,000 in seed funding for Love Your Block program implementation and mini-grants. The selected cities will also receive high-touch consulting services and programmatic support from a Cities of Service Senior Advisor and participation in the Love Your Block community of practice and the Cities of Service coalition.
What can I use the grant for?
The $60,000 fellowship grant funds are restricted to the direct compensation of the identified Love Your Block Fellow for two years. The $40,000 grant funds are restricted to supporting community-based projects through a city sponsored mini-grant program. The city would use the $40,000 to cover costs associated with supplies and materials for lot transformations, fixing-up/boarding-up abandoned properties, educational outreach and skills-based support for homeowners facing the threat of foreclosure, and code compliance repairs on homes.
What’s the best way to distribute the funding?
A key component of the Love Your Block program is the mini-grant competition—small grants typically in the range of $500 – $2,000 made from the city to a community partner such as a neighborhood association or a block club. The mini-grant competition is a great way for the city to generate awareness of and enthusiasm for the initiative, provide seed money and other resources for the most promising proposals, help empower residents to take ownership over their neighborhoods/blocks, and build the capacity of neighborhood groups to design and implement these programs. The city will need to design a process to solicit mini-grant proposals from neighborhood groups, inform relevant communities about the opportunity and encourage them to apply, and select the winners.
What support can I expect from Cities of Service if my city is selected for Love Your Block?
Participating cities will receive high-touch consulting services and programmatic support from a Cities of Service Senior Advisor. Delivered during mandatory bi-weekly check-in calls with the Senior Advisor, the consulting services are designed to help cities develop and implement the Love Your Block program. Cities in the cohort will also be required to play an active role in the Love Your Block community of practice. This includes attending bi-monthly engagement touchpoints as a group, such as conference calls or webinars, and the annual convening of Cities of Service partner cities where they can network and learn from their peers.
The AmeriCorps VISTA member(s) will receive additional training and support through Cities of Service and a dedicated AmeriCorps VISTA Leader who serves from the Johns Hopkins University offices in Baltimore, MD.
What is AmeriCorps VISTA?
AmeriCorps VISTA is a federal anti-poverty program. AmeriCorps VISTA members are full-time volunteers that support projects at nonprofit, grassroots organizations, and local government agencies that operate programs to help alleviate poverty in the United States. They strengthen and support these organizations by improving their infrastructure, expanding community partnerships, securing long-term resources, training program participants, and developing other activities that help build long-term sustainability for overcoming poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA members commit to a full year of service, and they are granted a small living allowance during their year of service as well as an additional award upon completion of service. Updated AmeriCorps VISTA living allowance rates will be released by the Corporation for National and Community Service later this year.
What does it mean for my city that we are receiving an AmeriCorps VISTA grant?
As an AmeriCorps VISTA program, this grant requires that the initiative target low-income communities, specifically neighborhoods that are lower than the Census Bureau’s average median household income in the city.
What is the Love Your Block Fellow expected to do?
The Love Your Block Fellow should be someone who comes from the community your Love Your Block program will focus on. This individual should have existing relationships within the community that could be leveraged throughout the life of the program. The Love Your Block Fellow’s priority should be assisting with program outreach strategies, partnership development, data collection, and anything else that would help move the work forward in inclusive, equitable, and sustainable ways. The Fellow doesn’t have the same restrictions the AmeriCorps VISTA members do.
What is my city’s responsibility in hosting AmeriCorps VISTA members and a Love Your Block Fellow?
As an AmeriCorps VISTA and Love Your Block Fellow host site, the city is responsible for providing day-to-day supervision of the AmeriCorps VISTA member(s) and Love Your Block Fellow. Among other things, host sites must provide a workstation in city hall, a city email address, and a phone line. Cities should also provide reasonable accommodations or reimbursement for local service related travel (not including the daily commute). Supervisors should provide the necessary support and guidance to ensure the AmeriCorps VISTA members and Love Your Block Fellow can fulfill the duties of their roles. They are also responsible for reporting on the AmeriCorps VISTA member(s) and Love Your Block Fellow activities on a regular basis in interim reports to Cities of Service, and are required to notify Cities of Service within 24 hours if an AmeriCorps VISTA member or Love Your Block Fellow ends their service term early.
What are the reporting requirements for this grant?
Love Your Block grantees are expected to provide four reports in total; two narrative and metrics reports each year. Cities of Service staff will provide relevant templates and assist with tailoring the reports to each grantee.
What would make my proposed project stand out?
Grant funds should be used as seed funding for already existing initiatives or to pilot new approaches to addressing a public problem. We are looking for projects that:
- Engage impacted residents and stakeholders throughout the duration of the project. This includes in the early stage of identifying the public problem, designing an initiative, project implementation and assessing the impact of the work
- Illustrate clear commitment from key city staff, community partners, and groups to implementing the proposed project
- Demonstrate support from local foundations, businesses, or city council members to potentially allocate funding for the continuation of the project should key metrics be met during the two year grant period
- Activate vacant lots or empty storefronts/buildings in ways that meet immediate needs of residents or take advantage of opportunities to provide new services
- Transform vacant lots into vibrant community spaces that respond to the needs and hopes of residents living in close proximity to the vacant lots
- Address basic code violations for homes for individuals who demonstrate a need for this level of community support while working to identify and address the root cause of these code violations
What do you mean by “volunteer engagement”?
We are looking for projects that involve community members at various points of the project. This includes project design, implementation, and evaluation. Check out some of our favorite engagement techniques that could be used during each of these stages.
Are we able to use a portion of our grant to compensate community partner organizations, or community groups, or key volunteer roles?
We have made it possible for grantees to cover costs associated with strategic partnerships as well as the strategic deployment of volunteer roles. While the approval process will depend on the larger project strategy and local context, we are prepared to approve a portion of the grant for compensation of strategic community organizations, community groups, and/or volunteer roles. For grantees who decide to compensate partner organizations, community groups or key volunteers, a major consideration during the approval stage will be whether the specific project work would be possible if the compensation did not occur.