3. How do I connect with partnering organizations?
You may want to start with an agency like Volunteer Match or Idealist who can point you in the direction of organizations in need of a service-learning partnership. There are also organizations in UAlbany with already-established partnerships that may be able to help you out or you may already have some links in the community that you would like to capitalize on. Before contacting an organization you should consider some of the following factors:
- Does this organization share common interests and goals with your program/class?
- Are the geographic location and hours of operation suitable? Will your students be able to get there and work at reasonable hours?
- Will your students need to be fingerprinted and get a criminal record check? (Most work in schools will require this.)
- Will your students need vaccines, medical exams or extra liability insurance?
- What type of people use this service? Is it appropriate for your students to be there?
Once you have established contact you should make the process as transparent as possible for everyone involved. Some questions you might want to ask of the organization include the following:
- What is the mission of your organization?
- Have you had volunteers in the past? What types of things do your volunteers do?
- What do you see one or two of my students doing in your organization? (Make sure that students will have contact with the community that the organization serves and not find themselves raking leaves or filing papers. Be careful of organizations that do not have a clear idea of how your students will be utilized.)
- How many students would be ideal for you? (Sometimes having two students in the same location can help in discussing and comparing their experiences and they can keep each other on track.)
After students have started working, get feedback from the organization about the process. You can do this in the following ways:
- Send a quick e-mail or make a brief phone call at various points during the semester to make sure that the partnership is moving along as agreed upon in the contract.
- At the end of the semester provide a simple feedback form or rubric for the organization to fill out. This can be done by email, snail mail or through an on-line survey. This end of semester feedback should be considered when giving grades.