FIRST VISTA Expense Policy


We've put together this course to go over key elements of our FIRST VISTA Expense Policy.

You'll learn about:

We've also included some best practices and service tips along the way.


Plan for at least 90 minutes to watch all of the videos and complete the full course, but don't worry if you can't finish it all at once. You can always save and come back. 

The Basics

VISTA Expense Account Overview

Key Points

  • FIRST provides our AmeriCorps VISTA members with access to an expense account so that service does not present additional financial hardship
  • Your expense account is for your use only, and restrictions apply

  • All expenses should relate to events or tasks outlined in your Service Plan and reinforce your VISTA mission

  • $3000 per year or an average of $250/month
  • Overnight trips or any trip exceeding 300 total miles must be pre-approved by FIRST HQ at least two weeks in advance

Expense Reimbursement Restrictions

The following items are not permitted to be reimbursed

  • Materials or supplies
  • Personal meals - only permitted as part of a pre-approved long-distance trip
  • Meals, materials, supplies, mileage, fuel, etc. for others
  • Internet, phone, housing, etc.

Travel-related restrictions

Be aware of travel-related restrictions

  • Vehicle fuel, maintenance, insurance, car rental, etc is not eligible for reimbursement
  • If you get a ride from someone, we cannot pay for their mileage or fuel
  • Your round-trip commute to your Host Site is not eligible for mileage reimbursement
  • Any overnight trip must be pre-approved by FIRST HQ
  • Any trip exceeding 300 total miles must be pre-approved by FIRST HQ

VISTA Members at FIRST Competitions

How can FIRST VISTAs be utilized at events? 

  • Keep the VISTA mission in mind: serving the underserved, building capacity, and providing indirect service
  • Plan ahead to design VISTA-appropriate roles or duties at competitions - see the video for ideas
  • Filling key roles such as Judge, Referee, Robot Inspector, Pit Admin, etc. is not appropriate for a FIRST VISTA
  • If FIRST VISTA members wish to volunteer in key roles or perform direct service at competitions, they may do so on their own time and at their own expense
  • When reporting competition-related expenses in Concur, please select the appropriate "FIRST-paid" options - CNCS will not reimburse any expenses related to competitions

What is the deadline to submit expenses?

  • Before your service is over
  • By June 30th of the year
  • 30 days after you've incurred the expense
  • 60 days after you've incurred the expense

What types of event-related activities are generally not appropriate for VISTAs?

  • Information table or outreach
  • Referee
  • Team coach/mentor
  • Lead a training session
  • Robot inspector
  • Judge
  • School department liaison

Long Distance Travel

Long-Distance Travel

Key Points

  • Long-Distance Travel is any overnight trip or any trip that is 300 miles or more
  • Any long-distance travel must be pre-approved using the Travel Request Form

Using the Travel Request Form

Things to know

  • The Travel Request Form is required for any overnight trip or any trip that totals 300 miles or more
  • FIRST HQ must receive this form with at least two weeks advance notice. One month advance notice is preferred
  • Fill in as much detail as possible - spell out acronyms, provide complete cost estimates, etc.
  • Host Site Supervisor and FIRST VISTA must approve the form and send to FIRST HQ
  • The approved form must be attached in Concur as a receipt to all expenses relating to that trip

Travel Request Form

Who needs to approve the Travel Request Form?

  • Put your answer option here
  • Put your answer option here

True or False

When you get a long-distance trip approved, you have to attach the Travel Request Form to each individual expense relating to that trip.

  • True
  • False

Who needs to approve a Travel Request Form?

  • VISTA and Host Site Supervisor
  • Host Site Supervisor and FIRST HQ
  • CNCS, FIRST HQ, and Host Site Supervisor

Using Concur

Preparing your Expenses

Key points

  • You must have receipts for all expenses - take photos or use the Concur App to make this easier
  • Be aware of which expense categories you will use for your expenses - different categories are used for different situations
  • Submitting expense reports monthly is a best practice, but make sure to submit all expenses within 60 days of incurring the expense
  • Make sure your expense report is $30 or more - if not, you may save it for the next month

Avoiding a Returned Report


  • Include lots of detail on the purpose of each expense

  • Make sure you are reporting eligible expenses

  • Get pre-approval on all expenses that require it

  • Include all receipts and documentation on each expense

  • If you’re pre-approved for a meal, be sure to include the itemized receipt and the final tipped amount

  • Ask us questions if you need help!

Completing an Expense Report

Key points

  • When starting a new report, use "VISTA CNCS Grant Program" as the Department
  • Use the "Business Purpose" and "Comment" field to fully describe the purpose of the expense - what event did you go to? What were the outcomes? etc.
  • Attach receipts to all non-mileage expenses
    • For mileage, only include mileage that exceeds your daily commute, and that is directly related to FIRST business

    • Remember - if you're reporting expenses from a pre-approved long-distance trip, make sure to select the correct expense type and attach the Travel Request Form to all related expenses

  • You can save and come back later

True or False

To expense a pre-approved meal, you only need the receipt that includes the total amount with tip.

  • True
  • False

Which department do you select when creating a new expense report?

  • Volunteer Resources
  • VISTA CNCS Grant Program
  • CNCS
  • You don't need to include a department.

Check your understanding

True or False

The VISTA expense account can be used to cover expenses for other people, as long as you get approval first - for example, you can buy plywood to help a low-income team build a FIRST LEGO League field.

  • True
  • False

Which of these are ineligible for reimbursement?

  • Office supplies
  • Mileage to an event
  • Daily commute mileage
  • Rental car
  • Overnight stay at a hotel
  • Public transit fare

Which trips require a Travel Request Form?

Trip A

  • Overnight stay
  • 315 miles 
  • Going to a FIRST event

Trip B

  • Carpooling with Supervisor
  • 250 miles
  • Training mentors/coaches

Trip C

  • Meetings with sponsors
  • 200 miles
  • Overnight stay

  • Trip A and Trip B
  • Trip A and Trip C
  • Trip B and Trip C