AmeriCorps Alumni Spotlights: Kathryn Linehan

Kathryn Linehan: Fund Development & Marketing Coordinator, Communities First Inc

AmeriCorps Program: CEDAM AmeriCorps VISTAWoman (Kathryn) smiling in a blue AmeriCorps shirt
Program Year: 2020
Host Site: Communities First Inc
Community Challenges Addressed: Poverty Alleviation
Communities Served: Low to moderate income households in Flint

Why did you want to serve at your host site?

“I was specifically looking for an organization that had a hyper local impact. So that’s why I was interested in CFI and then it just helps that the Flint Accelerator was here. I was able to get the really hands on immersive opportunities.”

What did you do during your AmeriCorps service year? What did the day-to-day look like?

“The initial stuff was just getting immersed in what is a fund development strategy that works with CFI’s mission. Then, it became the day-to-day operations of implementing the fund development strategy. I was writing grants. I was writing marketing pieces to connect with funders. Then I did a project called the Narrative Library, which was essentially collecting testimonies from a variety of stakeholders that we could compile as a living resource as to what the qualitative impact of the mission was.”

What was one of the most impactful moments for you? 

“For me, I applied for over a million dollars in grant funds with the support of the CFI team and the executive leadership. I had never interacted with that much money. It is kind of intangible. But it was really cool to see that those were all potential funds for the organization.” 

What do you believe you accomplished during your service year? 

“In an abstract way, I established a really concrete framework for organizational strategy. And then through the interviews with the clients themselves, I was able to set up a future pipeline for continuous improvement. That’s a big value of CFI as an organization. Having a documented system for getting that testimony from people is important to speak to the mission at an individual level.”

How did you grow as a person during your AmeriCorps service year?

“I think that AmeriCorps, and then specifically being with Communities First, gave me a lot of confidence to pitch my ideas after I’ve done the research to set up a best practice system. I like to think that it has made me a more thoughtful, empathetic person. I think those soft skills are something that don’t get a lot of highlight in the AmeriCorps system but are critical to what we do in the community. 

I don’t think I would’ve had the same experience or level of professional growth in an entry level setting. I think that AmeriCorps really gives you the space and pairs you with organizations that are really going to let you strengthen your grant writing and research skills in a way you might not get in a corporate environment. I would highly recommend AmeriCorps to everyone. It shaped my career trajectory in a positive way. I enjoyed my experience.”

How has your year of service taken you to where you are now? 

“I have transitioned from being an AmeriCorps VISTA with Communities First to serving as their Fund Development/Marketing Coordinator. For me, my VAD was a natural transition into my job description so on a day to day I facilitate fund raising efforts like grant writing and donor relations but also the marketing stuff that comes with the Narrative Library. So, for me, it was a very organic transition. I’m very lucky to have been paired with an organization that has a very big growth mindset so there was that opportunity to stay after my service.”

What advice would you give other people interested in doing a year of service? 

“Service can sometimes be hard for people because there are some barriers to entry for AmeriCorps.  There are the stipend and the services, but it is something that can be stressful. But I think that it is something if you genuinely feel passionate about impacting your community in a way that you can see that level of impact, then AmeriCorps is a really good opportunity for you

Ultimately you are going to take away whatever you put into the program in terms of relationships and skill development. I like to think that it made me a better person who has more confidence in what my capacity is and my ability to make an impact. It can be hard to put your day-to-day actions into context of how you are making system level change. I don’t think I would’ve had that experience if it had not been by serving through AmeriCorps.”