National Service Community Challenge Grants

With the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Service Year Alliance launched the National Service Community Challenge Grants! Inspired by the work of the Flint National Service Accelerator and in response to growing interest in replicating its impacts, these grants will help communities implement a shared, community-defined goal that will expand national service and meet community needs.  

In 2014, Flint launched a five-year plan to increase the number of AmeriCorps members serving in the community tenfold. Last year, more than 350 national service members addressed a variety of community-identified needs from education and public safety to the ongoing water crisis. This work was supported by an innovative partnership between the United Way of Genesee County, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and the Mott Foundation, as well as local program partners and the City of Flint. The collaborative supports organizations and AmeriCorps members, provides coordination for recruitment and professional development, and helps organizations offset the costs of hosting AmeriCorps members. And it works for every $1 invested in a national service position in Flint, there is a $27.40 return. This is more than double the return of an average program. Check out the Flint National Service Accelerator toolkit to learn more about how Flint designed and implemented their successful initiative to expand national service and meet community needs.

Service Year Alliance is offering four $25,000 grants to organizations that are able to secure a 1:1 new financial match by April 1, 2022 and begin to implement or expand a shared, community-defined goal that will expand national service and meet community needs. The goal of these grants is to help new and existing community collaboratives attract sustainable local funding and bring a model or approach inspired by the Flint National Service Accelerator to their community as a strategy to address local needs. Please view the application criteria for more information. Applications are due October 5.

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Application Criteria

Applicants for the National Service Community Challenge Grants must have the following:

  • New financial commitment(s) from a prospective or committed funder(s) that has the potential to be sustainable. Examples include: a foundation or philanthropic entity with strong local interest, a local or state government agency, a corporate partner, etc.
    • Funding sources that are clearly temporary or one time in nature, like federal stimulus funding, will not be considered.
  • A clear intent to develop a strong collaborative of national service programs and relevant stakeholders at the local, regional, or state level, or an existing collaborative of national service programs and relevant stakeholders.
  • A clear plan for how the Challenge Grant will help make the applicant a more sustainable collaborative utilizing national service as a strategy for addressing community needs.
  • A clear plan for how the Challenge Grant will help the applicant advance one or more universal national service goals. (See more on Universal National Service in the FAQs.)
  • A willingness to commit to data collection and regular information sharing with Service Year Alliance to better understand the outcomes and impacts of the Challenge Grant and national service in your community.

Applicants must also:

  • Currently be a Service Year Impact Community or a community (state, regional, local) working towards the principles of universal national service. Early-stage collaborations are encouraged to apply, as well as more established efforts.
  • Have attended the virtual Flint Convening: A Blueprint for Accelerating Outcomes through National Service (August 3-5, 2021) and have a willingness to come together regularly to report on progress and lessons learned, virtually, and if feasible, in person at least one time within the grant period (with support of travel awards). Learn more about the convening.

Have more questions or interested in additional guidance? Join us for our Challenge Grant office hours:


Wednesday, August 25,

2:30-3:30 PM (ET)

Tuesday, September 14,

2:00-3:00 PM (ET)

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Who is Service Year Alliance?

  • Service Year Alliance is a nonprofit working to make a year of paid, full-time service — a service year — a common expectation and opportunity for all young Americans. To learn more, visit our website:

Who is the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation?

  • The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation supports organizations that are working to strengthen their hometown of Flint and communities around the world. In each of their program areas — Civil Society, Education, Environment and Flint Area — they aim to inspire and empower individuals to work with their communities in ways that will help them achieve more than they could ever accomplish alone. To learn more, visit their website.

What is a community collaborative?

  • A community collaborative is a local or regional group of existing or prospective service host sites and programs, nonprofits, local government, higher education institutions, and other community leaders who realize the transformative potential of national service. This can be as focused as a neighborhood or as broad as an entire state effort. They work to grow the number of national service positions available locally and to ensure they offer high quality programming to effectively meet the needs of communities, set up national service members for success, and transform the local and national civic landscape by empowering committed servant leaders.

What types of organizations are eligible to apply?

  • Nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations, higher education institutions, and government entities are eligible to apply. If you are interested and are not one of these organization types, please contact us to discuss eligibility.

