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 offered 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.

The 2021 National Service Community Challenge Grant recipients are: 

  • North Country, New Hampshire
    • Campus Compact for New Hampshire will build national service infrastructure in the under-resourced and rural northernmost counties of the state. Stakeholders have identified where national service can address unmet community needs — such as kindergarten readiness and building a talent pipeline in the community. 
  • Illinois
    • The Serve Illinois Commission, representing the state of Illinois, will launch the Life Progressive Initiative to expand access to young people of color. The program will create a resource center and professional development during and for up to a year post-service. 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
    • The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office will make emergency funds available to Philadelphia AmeriCorps members, providing immediate support to help maintain the health and safety of members and retain them in service. They will also hire a Support Services Coordinator that will provide long term planning for increased member support across Philadelphia service year programs and work towards the financial sustainability of this project through fundraising and resource development.
  • South Carolina 
    • The United Way Association of South Carolina, the state service commission, will focus on expanding recruitment and access to service through HBCU engagement and launching an ambassadors program on campus. In addition, they will provide wraparound support, including an emergency fund for corps members who might not be able to finish their service.

Project Updates from National Service Community Challenge Grants

In April 2022, the four communities officially launched their projects. Now, we would like to celebrate some of the incredible successes of their work! 

  • North Country, New Hampshire
    • Campus Compact of New Hampshire will soon launch a comprehensive survey of their partners in the North Country to understand the barriers, challenges, and opportunities of national service in the area so that they can intentionally move forward in bringing a national service presence to the North Country. 
  • Illinois
    • The Serve Illinois Commission is engaging programs in a community of practice to learn from each other and share ideas on what is working and what could be improved around recruitment and retention for their specific programs. 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • The Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service in Philadelphia has successfully hired an AmeriCorps Emergency Fund Coordinator who is setting up the systems and relationships that will sustain this fund and program in the long-term. This important staff person is also building out a data collection and analysis strategy that will allow the Impact Community to track success. Additionally, the AmeriCorps Emergency Fund Coordinator will provide support services to corps members and programs throughout Philadelphia to ensure that everyone is set up to successfully complete their terms of service while navigating any barriers that may arise.
  • South Carolina 
    • The South Carolina Service Commission (AmeriCorps SC) has contracted with four Service Year Ambassadors across three major regions of the state. These Service Year Ambassadors are AmeriCorps alumni, peers, neighbors, and trusted community champions who are building pathways to AmeriCorps service for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). They are also working within non-traditional AmeriCorps recruitment channels including community centers, childcare providers, re-entry providers, fatherhood groups, and neighbor to neighbor outreach, to name just a few. The Ambassadors are hosting in-person AmeriCorps awareness and recruitment events, building relationships with reciprocal recruiters, and meeting one-on-one with those interested in exploring the prospect of pursuing an AmeriCorps service year.


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 were 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 out the Impact Communities toolkit which provides 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 featured 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 were due on October 5, grant recipients were announced in early November and each community has until April 1, 2022 to secure their final match commitment.

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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