How a Three Year VISTA Project Can Contribute to Organizational Growth

IRC's Center for Economic Opportunity Team
IRC's Center for Economic Opportunity Team

Author: Josh Geary (AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni)

Three years ago, the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) started on an AmeriCorps VISTA project sponsored by Transform Mid-Atlantic, marking the beginning of an exciting journey for our organization. Since then, our partnership with TMA has played a significant role in our growth and success.

The AmeriCorps VISTA program offers individuals a remarkable opportunity to create a social impact in their communities and combat poverty by enhancing the capacity of organizations like ours, as well as numerous universities within the TMA network.

As a Community Development Financial Institution, CEO made its inaugural loan in 2015, just five years before our first TMA VISTA member joined our team. Over the course of three years, our AmeriCorps members undertook an ambitious endeavor to establish a comprehensive communications infrastructure from the ground up.

During the first year, our focus was on addressing the critical need to amplify our story and raise awareness about the profound influence of credit and credit scores on refugees and other community members. Josh, our AmeriCorps VISTA member and the author of this blog, revamped and updated our website for the first time in three years. Additionally, he devised systems to gather impactful case studies from our national network of financial coaches. Josh collaborated closely with the executive director, advisory board, and board of directors to develop and implement a long-term communications plan and strategy for CEO. He was hired for a full-time role once his term concluded, enabling him to build upon his previous achievements.

By the end of the second year, CEO had significantly enhanced its ability to deliver high-quality customer service to the hundreds of borrowers we serve.

Terrence, our AmeriCorps VISTA member during that period, spearheaded an initiative to partner with a prominent CRM program and seamlessly integrate it into CEO's operational workflows. His efforts resulted in improved organizational efficiency and enhanced experience for our clients and partners. We were delighted to bring Terrence on board as a full-time team member to continue expanding the customer service experience as part of CEO's broader communications strategy.

As the third and final year of the project draws to a close in July, CEO stands on the brink of noteworthy milestones. Our current VISTA member, Sara, completed an extensive interview project involving more than 20 of our borrowers. This initiative was conducted as part of a comprehensive study to assess the impact of CEO's loans and educational model, focusing on the experiences of our clients with credit in the United States. Sara's work has provided us with invaluable insights, and we eagerly anticipate the release of the full report, which will showcase some of the compelling stories she collected.

Our organization has experienced remarkable growth and progress, with the TMA-sponsored VISTA project playing an indispensable role in this journey.

In fact, CEO's capacity as a team has expanded to such an extent that applying for a new project with TMA and AmeriCorps did not feel necessary.

However, should CEO require the dedicated support of a passionate team member for future capacity building initiatives, TMA will undoubtedly be our first choice. The technical assistance and training provided by TMA has proven incredibly valuable to both our VISTA members and our organization. The Mid-Atlantic region is fortunate to have an ally like TMA in their corner, supporting social impact initiatives and fostering positive change.

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