What are universal national service principles?

  • To ensure national service is equitable and has the biggest impact on communities and those serving, Service Year Alliance established the following universal national service principles to help guide communities and policymakers on the elements of a highly effective system of national service. 

We believe civilian national service should:

  • Exist at scale, engaging at least one million young Americans in civilian national service annually
  • Address America’s unmet needs
  • Bridge divides and fuel civic renewal
  • Be an opportunity for all
  • Build pathways to long-term success for individuals who serve through benefits and connectivity to future education and careers

You can learn more about our vision for universal national service here, and check back for a forthcoming toolkit which provide a guide to the universal national service principles and how to achieve and implement them in communities.

When and where was the Flint Convening: A Blueprint for Accelerating Outcomes through National Service?

  • The Flint convening took place virtually from August 3-5, 2021. Communities were encouraged to engage multiple organizational partners — such as local or regional funders, local government officials, potential program partners, existing community development/collective impact partners etc. — at the convening. Other national funders, existing Impact Community initiatives, and national service partners attended as well. Learn more about the Flint Convening here

What took place at the Flint Convening?

  • The Flint Convening was an opportunity for national service practitioners, funders, and others interested in leveraging national service as a way to solve problems in communities to come together and strategize on how to effectively launch, expand, and operate place-based national service initiatives like the Flint National Service Accelerator. The convening highlighted all of the work that has happened over the past decade to make the Flint National Service Accelerator a success, and will feature the work of other communities such as Philadelphia and Central Texas. This event also included panel discussions and workshops on collaborative approaches to establishing universal national service in communities. At the Flint Convening, we officially opened applications for the Challenge Grants.

When will the application be available? When is the application deadline?

  • The official application launched during the Flint Convening on August 4. Applications are due on October 5, grant recipients will be announced in late November and have until April 1, 2022 to secure their final match commitment.

What information will be required in the application? 

  • The application will consist of:
    • Demographic information about the organization that will serve as lead of the initiative and the community to be served, and strategic goals for the initiative
    • An explanation of how the grant will support the advancement of universal national service in your community, including:
      • Grant budget
      • Grant activities, goals, outcomes, and timeline
      • Sustainability plan once the grant has ended
    • Information about your prospective match funder(s), including a letter of support.

When would we need to have the match funding in hand?

  • Given the varied timelines of funding and grant cycles that potential funders use, Service Year Alliance anticipates confirming match funding for this grant by April 1, 2022. In order for Challenge Grant funds to be released, applicants should demonstrate that they have identified a strong lead organization and have secured a commitment from a funder(s).

What are my next steps if we’re interested in applying?

  • We are thrilled you’re interested! We recommend the following next steps:
    • Bring together other key stakeholders in your community, region, or state (existing national service programs, local government partners, civic and nonprofit organizations, higher education entities including community colleges, national service alumni, your state service commission, etc.) to develop ideas on the kind of place-based strategy that would help your community address local needs and move forward on universal national service.
    • Consider how funding could help drive this strategy forward. Could it fund the time of a staff person at the lead organization, provide support for new organizations who want to host AmeriCorps members, or create a training program that all stakeholders could use? Come together around a vision for how to use this grant. Like the approach used in Flint and other Impact Communities, your strategy should be based on what community stakeholders decide.
    • Reach out to local funding sources to gauge their interest early on and bring them along in the process of developing your ideas.
    • Sign up for the Flint Convening, and encourage your prospective match funder(s) and implementation partners to do so as well.
    • Take what you learn at the convening and refine your application to be ready to submit it in early October.

What is a Service Year Impact Community? 

  • A Service Year Impact Community is a place-based initiative, typically a collaborative of organizations and stakeholders, utilizing national service as a strategy to address community needs. In doing so, they work to create the five conditions for universal national service on the local level to significantly increase the impact of national service. Find more information here, or download our overview.

How can I apply to become a Service Year Impact Community?

  • You can learn more about applying to be an Impact Community here. We are looking to expand the network of 11 communities and hope some of the Challenge Grant recipients will join the network.


National Service Community Challenge Grants
National Service Community Challenge Grants
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